Two years ago this week, the CNO, CMC and USCG Commandant released the naval services’ new maritime strategy – A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, at the International Seapower Symposium being hosted by the Naval War College in Newport, RI. The release of a new maritime strategy was significant given the length of time, post-Cold War, the naval services in general – and the Navy in particular, had planned, budgeted and operated without one. To be sure, there were iterations and evolutionary versions that followed the seminal 1980’s strategy that called for a 500 (later 600) ship navy to take the fight to the Soviet Union, but for the most part they were a ‘check-in-the-box’ and left on the shelf to collect dust. In fact, during the earlier part of this decade, we were personally told on more than one occasion (forcefully and with exasperation at times) by senior Navy leadership that a new strategy was no longer required as we had moved beyond that and had Seapower 21 to guide our way. Selah.
Mid-decade though, that began to change with new leadership and a growing realization that new constructs and approaches would be required in the post-Cold War, post-9/11 world. Beginning with open and closed sessions with strategists, planners and “thinkers” drawn from across public and private enterprise, in venues reaching from local to national and international, a small team of planners, thinkers and writers – operators all, began to build the new strategy.
The new strategy was released with a fair degree of fanfare and was greeted with somewhat mixed reception, ranging from the enthusiastic to mildly curious and in some quarters, generally dismissive (some examples here, here, here and especially here). The blogsphere, especially the naval blogsphere that has evolved, was no less silent. Writing extensively and critically, the blogs pried deeper into the nuances of the strategy, seeking fuller meaning of the principles therein. Galrahn, CDR Salamander and here as well, all devoted considerable column inch space to various aspects (and in some cases, opened our pages to direct response from the lead author of the strategy) of the strategy.
While there were compliments, there were also many concerns aired – chief of which went to the heart of strategy, the linking of ends and means. To wit, the new maritime strategy, while making bold declarations (and what could be more bold in the post-Cold War era than the opening statement “We believe preventing wars is as important as winning wars”?), the maritime strategy fell short in lacking an accompanying force structure plan and means to operationalize the strategy (e.g., a naval operating concept or NOC). Both, we were promised, would be forthcoming “soon” (although the former, perforce, had to be classified).
Two years on there has been neither and this in turn has prompted further concerns over naval vision and strategic direction. On the one hand, there has continued to be considerable drum-pounding, using the maritime strategy as justification or rational for any one of a number of actions, planned or as crisis response. Certainly the PA aspect of the maritime strategy has been and continues to be well resourced. Yet two years on we still do not have a long-range ship building plan (despite Congressional mandate) and the NOC is still MIA. The latter is increasingly important as planners inside and out of the naval services wrestle with new concepts and capabilities, the most recent example being the significant shift in BMD emphasis in the European theater from a land-based GBI system designed to protect CONUS from Iranian ICBMs to a primarily sea-based theater defense against MRBM’s using Aegis-BMD equipped ships and supplemented with a shore-based system (“Aegis BMD Ashore”). This redirection and the attendant gossamer-light expositions of how we will employ sea-based BMD in the maritime strategy has led to a fair degree of mis-information and erroneous assumptions as to general operational capabilities, requirements, and necessary force structure. More detailed explanation, as wouldbe found in a NOC would go a long ways to alleviate this condition.
That is but one aspect – there are many others including rationale for the next generation CG, numbers of carriers and big deck amphibs, operational concepts for emerging technologies in ISR and UAVs, ASW, integrated air and missile defense, presence operations…and the list goes on.
Two years ago we summarized our initial read of the new maritime strategy as follows:
“It is an imperfect and flawed document – but so was the 1986 strategy and almost any other similar document extant. Nevertheless, there are significant strengths to build upon and serve as a reliable starting point for further definition and refinement in the panoply of documents that will follow. Most importantly, it has CNO approval and, tacitly at least, that of SECDEF as well – and as such, serves as the maritime strategy of record. This bodes well for post-Iraq planning and budgeting if – IF it does not become fodder for collecting dust on a shelf someplace.” (steeljawscribe.com).
Today, in view of the concerns raised above and our contention that the maritime strategy serves as a starting vice ending point, we submit the following questions as to the efficacy and relevance of the maritime strategy and its role in shaping future naval forces two years after its release:
- What new requirements/capabilities follow from the maritime strategy?
- What direct influence has the maritime strategy had on naval shipbuilding plans and budgets?
- How has the maritime strategy been implemented and operationalized? In other words – what are we doing differently now or are in the in the process of changing (especially in view of #1 above) that we weren’t on 11 Oct 2007?
(crossposted at USNI blog)
Article Series - Maritime Strategy-II
- A Cooperative Strategy For 21st Century Seapower: An Assessment
- India Presses Homegrown Missile Defense
- Blogger’s Roundtable With VADM Morgan: The Maritime Strategy (UPDATED)
- Thoughts on the Maritime Strategy: Round II
- The Maritime Strategy, Deterrence & Escalation Dominance
- Sea-based BMD and the Maritime Strategy
- Implementing the Maritime Strategy: Integrated Missile Defense from the Sea
- Strategy Documents
- Maritime BMD Comes to the East Coast
- Naval Operations Concept (NOC) To Be Released Oct 08
- Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About the 80′s Maritime Strategy*
- Fixing the Nautical Pax Americana
- China’s Military Power – 2009 Report
- BMD From the Sea – It’s Not Just for SWO’s
- CNO’s Remarks at NWC Current Strategy Forum
- ‘A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower’ Two Years Later: Three Questions
- SECDEF and the Doctrine of Sufficiency
- The Naval Operations Concept 2010 — Implementing the Maritime Strategy
- Competition in the South China Sea
- Linking the South China Sea and the Arctic Ocean