I will keep this short. We have report that China has signed a ten year deal with Djibouti for its first oversea naval base. Andrew Erickson provided a good analysis of today's development in this article. The location makes a lot of sense since China has been making port calls there as part of its missions in Gulf of Aden. This 2010 Jamestown article did a good job of exploring what had been an expanding support network for PLAN up until that point. Certainly, as Chinese naval influence grows in this region with more port calls, patrols and joint exercises, I think there will be more arrangements where China establishes what looks like oversea base (even if they are not called that).
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Modern American Seapower, comprised largely of the forces
managed by the Secretary of the Navy, provides the United States with an
on-call, forward deployed, ready subset of the larger Joint Force. The land
power (projected from the sea) of the U.S. Marine Corps, the world’s most
lethal and mobile tactical air force (the carrier air wing), and the unmatched
power of the surface and submarine force of the U.S. Navy are well-suited to
protecting and sustaining the nation’s interests where they predominate, and
that is—generally speaking—near the coastlines of the world. This is not to say that the Navy and Marine
Corps can do it all; only that the day-to-day business of presence,
conventional deterrence, and support to diplomacy has a ready-made organizational
provider in the Department of the Navy. That this case has been poorly made is
largely a function of the rounding of sharp corners brought on by
Goldwater-Nichols and its elevation of consensus as the primary organizational
attribute of the Department of Defense. Jointness run amok is however, not the only
reason that American Seapower’s role in national defense has been
sub-optimized. Of equal status is the failure of the Department of the Navy to
organize, train, and equip as the single provider of the conventional
deterrence bound up in integrated maritime power. In order for the promise of
American Seapower to be achieved, the Navy and the Marine Corps must more
closely integrate—operationally and organizationally—with the provision of such
a force as its single organizing principle. The introduction of the USMC F-35B
provides an interesting catalyst for closer integration, and if the nation is wise,
it will seek additional ways to integrate the activities of these maritime
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 1:33 PM
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Attached is my statement submitted for the record. Here is the link to the video.
Thank you Chairman McCain and Ranking Member Reed, and all the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee for the opportunity to testify and to submit this written statement for the record.
I am a defense consultant by trade, specializing in naval strategy. In early 2014, I joined with Seth Cropsey of the Hudson Institute to found a think tank devoted to Seapower, known as the Hudson Center for American Seapower. All of my adult life has been spent either in the Navy or working on matters of naval operations and strategy.
On active duty, I commanded a destroyer, and I was the team leader and primary author of the 2007 USN/USMC/USCG maritime strategy known as “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower. Since leaving active duty in 2008, I have written and spoken widely about preponderant American Seapower as the element of our military power most that most effectively and efficiently promotes and sustains America’s prosperity, security, and role as a world leader.
It is an honor to appear before you and in the company of my esteemed colleagues. The nature of this hearing—an inquiry into the continuing relevance of the roles and missions compromise reached at Key West in the late 1940’s—provides the opportunity for a more generalized discussion of the relative merits of Seapower, land power, and air power in the national security strategy of the United States of America. And while the Key West Agreement went a long way toward containing the inter-service rivalry that characterized the immediate post-war defense bureaucracy, it took the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 to finish off the Services as effective advocates for their own particular brand of military power, while creating an atmosphere of “go along to get along” in which consensus is viewed as the highest bureaucratic attribute. In fact, the interaction of Key West and modern Jointness is primarily responsible for the strategic sclerosis that predestines this nation—in these austere times—to a military that is increasingly misaligned with our interests and the strategic environment.
The primary casualty of seventy years of Key West and Goldwater-Nichols has been the loss of forceful, uniformed advocacy for the particular operational and strategic benefits of generally Service-specific military modalities. The contributions of Seapower, land power, and air power in anything more than the tactical and theater operational sense has in no small measure been sacrificed on an altar of “Jointness” in which the contributions of all Services must blend harmoniously, and in which unseemly advocacy—and its likely threat to Jointness—is a guaranteed career shortener.
That is why this hearing and this Committee’s willingness to take hard look at where we are with Goldwater-Nichols—nearly thirty years after its passage—is so important.
Our fighting force has become the envy of the world, and Jointness has a lot to do with that. Our ability to synthesize and synchronize the fires and effects of the four armed services in the space and time of our choosing is unmatched. Additionally, Jointness has the potential to create efficiencies in acquisition, so long as requirements and performance specifications are not unduly compromised in order to attain the “one size fits all” (or most) approach.
Where Jointness has ill-served this country is at the level of strategy-making, both in terms of military strategy and the military’s contribution to the making of Grand Strategy.
Jointness, Strategy, and Resources
Eight years ago while on active duty, I was the team lead and primary author of a document called “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower”, which was a tri-service document (Navy, USMC, Coast Guard) that boldly proclaimed itself a “maritime strategy”, a term that had not been used to describe any one of a half-dozen Navy and Department of the Navy strategic documents in the previous two decades—since the seminal “Maritime Strategy” of the Reagan era.
In point of fact, Goldwater-Nichols and the rise of the Combatant Commanders created a sense among many in the national security field that strategy was no longer the purview of the Services, and that to the extent strategy was to be made, it would be done at the Combatant Commands and the Joint Staff. This view was summed up in a conversation I had in early autumn of 2007, just before the new maritime strategy was to debut. In it, my interlocutor, a friend who is now occupying a position of great responsibility in the Department of Defense, told me that “Services make budgets, not strategy. You guys (the Navy) have no business in writing strategy.” He was not alone in this assessment.
We forged ahead with the Maritime Strategy in spite of those who felt strongly that we had no mandate to do so, and the result was generally well-received. In dissent, one prominent navalist opined that it (the strategy) was not Joint enough, and that we ignored the important contributions of the other Services. Keep in mind, this was a Seapower strategy, designed in no small measure to explain modern American Seapower and its unique contributions to national security and prosperity.
The point of this discourse is to raise the issue that Jointness has risen to the level of attribute above all other attributes—not only in how the force fights, but in how it makes strategy. Military strategy and its contribution to grand strategy take as a starting position, a Joint force that is constituted from the pieces and parts and roles and missions largely enshrined at Key West. Key West essentially locked the contributions in place, with Goldwater-Nichols then enforcing the notion that while the individual service modalities were of course important, it was ONLY in their blending—in largely consistent shares—that goodness could be had.
We can see evidence of this in how base budgets have been allocated in the post-Vietnam era. We often hear of a “1/3, 1/3, 1/3” split, but this is not correct. In fact, the Services only actually split 80% of the budget, as 20% is consumed by DoD activities. That 80% however, has been relatively consistently allocated over the years, with the Department of the Navy generally receiving the largest share (it contains two armed services), the Department of the Air Force next, and the Department of the Army the least. What is interesting though, is that the proportions remain relatively equal irrespective of the national military strategy. Put another way, we have had numerous defense-wide reviews since Goldwater-Nichols, to include the Base Force, the Bottom-Up Review, several National Security Strategies, several Quadrennial Defense Reviews, and the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. And although these reviews addressed markedly different security environments, the proportions allotted to the military departments remained generally stable. Supplemental funding is not included in this comparison.
How can this be? How can base budgets remain relatively stable across a number of dramatically different security environments, including America as “hyper-power”, the War on Terror, and the Rebalance to the Pacific? The answer is that Key West and Goldwater-Nichols have created an atmosphere in which comity and consensus are the coin of the realm, and that consensus is “purchased” with defense spending that ensures each of the Services generally get much of what they want and rarely get all of it.
Redundancy, Inefficiency, and Risk
The roles and missions division that emerged from Key West enshrined redundancy and inefficiency, but in the process, these overages helped buy down risk, especially as the Cold War progressed. While existential threats lurked, a certain amount of inefficiency and redundancy was worthwhile, and strategically unobjectionable. It is important to remember that the reason Secretary Forrestal convened the Chiefs at Key West was in order to gain efficiency, to economize. Although he was relatively unsuccessful in this regard, Key West created a roles and missions architecture that could be relatively easily enlarged and diminished in response to the perceived level of threat from the Soviet Union. And while Eisenhower eventually came to rely more heavily on nuclear weapons rather than conventional (with the USAF receiving nearly ½ the defense budget late in his second term), he did little to alter the roles and missions of the Services. Additionally, he had the luxury of spending nearly 10% of GDP on defense, nearly triple the proportion we allocate today.
It cannot be stressed enough that Key West was convened largely to reach efficiencies and to economize, and not as a means to achieve strategic coherence or wholeness. As we face what appears to be a new era of great power contention, I am concerned that as we look at roles and missions, we do so not as an exercise in efficiency, but in the quest for the allocation of resources and forces best suited to deter and if necessary, win great power war.
Put another way, the roles and missions debate is potentially less interesting than a debate about how those roles and missions are prioritized, and that prioritization discussion necessarily involves the concept of risk. That said, it seems strategically unwise to continue to spend a declining share of our national wealth on defense while maintaining the current departmental allocation consistency. We are creating a Joint force that is simply a smaller version of its predecessors, capable of doing fewer things, to a lesser extent, in fewer places, without any diminishing of the responsibilities assigned to it. We can go in one of three directions. We can continue to go in the direction that we are, which will ill-position us to protect and sustain our interests in an era of renewed great power contention. This is the most risky path but also the most likely. We can dramatically increase defense spending across the board, and increase the size and readiness of the Armed Services even as we modernize them, which is the least risky path, but in the absence of a triggering event or a political sea-change, highly unlikely. Or we can continue with the same general total outlay of defense spending but favor certain military roles over others. This is option is less risky than the path we are on, but it is potentially as politically unlikely as the broad based increase in defense spending.
I wish to be on record as supporting the second option, a broad increase in military spending across the board. I believe this nation is dangerously ill-prepared to move forward in an era of great power contention, and I believe that the trajectory we are on will only decrease our fitness for these challenges.
If We Prioritize, Prioritize Seapower
Given that the political conditions for a broad increase in defense spending are unlikely to be achieved, and given that simply shrinking the current force will only increase the mismatch between our force and its likely operating environment, we must then consider placing bets on certain aspects of our military power; relying on them to a greater extent while we de-weight other capabilities, not because they are unimportant, but because they are less important to the missions of conventional deterrence and/or because such capabilities can be more rapidly reconstituted than other more capital intensive aspects of the force.
In my view, if a well-conceived strategic approach were taken that 1) weighted deterring and winning great power war higher than any other military endeavor and 2) allowed no sacred cows, modern American Seapower would be prioritized over land power and aerospace power. This is not to say that America does not need land and aerospace power; we certainly do. But the Department of the Navy is essentially a microcosm of the Joint Force as presently constituted. It clearly has the overwhelming amount of Seapower, although the Army has a large number of watercraft. It has the world’s most mobile air component, though the Air Force clearly contains campaign level, war-winning air power. And it has the world’s most feared middleweight land force, delivered from the sea with mobility and flexibility, although the Army is clearly our most powerful land force. In other words, I am an advocate for land power and air power-and I believe they can most efficiently be delivered from the sea in order to protect and sustain our interests around the world. Additionally, if properly resourced, the land and air power contained within the units of issue of modern naval power—the Carrier Strike Group and the Amphibious Ready Group, would be sufficient for much of the day to day work of military diplomacy, assurance, presence and deterrence around the world, and would be the force upon which the war-winning power of the Army and the Air Force would marshal if a conflict outstripped available naval power.
However, the Navy and Marine Corps as presently constituted would be ill-suited to this work. We are sized for peacetime forward presence of credible combat power in two theaters at a time—currently the Far East and the Arabian Gulf/Indian Ocean region. Our 271 ship, 186K Marine force is insufficient to service these forward deployed combat hubs, and worse, our national interests demand a return in force to the Mediterranean—where turmoil and unrest throughout North Africa and the Levant, threats to our ally Israel, and a new Russian “keep out” zone developing in the Eastern Mediterranean require U.S. answers.
A Navy and Marine Corps capable of providing continuous and indefinite presence, assurance, and deterrence in three theaters simultaneously would necessarily be larger than the current force. It would be built around 15 Expeditionary Strike Forces each of which is comprised of a large, nuclear powered aircraft carrier, an amphibious assault ship, 8-10 surface combatants, two additional amphibious ships, two loosely attached attack submarines networked into an undersea constellation of unmanned, unattended, and or fixed surveillance, sensors, and weapons, shore-based maritime patrol aircraft and integrated maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance unmanned platforms. This force would take decades to achieve, and would likely be in the neighborhood of 450 ships and 220,000 Marines.
In fact, it is the time associated with achieving this force that argues strongly for moving quickly and investing steadily in peacetime. The framers of our Constitution faced a similar dilemma to what we face today. In relative terms, it was then—and remains today—less difficult (and expensive) to “…raise and support Armies…”, than it is to “…provide and maintain a Navy” (U.S. Constitution Article I Section 8). Recently, the Army Chief of Staff gave a speech in which he attempted to dispel a number of “myths” about warfare. One of these myths was that “armies are easy to regenerate”. This is of course, a straw man, as no thoughtful analyst considers it “easy” to regenerate an Army. The point though—one that the framers foresaw in the language of the Constitution—is not that it is easy to raise an army, but that it is EASIER than raising a Navy. In this regard, the Air Force is much more like the Navy than the Army. In simple terms, building ships takes a long time, and in our present industrial base—where there are few places that proper warships can be built—there is little or no surge capacity to “ramp up” in an emergency.
Geography is Not Destiny, but It Matters
Another reason to privilege the land power and air power resident in the sea power of the Department of the Navy is the great gift of geography that we enjoy. Our border nations are not military threats to our security. As the world’s most powerful economic nation, our interests are global, and protecting and sustaining them requires the projection of power and influence across thousands of miles. This extended quotation from Congressional Research Service analyst Ron O’Rourke article in the Naval Institute’s Proceedings (Jan 2012) says it best:
“Most of the world’s people, resources, and economic activity are not in the Western Hemisphere, but in the other hemisphere, particularly Eurasia. Consequently, a key element of U.S. national strategy, going back many decades, has been to prevent the emergence of a regional hegemon in one part of Eurasia or another, because such a hegemon could deny the United States access to some of the Eastern Hemisphere’s resources and economic activity. Preventing this is a major reason why the U.S. military is structured with force elements-including significant naval forces, long-range bombers, and long range airlift-that enable it to cross broad expanses of ocean and air space and then conduct sustained, large-scale military operations upon arrival. The United States is the only country with a military designed to do this. The other countries in the Western Hemisphere don’t attempt it because they can’t afford it, and because the United States is, in effect, doing it for them. Countries of the Eastern Hemisphere don’t do it for the very basic reason that they’re already in that hemisphere, where the action is. Consequently, they instead spend their defense money on forces for influencing events in their own neighborhood.”
Given our propitious geography and our friendly neighbors, there is a logical argument to be made to keep the land and airpower of the Department of the Navy in highest readiness with global capacity, while keeping the war-winning combat power of the U.S. Army’s land power and the U.S. Air Force’s air power largely—but not exclusively—garrisoned in the United States in smaller numbers than we have been used to. The nation would necessarily have to think through how most effectively to ramp up these two campaign level Services, and a more fluid mix of active, reserve and National Guard forces would likely result. Those elements of the Army and Air Force that support the day to day operations of the Navy and Marine Corps would also be kept in highest readiness, as would those portions of the Army that most resemble the capital intensive nature of the Navy and Air Force—specifically Army Aviation and Air and Missile Defense.
The greatest risk of this Seapower-centric approach is that we simply could not generate enough “war winning” combat power fast enough to prevent a “fait accompli”, especially one not proximate to the sea (for instance, Central Europe). Mitigating this threat would necessarily involve a greater reliance on the land forces of friends and allies. The risk could not however, be eliminated.
The most likely direction this nation will head (and the most dangerous) is to continue on the path it is on, a path to a smaller force that is increasingly inappropriate to the emerging security environment. This is because the forces of inertia are strong, both in the Pentagon and here on Capitol Hill. Additional money for defense seems unlikely, and just as unlikely would be a strategic re-prioritization.
The best option then would be to embark on a broad based defense increase, one that would grow the current force as allocated both in size and in capability. This I believe to be the soundest, most strategically wise course to take as China and Russia begin to assume larger roles in the world, and while spending more on defense would be a difficult political pull, it is probably more likely to happen than a strategic allocation of resources that challenges current paradigms and rice bowls.
Should the nation move in the direction of a dialogue that would be less risky than the current path and less expensive than the broad based defense build-up, then shifting resources and priorities to the Department of the Navy to enable it to provide the global, day-to-day management force while the other Military Departments concentrate on support to those routine and crisis response operations and most importantly, the provision of war-winning, heavy, campaign level land and air power, is advised.
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 4:55 PM
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
The Hudson Center for American Seapower is proud to solicit nominations for its 2016 American Seapower Stipend.
The Hudson Center for American Seapower will award one $5000 stipend to a student enrolled (during calendar year 2016) in an accredited Ph.D program worldwide, whose primary area of study is directly related to the strategic contributions of American Seapower.
Interested scholars should provide a précis of between 250-500 words describing their area of study and its importance. The statement should identify where they are studying.
Each submission should be accompanied by a short (less than 150 words) statement of support from the scholar’s thesis adviser verifying the scholar’s work and the adviser’s support for it.
Submissions should be made by email to the Director of the Hudson Center for American Seapower, Dr. Seth Cropsey (email@example.com) . All submissions must be received no later than January 1, 2016. The awardee will be announced no later than January 31, 2016.
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 11:09 AM
Sunday, November 1, 2015
Revisiting the Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 12:46 PM
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
|U.S. Surface Warships in Singapore, 2013|
Posted by Lazarus at 10:38 PM
Thursday, October 22, 2015
|PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 16, 2015) Sailors assigned to Surface Warfare Detachment Four of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) Crew 102 prepare to board a naval training vessel as part of visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) training during an Independent Deployer Certification Exercise (IDCERTEX). IDCERTEX, led by Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet (C3F) and executed by Commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 15, is being conducted Feb. 9-20 off the Coast of Southern California and Hawaii. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak/Released)|
"Without a clear capabilities-based assessment, it is not clear what operational requirements the upgraded LCS is designed to meet. The Navy must demonstrate what problem the upgraded LCS is trying to solve. We must not make this mistake again." Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), March 2015.
- The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) concept and Frigate variant (LCS/FF) trace their origins to incomplete analyses conducted in the early 2000s, coupled with flawed assumptions regarding future geopolitical, threat, technical and fiscal environments.
- The Navy should pause any further invesments in LCS/FF program to sponsor a Small Surface Combatant Capability Based Assessment (CBA) to define the missions, capabilities, and required attributes for its future Small Surface Combatant.
The decision announced by Secretary of the Navy Mabus earlier this year to redesignate modified versions of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) as Frigates (LCS/FF) and adapt twenty as to fill the Navy’s future Small Surface Combatant requirement has not diminished the debate surrounding the LCS program. The LCS has been mired in controversy since its inception and has yielded a product which bears little resemblance to the initial concept. In short, comparing the LCS in-service today to the concept originally envisioned in the early 2000s:
- LCS high speed requirement appears to have been met, but may have imposed severe compromises and limitations in other facets of the designs;[i]
- Seaframes appear unlikely to meet required range (LCS-3 projection of 1,941 nautical miles (nm) versus a 3,500 nm requirement);[ii]
- Survivability of LCS in a wartime environment has been called into question by both the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) and Congress;[iii]
- Expected acquisition cost of an LCS seaframe approaches $470 million compared to a 2006 Congressional mandated cost cap of $220 million per seaframe;[iv]
- The surface warfare (SUW) module with its current Hellfire missiles is significantly outranged by potential enemy ships displacing around 10% of LCS tonnage[v]
- The Remote Minehunting System (RMS) critical to the LCS mine countermeasure (MCM) module is unreliable and has met significant criticism from DOT&E;[vi]
- The antisubmarine warfare (ASW) module, which was rescoped from distributed offboard systems to a more conventional variable depth sonar and multi-function towed array MFTA, has not yet been delivered and is currently overweight;[vii]
- The original concept of quickly swapping mission modules within days to allow rapid mission reconfiguration (e.g. SUW to MIW) appears infeasible.[viii]
The Patterns of the Current LCS Debate
It is important to acknowledge that LCS supporters do exist – although this author suspects that if one discounted those who are professionally connected to the LCS program, they would number in single digits. Arguments in favor of the LCS fall into two broad categories.
The first category involves citing unit cost stabilization, reliability improvements, and increased seaframe deliveries as evidence of the LCS program “turning the corner”. These arguments are myopic: delivering reliable systems, within cost and schedule are what program offices are expected to do. This line of argument also relies on questionable accounting practices: until the mission modules are delivered, any discussion of LCS cost or schedule refers to an incomplete item. It also focuses the discussion too narrowly on production metrics while ignoring whether or not the LCS delivers actual warfighting capability.
A second line of pro-LCS arguments addresses warfighting utility – but focused on conceptual future capabilites rather than what can be reasonably anticipated. The argument starts that the LCS modular concept allows the flexibity to introduce new capabilites as needed. Yet it is hard to accept this claim given that it has taken the LCS program over a decade to design, acquire, test and field the first three “flight zero” mission modules – particulary when one considers that these modules are far less complex than what had been planned at program conception.
LCS proponents may then argue that even without mission modules, the LCS provides comparable capability to the recently-retired Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates. The counter is that benchmarking capability against a forty year-old frigate design with much of its weapons removed is a false comparison; if all that was required was a de-missiled, 1970s-era frigate, then perhaps there was little need for a new ship at all.
The Bigger Debate: Are We Building the Right Ship?
The premise of this article is that while it is important to monitor and hold NAVSEA and prime contractors accountable in terms of building the ship right, it is far more important for resource sponsors (with the aid of the analytic community) to determine whether the Navy is actually building the right ship. Thus, the target audience for this article and its recommendations is the OPNAV staff who develop and manage requirements, rather than the Program Executive Office for Littoral Combat Ships (PEO-LCS) which are responsible to build to those requirements.
Despite the spirited exchanges between LCS critics and proponents on this website and others, the tenor of the debate itself misses the larger picture. Success or failure of LCS to meet a design specification, or deliver within cost and schedule, or comparing what it delivers compared to a now-retired frigate is irrelevant if LCS is not the ship the Navy needs in the future. Imagine a magic wand existed which would instantly correct LCS program and technical failures and deliver thirty-two LCSs, built as designed, within cost parameters, and with the currently projected mission packages. The question would still remain whether a ship the Navy envisioned in the early 2000s is a sound basis for a future Small Surface Combatant mission.
The above question can be addressed by examining the assumptions that existed when the LCS concept was formulated, how its foundational analysis was conducted in the early 2000s, and how the more recent Small Surface Combatant Study arrived at its recommendation.
Challenging LCS Assumptions
In examining LCS foundational analyses, it is first vital to consider whether the assumptions under which the original LCS concept was developed are still valid. The simple answer is no; the technological, geographic, threat, and fiscal assumptions which underpinned LCS conceptualization do not appear to be valid in 2015.
Technology: Reliance on Unmanned Systems. Net centric warfare (NCW) was a key technology-centric concept which informed the LCS concept and design. NCW theorizes “…increased combat power through networking sensors, decision makers, and shooters to achieve shared awareness, increased speed of command, higher tempo of operations, greater lethality, increased survivability, and a degree of self-synchronization.”[ix] NCW proponents placed strong reliance on the ability of ship-based unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), unmanned surface vehicles, and unmanned undersea vehicles, to provide LCS with significant mission and scouting capabilites.[x] Yet with the possible exception of the Fire Scout UAV, the unmanned systems which were central to the original LCS CONOPS, have not matured as projected.
Geography: The Pacific Pivot. The mid-2000s saw a renewed emphasis on the Pacific Command (PACOM) area of responsibility (AOR). The so-called Pacific Pivot was driven in large part by a rising China and its perceived threat to the existing economic and military order. Statements by the Commander of the US Pacific Fleet in 2012 indicated that by 2020 over 60% of the US ships will be stationed in the Pacific.[xi] Although the LCS was supposedly intended to operate in all global theaters, the Pacific represents a unique environment with specific challenges; notably immense open ocean distances and fairly sparse logistics support. Logically, if one were to design a ship class to operate primarily in the Pacific, it would need to possess range/endurance, moderate cruising speed, and sufficient manpower to self-sustain. It would be a ‘distance runner’ rather than the ‘sprinter’ which the LCS program is delivering.
Threats: Anti-Access / Area Denial (A2/AD). Concurrent with the “Pacific Pivot” was the recognition of the threat posed by enemy anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) operations. A2/AD are concepts employed by an enemy intended to delay the assembly of US power-projection forces (to include their battle networks), and keep them beyond effective range of their territory, or to defeat them once they come within range.[xii] Denial of command, control and communications, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (C3ISR) networks may pose significantly challenges to the LCS concept – which relies upon access to the C3ISR network for both SA and survivability. Similarly, an enemy which can conduct a crippling first-strike on US forward bases (via ballistic missile, cruise missiles or other methods) can impose severe logistics challenges to the relatively short-legged LCS.
Fiscal: Dwindling Resources. The mid-2000s were an era of relatively ample fiscal resources, due in no small part to the use of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) to augment the baseline shipbuilding account. The drawdown from overseas operations reduced that funding sources, while the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011ensures little to no growth in overall defense resources. Compounding the reduction in available resources are the pending demands for major ship construction projects including a new ballistic missile submarine (SSBN(X)) the Gerald Ford Class aircraft carrier (CVN-78) cost overruns, and DDG Flight III. This lack of available resources has resulted in a relative decline in the perceived utility of single purpose, low-end warships (LCS) in favor of multi-purpose warships capable of operating independently against a broader array of challenges (frigates).
Considering resources, the cost of LCS/FF modifications are currently estimated at $75-100 million per unit.[xiii] Adding this amount to the seaframe cost of an LCS ($479 million) and the expected unit cost of a mission module ($100 million) yields a total cost of $654-679 million.[xiv] As a point of reference the FFG-7 unit cost in FY77 dollars was $168 million, equating to $677 million in FY15 dollars. While it is admittedly problematic to compare shipbuilding costs based purely on inflation, this should at least raise the question as to whether comparable or even better-value options exist for the Small Surface Combatant than the LCS/FF.
|PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 15, 2015) Sailors assigned to Surface Warfare Mission Package Detachment 2 prepare to be hoisted out of the water by the littoral combat ship USS Coronado's (LCS 4) twin-boom-extensible crane following a visit, board, search and seizure training exercise. Coronado conducted predeployment assessment and evaluation on the performance of shipboard equipment during a week-long underway off the coast of California. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Debra Daco/Released)|
Baseline LCS: Incomplete Analysis
As an analyst, challenging an acquisition program’s requirements often becomes a tautological exercise. When questioned, a typical response from program officials and resource sponsors is that the requirements are the requirements because they were at one time signed by leadership. The fact that leadership may not have fully understood the analysis basis for the decision, was responsible for many decisions involving multiple acquisition programs, and has by now moved on to another assignment (or even retired) is often overlooked.
The LCS program emerged in late-2001 as an element of the now-defunct future surface combatant program – which included the LCS, a land-attack focused destroyer (DD(X)), and an air-defense focused cruiser (CG(X)) Conceived at a time in which the Navy perceived limited near or mid-term challenges to its ability to conduct operations in the open ocean (‘blue water’), the LCS was intended to counter asymmetric threats to action in the littoral waters (‘green water’): notably sea mines, small boats, and diesel-electric submarines.
Underlying the LCS concept were the theories of “transformationalism” (an influential 2004 paper on the LCS used the term no less than sixteen times[xv] ) and “net centric warfare (NCW). NCW theorized “…increased combat power through networking sensors, decision makers, and shooters to achieve shared awareness, increased speed of command, higher tempo of operations, greater lethality, increased survivability, and a degree of self-synchronization.”[xvi] Proponents of NCW also placed confidence in the capabilities of largely unproven ship-based unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) and unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) to provide significant situational awareness (SA) and mission capabilites to the LCS.[xvii]
LCS enjoyed strong backing from Navy leadership and thus proceeded rapidly from concept to reality. Indeed, by mid-2003, Navy leadership was confident enough in its need for a small, fast, modular surface combatant (as well as the capability/capacity of industry to manufacture the ship and its modules) to undertake a number of critical steps. It established an LCS program office; developed a draft concept of operations (CONOPS); funded several industry led trade studies on the designs, and released a request for proposal (RFP).[xviii]
Remarkably, the above steps were conducted by Navy prior to any of the formal studies expected in a major defense acquisition program to identify and validate capability gaps, and assess a wide array of potential solutions. Neither the exact nature of the “littoral combat” problem to be solved, nor the presumption that a small, fast, modular surface combatant was the best and only solution to the “littoral combat” problem were tested via rigorous, structured analysis.[xix] Indeed, VADM Johnathan Nathman (then-Vice Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Requirements) admitted in Congressional testimony in April 2003 that more rigorous mission-level analysis of the LCS was only conducted after the decision was made to acquire LCS.[xx]
|PACIFIC OCEAN (April 30, 2015) An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter and an MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, both assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35, conduct coordinated flight operations with the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joan E. Jennings/Released)|
The Small Surface Combatant Study: Putting the Cart before the Horse
The mistakes made in the LCS analysis of the early 2000s were largely repeated a decade later, following the decision by then-Secretary of Defense Hagel to halt production of baseline LCS at hull 32 and examine alternative concepts to provide a Small Surface Combatant. In February 2014, Secretary Hagel directed Navy leadership to:
“…Submit to me, in time to inform the PB 2016 [President’s Budget for FY2016] budget deliberations, alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate. Options considered should include a completely new design, existing ship designs (including the LCS), and a modified LCS.”[xxi]The Navy’s Small Surface Combatant Task Force (SSCTF) were given approximately six months to complete the study. However, rather than conduct an up-front assessment to determine gaps and examine system-of-solutions beyond the frigate to meet those gaps, the SSCTF relied on surveys of fleet commanders for expert judgement. According to Robert O’Rourke of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) this approach has disadvantages:
“One potential disadvantage of this approach is that it deprived the Navy of a chance to uncover the kind of counter-intuitive results that a formal analysis can uncover…. another potential disadvantage is that fleet commanders can be focused on what they see the Navy needing today, based on current Navy operations, which might not be the same in all respects as what the Navy will need in the future...”[xxii]The SSC Study considered completely new designs, existing ship designs, as well as modified LCS designs. The recommendation briefed to and approved by Secretary Hagel in late 2014 was to acquire 20 modified LCS with an improved air defense radar; air defense decoys; a new, more effective electronic warfare system; an over-the-horizon anti-ship missile; multi-function towed array sonar; torpedo defenses; and additional armor protection.[xxiv]
While the decision to adapt a modified LCS over other potential concepts has been subject to significant discussion, it is difficult to argue the decision since the SSC study itself is not available to the public. However, what can be openly debated is the deeply flawed analytical path by which the decision was arrived, and the manner in which it is being implemented.
The SSC Study yielded a detailed modified LCS designed to satisfy current shortfalls – yet lacked the analysis to determine whether it will meet future requirements. The modifications recommended will undoubtedly make the LCS “better”, but no study was done as to whether they will make the LCS “good enough” to meet the Navy’s future threats.
Further confusing the issue is Congressional testimony by Mr. Sean Stackley (Ass’t Secretary for Research Development and Acquisition) which indicates that the Navy had not even begun the LCS-FF requirements development and staffing process until after it had selected the LCS-FF design. It thus appears that the Navy is attempting to make the question fit the answer.[xxv]
The Need for a Capability Based Assessment
It should be clear from the above paragraphs that: the assumptions which existed at LCS conception are largely outdated; the baseline LCS conducted in the early 2000s had an incomplete foundational analysis; and the recently completed SSC Study essentially selected a ship design to meet current gaps with no analysis of future mission requirements.
An analysis method which could address these myriad of flaws exists and is referred to as a Capability Based Assessment (CBA). A CBA is required by the Joint Capability Integration Development System (JCIDS) prior to selecting a material solution. It provides recommendations on whether to pursue a materiel solution to an identified capability gap that meets an established need.
A CBA assists Navy decision makers in determining the problem, whether or not it needs to acquire ‘something’ to address the problem, and what requirements for that ‘something’ should look like. A CBA is often confused with an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) – in fact they are separate but interrelated efforts with the CBA occurring first. The general steps of a CBA are:
- Define the mission;
- Identify capabilities required;
- Determine the attributes/standards of the capabilities;
- Identify gaps;
- Assess operational risk associated with the gaps;
- Prioritize the gaps;
- Identify and assess potential non-materiel solutions and;
- Provide recommendations for addressing the gaps[xxvi]
What Should Be Done and What It Will Take
It is imperative for the Navy to determine the capabilities it needs in a future Small Surface Combatant which will serve the fleet well into the middle half of this century. The recommended course of action is to immediately ‘pause’ the ongoing LCS/FF capability improvement effort, reconsider the decision to acquire LCS/FF hulls 33-52, and conduct a Small Surface Combatant CBA in accordance with JCIDS.
There are numerous qualified, highly-skilled, analysis organizations available to lead such a CBA including but not limited to the Center for Naval Analysis, RAND and the Institute for Defense Analysis. However, under no circumstances should PEO-LCS be allowed to lead the study since by definition this would represent a conflict of interest. PEO-LCS should instead focus on addressing the many issues associated with ‘baseline’ LCS – particularly in developing an alternative course of action for the failing (but critically needed) MIW mission module.
Multiple other organizations would need to play roles to the CBA. An Executive Steering Group (ESG) consisting of OPNAV, NAVSEA and Commander Naval Surfaces would provide high-level guidance. Naval Warfare Development Center would assist in identifying scenarios, tasks and metrics. The Office of Naval Intelligence would identify threats and enemy CONOPS. Fleet subject matter experts would provide inputs CONOPS – although their near-term, qualitative inputs would not be viewed as a substitute for the actual analysis.
At its core, the Small Surface Combatant CBA will be a scenario-based assessment focused on likely missions and threats in the post-2030 timeframe. The missions and scenarios would be identified by the ESG and refined during the CBA but would likely include:
- ASW. Escort in the open ocean;
- SUW. High-end, surface action group;
- Maritime Interdiction Operations;
- Visit Board Search and Seizure;
- Support to Navy Special Warfare;
- Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Response and;
- Global Presence.
The CBA would be resource informed, meaning that any materiel solutions would need to be considered against an assessment of available shipbuilding dollars in the 2030-40 timeframe. Given the many competing priorities in that timeframe (including SSBN(X), continued CVN-78 cost overruns, and the DDG Flight III) cost-effectiveness and affordability should feature heavily in the assessment. However, care should be taken to not simply identify and recommend the lowest-cost solution; capability should be the dominant measure.
Critics may argue that such a Small Surface Combatant CBA would jeopardize the ongoing LCS/FF program; would be too expensive, and would take too long. The first point is germane only if the LCS/FF is in fact the optimal solution to meet future missions; since a proper CBA was never conducted this is impossible to determine. As to the second and third points, if one thinks analysis is expensive and time-consuming, they should try ignorance.
Matthew Cosner is an operations research analyst at Naval Air Systems Command. 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 the U.S. Navy.