Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Future of Naval Warfare is Swarming, or… Distribute Everything

A few weeks ago, two esteemed navalists debated the future of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier at the U.S. Naval Academy. To provide an overly-simplistic summation of this debate, retired Navy Captain and think-tank fellow Jerry Hendrix believes that the days of super carriers should be numbered in favor of more (affordable) platforms, such as large-deck amphibious ships, missile carrying submarines, and future semi-submersibles embarking unmanned vehicles. But fellow ID poster Bryan McGrath argues that supercarriers – more (capable) platforms – will continue to provide value and versatility in future conflicts. They were both correct – to an extent.  CVNs have proven their value in war and peace since their inception and will continue to serve the fleet proudly for decades.  But they are expensive, and getting more unaffordable with every iteration.  Bryan notes that despite its extravagant cost, a carrier represents a mere rounding error in the overall federal budget.  Though true, this wishful thinking doesn't make a larger fleet any closer reality than it has been since the heady days of the (almost) 600 ship navy.  

Our super-carrier fleet has shrunk from 14 to essentially 10 over the course of a quarter-century. Nuclear carriers, the centerpiece of today’s fleet, can only be in one place at one time.  Fewer carriers means less forward deployed presence.  Jerry has favored a fleet of more numerous and affordable "Fords" over pricier "Ferraris" for years now, and it is his vision that more closely matches the direction of future war at sea - distributed operations and swarming. 
I first wrote about swarms here about three years ago. My thinking on this concept has evolved as the U.S. Navy has now begun research and development on unmanned air and surface swarming technology in earnest.  Increasing portions of the research portfolios at DARPA, ONR, and the Naval Postgraduate school are focused on autonomy and swarming.

Defining the New Swarm
First, some history is order.  In some respects, the aircraft carrier was the platform that originally brought swarming to modern naval warfare - though one could look back somewhat further to the triremes of antiquity for tactics that somewhat resemble swarming. In World War II, dozens of U.S. and Japanese fleet carriers operated across the Western Pacific, carrying hundreds of aircraft that swarmed to attack and defend enemy surface ships and island bases. Future swarming will occur at both the tactical and operational levels. Though with projected force structure, surging three, maybe four carriers at any time to a given theater is going to be a challenge. Discounting casualties (a big assumption), maintaining them forward deployed over the course of a protracted naval campaign would be virtually impossible.  So how will tomorrow's smaller fleet be able to project power - both ashore and at sea across battle areas spanning millions of square miles in a major war?
Japan’s kamikaze attacks were another early form of naval swarming.   By some estimates, the Divine Wind suicide attacks accounted for up to 80 percent of U.S. Navy losses in the final phase of the Pacific war.  Although they were lethally effective, the lives of thousands of pilots sacrificed to execute these attacks accelerated the attrition of the Japanese war machine that ultimately led to its defeat.                                            
In the past decade, the Iranian fast attack craft swarming threat has driven significant discussion in U.S. Navy circles, ranging from grave concern to outright dismissal.  To address these sorts of threats, the Navy has acquired and deployed various countermeasures, such the LCS/FF surface package and USS Ponce’s laser system.  Developing hardware to counter swarming isn’t enough.  Iran’s multi-pronged sea denial threat illustrates some of the aspects of future naval swarms that will be emulated by other potential adversaries and friendly navies alike.  

Despite our best attempts, future enemies and conflict drivers are difficult to predict. But it is likely that increasingly affordable and numerous autonomous systems will make swarming a common tactic in the future, employed by both state and non-state maritime powers.  I strongly recommend Paul Scharre's work to understand the nature of military swarms and how they might be employed. What follows are some thoughts on how swarms might work in the naval milieu
Naval swarms require numbers.

A swarm is designed to overwhelm targeting systems and magazine capacity with its size.  Unlike the Japanese kamikazes, low cost, unmanned autonomous platforms will alleviate any qualms about mass human casualties on the side of the swarmers.  
By employing distributed maritime operations, a single surface platform with embarked unmanned vehicles can operate over a wider area than one without.  Using a multi-tiered hub-and-spoke concept, a large surface ship should be capable of simultaneously operating dozens of air, surface, and sub-surface vessels. So while a traditional surface ship might operate a boat or two and the same number of helicopters, using unmanned vehicles, that same platform can deploy numerous sensors and weapons at a considerable distance from the ship across all maritime domains.
Naval swarms will be multi-domain.  Manned and unmanned platforms will coordinate in the air, under, and on the sea.  The cyber and space domains are already integral to naval warfare and will remain so.  Investments in these areas will remain viable, but agility and upgradeability should be the hallmark attributes for future cyber and space programs.


Herd. Defend. Distract. Attack.
Naval swarms will be multi-dimensional.  Swarms will not simply attack, they will deceive, distract, and defend.  Multi-dimensional platforms – dissimilar and similar, will collaborate autonomously to disable command networks, insert malicious code into control systems, and yes, destroy enemy vessels.  As Scharre notes, swarming is not the same as network-centric warfare. Controlling data-links will be not necessary when autonomy, local visual or acoustic sensors, and insect (or fish-like) intelligence enable tiny platforms to collaborate.

So what sort of platforms will compose future naval swarms? Increasingly, miniaturization and unmanned systems will allow smaller platforms to enjoy the the plug-and-play payload versatility that Bryan rightly argues make the super-carrier so valuable. Somewhere between today's high end fleet and tomorrow's nano-swarms are distributed naval operations.   
Existing and planned surface combatants
Though high in quality, today's fleet is smaller in quantity than needed for future distributed operations. Although a "thousand ship" multi-national navy has possible utility in peacetime, what happens in time of war, when partners go wobbly? I have advocated for distributed operations at sea to include distributed firepower for about five years now.  So it warmed my heart to see surface warfare leadership take an interest in distributed lethality in a recent Proceedings article and in subsequent public comments. 
Future warfare will require more than just a new generation of weapons onboard planned combatants. The LCS/FF and SSC, warts and all, will be critically important, given their numbers and versatility at carrying various payloads. By adapting smaller unmanned payloads, each ship will be able to launch a mini-swarm.  These platforms will aggregate and disperse as the tactical situation dictates.  Of course, carriers and large deck amphibious ships will remain valuable for the foreseeable future, simply because of their massive capacity to carry smaller vehicles.  Additionally, the vision of long range, persistent, even armed UAVs embarked on every surface combatant is slowly edging closer to reality with research programs such as DARPA’s TERN. Realizing the full potential of distributed warfare at sea will require will a variety of vessels to augment the conventional fleet, which is unlikely to grow much at all. 

Non-traditional naval platforms
Military Sealift Command Ships embarking adaptive force packages, such as the JHSV and MLP, will by virtue of their payload capacity, speed, and numbers, become a component of the distributed swarm. Does it make more sense for a $3 billion destroyer or a naval auxiliary costing a tenth that amount to sit in mod-loc for weeks at a time as a host platform for an ISR UAV? If the LCS/FF can host offboard mine-countermeasures systems, then why can't the JHSV? Should amphibious ships continue to perform nine and ten month deployments when we have equally spacious USNS ships with flight decks sitting in reduced operating status? The legal issues raised with employing USNS ships in combat situations can, and should be overcome with some creative lawyering.  

Expeditionary Swarming
Swarming gets even more chaotic where the sea meets the land and increasingly dense urban populations reside. David Kilcullen has laid out a future of swarming maneuver doctrine already embraced by many urban guerrillas.                            
Ever since J.F.C. Fuller, in 1918, the foundational concept of maneuver doctrine for the 20th century is not to fight the enemy bit by bit, but to find his headquarters and put a pistol shot into the brain. Fuller talks about finding and killing the enemy headquarters, putting a deep penetration armored unit behind the frontline looking for the enemy headquarters to kill it. That is on what blitzkrieg is based on, it’s what Russian maneuver warfare is based on, it is a fundamental guiding idea for Liddell Hart or Guderian. The scary thing that Black Hawk down tells you is that because of how these guys operate-- with tactics completely emergent within a self synchronizing swarm-- there is actually no headquarters in the Western sense. The guy I sat with, a Somali brigade commander, didn’t have a bunch of guys with radios in a command and control center. What he had, it was walkie talkie and a larger truck than everybody else, carrying a reserve of fighters and ammo. He just listened on the radio and drove around the battlefield to where the fighting was heaviest. He didn’t need to give an order for the attack because the self-synchronizing tactical system didn’t require that. The scary thing that Black Hawk Down tells you is that if the Rangers were able to capture Aidid, it might not have any effect at all. They were going after a headquarters that didn’t exist.
American special operations forces are already doing distributed warfare.  Several SOC-Forward headquarters are deployed across the globe, each one composed of very small teams of multidisciplinary operators and enablers conducting training, information operations, civil affairs, and direct action.   The Marine Corps is also experimenting with distributing smaller units of action, both ashore and afloat.                  

Unconventional players
A small sample of the largest surrogate fleet in the world...
Naval swarms will not consist solely of naval combatants. What I call naval unconventional warfare – essentially the use of maritime surrogates to achieve naval objectives – will feature prominently in future swarm warfare at sea.  China’s massive fishing fleets are already demonstrating a form of surrogate swarming in the South China Sea.  
These non-state maritime actors – some working at the behest of nation states and others on their own accord  will complicate rules of engagement, entice overreaction, disrupt surface movement, and in some some cases, attack as swarms.
On the air side, commercial drones, of which 32,000 are estimated to be flying in the next decade (most not in the U.S.), along with of hundreds thousands of personal drones, will be pulled into this unconventional swarming threat. Currently light-weight and short-ranged, civilian UAVs will expand in capability more rapidly than their military counter-parts.
Physics Gets a Vote
A solid argument against this vision is that smaller platforms, be they a combatant ship, unmanned underwater vehicle, or unmanned air vehicle, are limited in range and payload capacity.  Notionally, shorter-legged vehicles dispersed over hundreds or thousands of miles require more frequent resupply and refueling (or recharging).  However, innovative ways of resupply will mitigate some of these concerns. Along these lines, the Navy’s recent choice of the V-22 as a carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft will greatly enhance the fleet’s distributed logistics capabilities.  The COD will move parts and people not only for the single deployed carrier and its air-wing, but for amphibious ships and smaller combatants (via vertrep) within hundreds of miles of the carrier.  Commonality with Marine Corps and Air Force Special Operations Command Ospreys will bring operational, maintenance, and training efficiencies.  

Unmanned vehicles operating at the edge of the battlespace will require new concepts in afloat logistics.  Moored undersea docking stations to recharge the batteries of long range UUVs should be designed for air or surface deployment.  Unmanned air vehicles flying from surface ships will also support vertical resupply of distributed sea and ground elements operating hundreds of miles from their motherships.  This concept has been demonstrated successfully ashore with the K-MAX rotary wing vehicle which flew more than 17,000 sorties in Afghanistan, delivering over four million pounds of supplies to Marines in remote forward operating bases. Even small patrol vessels operating alone and unafraid could be partially refueled by air, using blivets (from drones, of course) or conceivably, a reverse helicopter in-flight refueling (HIFR) system from the V-22.  Moreover, surface ships with shallower drafts, such as the FF and JHSV can pull into more austere and remote ports for upkeep than their deep draft counter-parts. 

The Future is Clear as Mud
It’s possible that this future is unrealistic, and large combatants – including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier – will reign the seas for decades, if not centuries to come.  But given the changing rate of technology, an entirely different scenario is not implausible.  In Peter Diamandis' new book BOLD, futurist Ray Kurzweil portrays a future dominated by nanosystems, artificial intelligence, and yes, singularity.  Diamandis discusses some of these astounding (and somewhat scary) predictions for the not too far out future:
By the 2020s, most diseases will go away as nanobots become smarter than current medical technology. Normal human eating can be replaced by nanosystems. The Turing test begins to be passable. Self-driving cars begin to take over the roads, and people won’t be allowed to drive on highways.
By the 2030s, virtual reality will begin to feel 100% real. We will be able to upload our mind/consciousness by the end of the decade.
By the 2040s, non-biological intelligence will be a billion times more capable than biological intelligence (a.k.a. us). Nanotech foglets will be able to make food out of thin air and create any object in physical world at a whim.
By 2045, we will multiply our intelligence a billionfold by linking wirelessly from our neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud.
Extrapolating just a few of these trends into naval warfare, one begins to see a very different future emerge than one dominated by a handful of $15 billion capital ships.  Thousands of autonomously navigating civilian and military unmanned surface vessels, such as the “Sea Hunter” prototype currently undergoing testing, will share the seas with manned vessels.  These vessels will be large, small, and very small, and much cheaper to operate than their manned equivalents.  

If Kurzweil is even partially accurate, nanobots will eventually become naval weapons in their own right.  Dispersed from the air prior to hostilities, they will float dormant like plankton in shipping lanes until they recognize an enemy ship. They will then swarm the vessel’s seawater intakes, disable engines, sensors, and perhaps even crew.  Airborne nano-bots floating in the trade winds will be attracted to electromagnetic emissions and disable radar array faces. 
Far-fetched? Perhaps, but then again, twenty five years ago, how many of us expected to always carry a pocket-sized device that responds to voice commands enabling us access to most of the world’s information wirelessly? Kurzweil did.
Because the only certainty is that disruptive technological change will continue to accelerate apace, investments in extremely expensive singular-unit force structure (both air and naval) must be viewed with circumspect.  Simply put - if we don't figure out naval swarming, the democratization of technology today means somebody else will. America's traditional battle force fleet can - and should - be expanded as the fiscal and political environment dictates. But careful investments in an alternative portfolio emphasizing distributed naval operations and swarming will hedge future uncertainty that is sure to result from coming technological disruption.
 The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Defense or any of its agencies.

Thinking about Offensive Naval Mining


Note from Jon Solomon: The article below was written by a Systems Planning and Analysis colleague of mine, Jonathan Altman. Following my post last month regarding how sea denial might figure into U.S. maritime strategy for deterring—or if necessary, defending against—Chinese aggression in East Asia, Jonathan pointed out to me several issues and scenarios  regarding the potential use of offensive mining in such a strategy that I hadn't considered. Jonathan has graciously agreed to share his observations with you here in order to broaden the ongoing debate.


Recently the concept of naval mining, specifically the potential advantages in using naval mines to achieve targeted sea denial, has received more publicity in naval themed publications and the blogosphere. Mining advocates’ hopes were emboldened just before Christmas when the “Cromnibus” was signed into law, containing a line of $10M for naval mining research and development. However, careful consideration should be given to just what employing mines might entail. Though not apparent from most public analyses, there are significant potential issues with employing naval mines offensively that need to be understood. The first of these is their connotation and associated baggage.
When the average (but informed) American hears the term “mine,” it generally conjures up images of a soldier in Vietnam or WWII missing a limb, or crying in the aftermath of a mine explosion that killed a dear friend. More historically aware Americans might think of WWI era sailors and/or civilians drowning in the frigid North Atlantic, or perhaps our own Sailors during the Korean War (the mine damage incurred by the USS Samuel B. Roberts in 1988 and the USS Princeton and USS Tripoli in 1991 did not result in ship loss). While maritime mining is quite different from land mining, we must not overlook the baggage that mining as a term brings to the table in the broader public sphere. Whole classes of weapons, many of which were quite effective, have been banned by the international community at various points in time (such as cluster munitions; despite continued US use of these weapons). Land mines are similarly the focus of international ire. This is not to argue that the United States should allow other countries to dictate what types of weapons it can employ, only that using weapons such as these should present a higher barrier to use because of the inherent perception loss that a state receives for using them. Fundamentally, a weapon that achieves the same effect without or with reduced baggage should be preferred.
Most recent advocacy with respect to naval mining is written in context of use (either in terms of notional wartime employment or latent peacetime deterrent value) against China, so that’s where the remainder of this piece is focused. Note however that many of the tenets enumerated in a China context could be applied to contingencies involving other illiberal non-Western states.
The foundational issue with employing naval mines offensively against the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is simply that it may not have the intended effect of keeping the PLAN bottled up inside its ports. For offensive naval mining to be effective, the Chinese would need to be deterred from sortieing their fleet out to sea. However, this would require a Chinese cultural aversion to losses that may not exist.  Chinese military culture has historically accepted exceptionally high losses as a price for victory (e.g. Chinese Civil War and WWII), and individual sacrifice for the greater good is respected[1]. Especially when one factors in the ample amount of old ships the PLAN has, there’s reason to suspect that when confronted with a minefield (or a small number of emplaced mines), the PLAN might manually force a Q route using low value, outdated but manned ships (this logic could similarly be applied to Iran or North Korea). This could render the minefield ineffective, and void the operational end that it was deployed to achieve. It should be noted however that this approach runs some risk of failure as narrow channels could be clogged by sunken hulls in an attempt to force a Q route; accordingly this tactic is not likely to be employed where maneuver space and/or water depth is restricted.
Even if offensive naval mining was effective in that it kept PLAN assets contained in port for fear of losses, larger concerns should exist in the mind of offensive mining supporters about what a devious foe could do to exploit this situation given mines’ reputation as indiscriminate killers. Too often in analysis of “the other,” whether in intelligence, military or even economic venues, we as Westerners with our own ingrained biases export these onto those who do not share them; a process called mirror imaging. Assuming that a foe would simply not take losses to force a Q route is one example of this; another is imagining that they would avoid acting in ways that are morally repugnant to Western norms to exploit a favorable opportunity.
Recent action in the South China Sea has shown the Chinese to be not only excellent strategists  (incrementally extending their legitimacy in a whole region without firing a shot), but also masters of information warfare (the Russians are not too shabby at it themselves). Applying this acumen to offensive naval mining, as soon as a minefield was discovered (or more likely announced to meet the rules of war); there would be tremendous advantage for the Chinese government to create the conditions where a US mine (real or perceived) kills a large number of Chinese (or third-party country) civilians. Here is where the tactical views of mining could become irrelevant in the face of a well-designed strategy. For example, even if a US mine is so “smart” that there is no way it could ever kill a civilian ship (no small feat), there would be nothing to stop the Chinese from packing a vessel with explosives and blowing it up themselves in the rough geographic region of the offensive minefield; preferably in full view of cameras and with plenty of innocents on board. This situation could be made even more challenging for the US if a legitimate mine had already sunk a military ship in a similar location, as deniability would become nearly impossible at that point.
The Chinese could conceivably also create the appearance that the U.S. had mined offensively when or where it had not. They could use the confusion that surrounded the “mine strike” for propaganda purposes as well as to justify ‘retaliation’ that was actually premeditated escalation. By selling the perception that they had responded rather than preempted, they would reduce the risk of being seen as an aggressor and would create a more favorable image to the world at large (a key component of information warfare).
There would probably be no way, and certainly no quick way, for the United States to prove to the watching global public that a Chinese non-military vessel’s loss in the above scenarios stemmed from a Chinese false flag operation as opposed to a genuine US mine.  The perception that the Chinese were the victim of an irresponsible US weapon could also be used as diplomatic leverage to strain US regional alliances and push neutral powers towards China. European countries could be especially sensitive to pressure from their publics to back out of openly supporting the US in this case.
Depending on when in a conflict the aforementioned incident is staged, a savvy adversary may be able to extract additional advantages. For instance, if conducted at a period of heightened tension, China could use the incident as a casus belli and follow it with an overt (preemptive) attack. This would be increasingly likely if the Chinese were already preparing for a major offensive; similar to the German false-flagged Gleiwitz incident in 1939. Any strain on the Chinese economy (the basis of Chinese Communist Party legitimacy) would make this option even more attractive.
Ultimately, it must be asked “what is the intended goal of offensively employing naval mines”? According to recent writing, it seems to be large scale but targeted sea denial enabled through a capability to strike targets in a discriminate fashion at a time and place of US choosing. Certainly this is a valid and desirable military end. The only question then is whether offensive mines are the best tool to accomplish this objective given their stigma and assumed ability to engage targets without human intervention. Some existing technologies that might be evaluated as alternatives to mines in this respect could include torpedoes, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, or surface ship delivered anti-ship ballistic missiles. Future unmanned systems may also provide an option for selective targeting with a man-in-the-loop that would greatly reduce the baggage that comes with both the word “mine” and with the idea of a self-targeting weapon. In the end, a weapon that delivers targeted but wide area sea denial without the downsides associated with a naval mine is likely to be a valuable and increasingly necessary military tool to maintain United States maritime influence in many parts of the world.

Jonathan Altman is an analyst with Systems Planning and Analysis Inc, a defense contractor located in Alexandria, Virginia. He holds a Master’s Degree in International Security from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. The views expressed herein are those only of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of Systems Planning and Analysis, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.


[1] Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, Rethinking Individualism and Collectivism: Evaluation of Theoretical Assumptions and Meta-Analyses. In this analysis of 250 cultures, the Chinese were found to be the most collectivist of all groups studied. Collectivist groups typically subordinate individual actions for the good of the group.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Whither Air-Sea Battle?


I share Lazarus’s concerns regarding the decision to fold Air-Sea Battle into the new Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (or JAM-GC if you will). Disregarding JAM-GC’s ambiguously-worded name, I might feel differently about the move in general had a reasonably-clear definition of the concept been released last week. The absence of such a definition makes it difficult to understand whether this new concept truly encompasses the threat sets and operational-strategic challenges that gave rise to Air-Sea Battle in the first place. It also makes it more difficult to assess how JAM-GC might flow from or otherwise inform overarching strategic concepts for dealing with competitors and potential adversaries.
This goes beyond Air-Sea Battle’s fate. Beginning in January 2012, the Joint Staff publicly declared that Air-Sea Battle was a means of implementing the Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC). Unlike Air-Sea Battle’s authoritative documentation, the JOAC document publicly and unambiguously itemized specific capabilities and doctrinal tenets necessary for the Joint force to gain access to and establish freedom of maneuver within future combat theaters in spite of intense opposition by highly capable adversaries. Much serious thought concerning how the U.S. military should be configured for deterrence of major conventional wars has flowed from the parsing of JOAC.
It is not clear whether JAM-GC and JOAC are duplicative, or whether the former is intended to absorb (or render obsolete) the latter. This ought to be publicly addressed by those in a position to do so. The implications of these uncertainties and ambiguities risk affecting how Congress, not to mention leaders and opinion elites in allied/partner as well as potential adversary countries, ultimately interpret the apparent change in direction. The full details of JAM-GC need not be disclosed; they certainly were not for JOAC. Nevertheless, as we observed with Air-Sea Battle, the story the Defense Department and the services tell regarding future concepts for deterrence (and war-waging if necessary) matters immensely in terms of the support they can attract for making the requisite investments of national treasure and prestige.

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.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Navy is Getting Its Money's Worth With New Advertising Campaigns

Here's the latest.  Very solid.  I like where they're going with this.



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Renaming Air/Sea Battle a Poor, Parochial Decision


A Very "Joint" Air Sea Battle (from 2013)

     The Pentagon’s 08 January choice to rename the Air/Sea Battle concept is a poor choice that will negatively affect the ability of the Navy and Air Force to modernize their forces for 21st century combat. It is an attempt by the U.S. Army to insert itself into an operational construct for which it is neither equipped nor trained in which to participate. Finally, this decision demonstrates a compelling need to reform the aging Defense Department organization created by the Goldwater Nichols Act in 1986. This reform legislation was designed to empower joint military institutions to make the best decisions for national security outside parochial service concerns. This name change illustrates that service-driven parochialism is alive and well and well in the Pentagon, and is aided and abetted by joint bureaucrats intent on shaping all problems with the same joint tools, whether appropriate or not.
     The U.S. Navy and Air Force are desperately in need of new equipment to wage war in difficult 21st century anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environments. Both services need new aircraft, (manned or unmanned), to replace aging Cold War platforms. The Navy needs new missiles in order to engage opponents outside A2/AD envelopes. The naval service has conducted an active information campaign to inform members of Congress and the general public as to the importance of seapower in ensuring U.S. economic and physical security. The Chief of Naval Operations’ “SailingDirections” and later "Navigation Plans" specifically identified a need to “communicate our intent and expectations both within and outside the Navy,” and "strengthen alliance relationships and partnerships." The Air/Sea Battle term is one that easily explains service intentions to a wide global audience. Renaming this concept with the awkward joint term “Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons” (JAM GC) will not resonate with the average U.S. citizen, whose support is vital for continued military funding. Such terms make joint bureaucrats in the deep warrens of the Pentagon’s mezzanine level happy, but will not draw the vital public support necessary for strong legislative action.
The Air and Naval Power behind the Concept
     The joint moniker and apparent Army intrusion in an otherwise Naval and Air Force activity represents an unneeded diversion of U.S. Army efforts. The ground force again appears ready to abandon vital lessons learned from a long, hard counterinsurgency campaign in order to preserve its funding relative to the other services. After the Vietnam War the Army quickly disbanded its counterinsurgency (COIN) forces in favor of a return to conventional expeditionary warfare as represented by the Soviet and Warsaw Pact threat on the plains of Germany. Counterinsurgency lessons learned were left in the dustbin of Army history as the service embraced Air/Land battle for both operational relevance and funding concerns. While this doctrinal change was useful in many ways toward developing present, effective expeditionary warfare concepts, its failure to make COIN an institutional part of the Army handicapped the service for wars since 2003. When the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq degenerated into insurgencies, the Army was forced to re-learn lessons very similar to those painfully gained over the course of the Vietnam War. The Army would best serve the nation’s interests in the wake of the Southwest Asian conflicts by solving the 50 year old problem of how to have both effective expeditionary and COIN capabilities in its organizational structure rather than attempting to couple itself to Air/Sea battle.
Noted defense reformers Senator Goldwater and General Jones
     Finally, the name change illustrates the increasing need to reform the aging, Cold War- era provisions of the Goldwater Nichols Act. This reform legislation was designed to empower joint organizations to make national security decisions independent of parochial service needs. Now, the need to maintain a “joint” face on all military operations has created its own ossified, parochial structure.  The efforts of one or more services to create solutions to national security needs are stifled and suppressed by joint bureaucrats seeking to preserve their own institutional authority. This situation of “joint uber alles” is just one of the problems with the quarter-century old Goldwater Nichols structure. Its transfer of the business of strategy from central, service-based systems that produced successful products like Air/Land Battle and the 1980’s-era Navy Maritime Strategy to regional Combatant Commanders (COCOMs) may have been permissible in a post Cold War environment free of peer competitors with global reach.  This decentralized system is no longer possible in the 2nd decade of the 21st century. The global impact of post 9/11 terrorism; the rise of China; and the return of a revanchist Russia (among many concerns); make this 1986-era construct a prime candidate for significant Congressional reform.
     Renaming the well-known Air/Sea Battle concept with an awkward, unfamiliar joint term serves no one well. It forces the Navy and Air Force to change their public modernization campaigns. It is a distraction for an Army that should be preparing for its next expeditionary and COIN operations rather than trying to re-enter the coastal defense business. Finally, it shows that both service and joint bureaucratic parochialism persist within the Department of Defense despite the provisions of Goldwater Nichols. Congress should take action to restore easily identifiable names to military concepts in need of public support. It should direct the Army to concentrate on its traditional service requirements rather than compete with the Navy and Air Force in an operational arena for which it is not equipped. Finally, Congress should look at potential reforms to the dated Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986. It should restore the abilities of services to create strategic and operational solutions to global military needs beyond the purview of individual regional commanders. 

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