All posts in “Strategy & Policy”

Strategy Documents

NSS, NDS, NOC, NMS, MS – there is a veritable alpha-bit soup of documents out there and trying to make heads or tails of them individually or their relationship to one another.  In trying to make sense of this morass, some few years ago we carved out substantive portions of our day to develop a document map that displayed the (then) “As Is” environment (ca. 2002) and the presumed “To Be” based on various reform directives issued from OSD and the JS (yeah, yeah — Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff).  The purpose was to aid our then newly arrive flag understand this array as well as to serve as a road map for the rest of our directorate.  The result was what we charitably called the “PowerPoint from Hell” that had over a hundred hyperlinks (each document displayed had it’s own slide showing purpose, relationships, status and organizational responsibilities (primarily geared to the Navy Staff and meant to show the real assignments vice the booger-flicking responsibility shucking task avoidance exercised by some of our fellow directorates on the staff.

OK, so what did this modern day Sisyphean accomplishment look like?  Ecce:

Strategic Documents Map

Individual Documents Explained:

Strategy Documents1a

Note: There are a couple of documents missing from the above – it was done in 2002-03 afterall and at that time, one, a maritime strategy, was determined by the then-CNO as not required – Seapower 21 was to be the 21st century substitute for a maritime strategy.  Which we now know – it wasn’t.

Guest Author: Nuclear Weaponry


Accepting the offer from our earlier post, Southern Air Pirate weighs in with his thoughts re. the issue of nuclear weapons…


A friend of mine forwarded the couple of articles you have written about nuclear weapons to me. I have just only had a chance to skim them not really read them for comprehension. This is my take on the whole thing. If we could I would love to see the damn things taken away from the world. That being said out to sea their usage is always a little dicey. Once you irradiate a patch of water what then? A ship can still steam through the hot zone and can do so faster then an army can march through a hot zone ashore some place. Against a fleet it appears to be dangerous only if you are close to the initial blast. The blast alone may sink a few ships, but if the fleet is properly dispersed then the affect might be lose of a few defensive ships. The high value targets towards the center of the task force might now be exposed to the blast or might see limited blast and radiation damage from the blast. Not exactly a mission kill in that situation. So the only thing really left is their usage against subsurface and targets ashore. Submarines are the most the most at threat from nuclear weapons mainly from the overpressure, but why go that way if you can kill them with aerial launched torpedoes or normal depth bombs? Targets ashore are only a slippery slope from tactically (armies) to theater usage (rail heads, bridges, HQs) to strategic targets (the enemies nukes, cities, production facilities, etc).

You think it was hard to crunch the numbers on what might be winnable. Imagine the guys who had to stare at SIOP and then stare at the Kola, Kamchecktua, and Sevastopol peninsulas and go, "You want me to fly through that to delivery what?" I was a kid around a few of them (friends of my father), they were professionals too. Most of them understood the mission but accepted that the world would be in the hurt locker real bad if those special weapons came up with the weapons techs working on the planes and Marines were around the jets. I only got a chance to see once what one of the B/N’s looked like dressed up in the full Nuclear Delivery Garb and he looked very much like a TIE fighter pilot or Storm Trooper from Star Wars. On top of that the A-6’s had special fiberglass shields that were fitted over the canopies designed to reflect the flash. So it was completely heads down trusting your instruments to deliver those weapons to targets ashore. If you want something to shake you up, check out those Traditions Military Video folks online, they have an actual Department of the Navy film from the late 50’s early 60’s talking about how carrier air power would do in a general war scenario. The setup is Norwegian Sea patrol of a carrier and report of nuclear weapons being used. It then shows F-8’s and F3H’s taking off fitted with nuclear tipped aerial rockets engaging TU-16’s and Mya-4’s, then peeling off as the escorts are firing off nuclear tipped Terrier and Tartar Surface to Air Missiles to get the leakers. Finally shots of A-1’s, A-4’s and A-3’s taking off to deliver nuclear weapons to naval bases in the region. While all of that is going on the film also talks of a CVS with its A-4’s taking on a small surface group and then its S-2’s and H-34’s dropping nuclear depth bombs on various hostile subs and wolf packs. Everyone comes back home and the admiral gives a hearty job well done to all hands. I can not fathom that anyone honestly thought that way, but they did.

Well those are my simple thoughts on the subject.





Roles and Missions Debate

And so it begins…

 “This report seeks to provoke thoughtful public discussion about a vitally important question: how do we keep America strong and safe in a complex 21st-century national security environment?” – Rep. Jim Cooper

“Unlike many Congressional reports, we have raised contentious issues and resisted the temptation to find easy, lowest-common-denominator solutions. My fellow panel members and I don’t agree with every idea in the Roles and Missions Panel report, but we believe the questions it raises must be answered. It’s time to start a conversation—not just in Washington, but across America—about rethinking national security.” -Rep. Phil Gingrey. 

"Cry "Havoc," and let slip the dogs of war". – William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar)

The report may be found and downloaded here.  We will forestall on commentary for now as we are reviewing the work along with another document which will be published tomorrow on the Maritime Strategy.  Both of which, however, will serve to kick-off a new round of discussion/debate the following week on the future of the maritime services in general and the Navy in particular.  Hang on — it’s going to be …interesting… around these parts for the next few weeks…

The Next Nuclear Strategy for a New Administration – and Three Questions


The accelerating spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear know-how and nuclear material has brought us to a nuclear tipping point. We face a very real possibility that the deadliest weapons ever invented could fall into dangerous hands.  The steps we are taking now to address these threats are not adequate to the danger. With nuclear weapons more widely available, deterrence is decreasingly effective and increasingly hazardous. – Shultz, et al, WSJ 15 Jan 2008

Yesterday we published an article by an Indian strategy analyst making the case for India’s nuclear deterrent.  When the next Administration takes the reins of power in January 2009 it will face a different nuclear landscape than its immediate predecessors in the post-Cold War environment.  As such, it will be incumbent upon that Administration – whatever the party; to undertake a thorough review of the nuclear strategy of the United States and hopefully, in the process, avoid the temptation of pouring old wine in new flasks. 

There will be no lack of those volunteering advice, some sage, others – not so.  One of the more intriguing efforts has been led by a panel of experts whose portfolios in nuclear matters are long and deep – as well as bipartisan.  The quote above that led off this post began a follow-up article this past January by these four experts (George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn) who were certainly no shrinking doves in their former capacities.  Yet rather than sit around and wring their hands in anxiety over things the way they are, they have proposed a detailed course of action – first in 2007 and expanded in 2008;  that has gained a degree of visibility and support both domestically and abroad from allies and former foes.  Indeed, we strongly suspect that we shall see elements, if not the whole cloth, taken aboard as one or the other party candidate’s proposed initiatives in the nuclear realm.

Among the proposals in the 2007 article were changing the Cold War posture of deployed nuclear weapons to increase warning time (and reduce the danger of an accidental or unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon), eliminating (not just withdrawing from deployment and stockpiling) short-range nuclear weapons designed to be forward-deployed, halting the production of fissile material for weapons globally; phasing out the use of highly enriched uranium in civil commerce and removing weapons-usable uranium from research facilities around the world and rendering the materials safe.  To this they added in 2008 extending key provisions of the START I Treaty (scheduled to expire in Dec 2009), undertaking negotiations toward developing cooperative multilateral ballistic-missile defense and early warning system, and discarding any existing operational plans for massive attacks that still remain from the Cold War.  Any one of these would constitute a major step – together, it is a major change of course.  The question is would this be a path that is in the best interests of the US?

We’ve been given to much thought along those lines of late, prompted in part by our reading of Rhodes’ latest volume.  The genesis though is traced back to the Maritime Strategy which we were reviewing for another issue.  In the course of that read we were drawn back to two phrases – "(w)e believe that preventing wars is as important as winning wars" and "(w)hile war with another great power strikes many as improbable, the near-certainty of its ruinous effects demands that it be actively deterred using all elements of national power."  There has been much written lately about the follow-on aspects of the MS, namely the force structure, but there is also an upward link to  national strategy that has not been fully explored. 

Consider – the second quote above is linked to one of the six strategic imperatives in the MS – ‘Deter Major War.’  Our national strategies (including the Nuclear Posture Review) call for capability- vice threat-based forces.  The section in the MS that describes the deterrence imperative goes on to say "(w)e will pursue an approach to deterrence that includes a credible and scalable ability to retaliate against aggressors conventionally, unconventionally, and with nuclear forces" (emphasis added).  Since we have removed tactical nuclear weapons from our ships we presume that alludes to the SSBN deterrent patrols.  Yet that is a mighty broad brush wielded in the previous sentence – what is the context of the aggressors?  Aggressors against the US? Or against some third party? Link back to the opening sentence, the one about preventing wars –  it leaves us pondering a situation where the Navy might be called upon in a brewing crisis between a nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.  In that context how credible is the current context of nuclear deterrence?  How would a conventionally armed force seek to deter war between two nuclear armed regional powers?  These are some of the issues that bear further examination and which seem to be overlooked in the force structure food fight.  To that end we are going to propose something a little different and at the same time, hopefully give voice and a platform to those of you who want to expand your views beyond  the comments block.  To wit:

  • Review the articles we will be posting over the next several days – some will be current, others older but no less relevant.  Most (hopefully) will be thought provoking and likely controversial – that is the intent.  For reference documents, see those posted in the Virtual Library especially in the "National Security Policy" and "WMD/Missile Defense" aisles (periodically check for updates – one of our tasks during this week of TDY is to spend time updating and adding documents to the library beginning with items like unclassified portions of the Nuclear Posture Review, etc.);
  • Consider the following three questions:

            1.  In the context of a nuclear multi-polar, post Cold War world, what is the relevance of nuclear weapons?

            2.  What is the deterrent value of nuclear weapons in that environment and what are the implications for conventional deterrence (especially as written in the MS)?

            3.  Is there still a role for arms control in this environment and if so, what form should it take (i.e., a series of bi-lateral agreements or an expansion of the START or START-like convention to a multilateral forum)?

If you are so moved (and we hope you are) provide your thoughts in a separate document and we will post it as a Guest Author with attribution as you see fit.  Specifics:

– Please keep to  700-900 words max

– send to steeljawscribeATgmailDOTcom – (you know what to change). 

– Provide the name you wish it published under. We will screen for gross spelling and grammatical errors and contact you directly if there are any subsequent issues with content change – we will not edit material because of content (so please, keep it professional) A page will be created for keeping track of posts in this category just as we have for Flightdeck Friday and other running topics.  (BTW – you needn’t be a nuclear wonk, or wonkette, to participate…)

Why are we doing this?  In part, because of an idea some of us have been discussing offline about how to generate wider discussion and what kind of venue to host therein.  Still very much in an embryonic stage so if you have ideas along those lines we would be interested as well (contact us offline for further discussion).  There won’t be an end date – at least as we see for now, and fully expect as we move through the general electoral season and into the transition period, more discussion will follow.  As the saying goes — stay tuned…  – SJS


The New Maritime Strategy: SECNAV’s Speech

SECNAV introduced the new MS before the International Seapower Symposium at Newport last week – and the speech is well worth reviewing if you haven’t heard or seen it yet (available here or with highlights here).   It is revealing in both the expected expository points re. the new MS as well as emphasis he placed in certain areas that many have complained are not explicitly mentioned in the MS – to wit, noting our (Navy’s) core missions to be:

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The New Maritime Strategy: Responses to Today’s Reactions (23 Oct)

SJS Readers,

Another great day on the Maritime Strategy front, including a great back and forth via email with one of the guys I respect most in this town who has some serious problems with the strategy, and some work putting together a series of briefings for flags to take on the road.

I continue to get pretty consistent feedback—professional Navy people (active and retired) and the defense intelligentsia/industry folks hate it—folks outside the beltway, not in the military/defense industry and interestingly enough, Air Force and Army officers—like it.

I briefed a group of senior Navy Intel Officers on the strategy this morning, and there were some tough questions.  Some of that discourse is contained in the criticisms below.

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The New Maritime Strategy: Responses to Today’s Reactions

            Good evening, SJS readers.  I’ve spent a good bit of the day scouring the internet for reaction to the Maritime Strategy, and I thought I’d take some time to give some thoughts on issues raised on this blog and others. 

  • Climate change.  There has been some positive reaction to our discussion of climate change, the negative reactions have been really negative.  I think it is important to keep a couple of things in mind.  First of all, the strategy does not talk about man’s impact on climate change, simply, that there is evidence that the climate is changing.  We’re not hopping on the Kyoto bandwagon, we’re not becoming Euro-ninnies—we’re simply saying that climate change has the capacity to cause climatic instability.  With more people living near the coasts than ever, potentially stronger and more frequent storms—and just as importantly—global communication systems that broadcast the suffering caused by these events—maritime forces will potentially be called into humanitarian action more frequently than ever.  I take great personal pride in the fact that the very first mention of climate change in the strategy speaks to an opportunity that it may cause (melting of the NW passage) rather than the usual sky is falling predictions.
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The New Maritime Strategy: Precedence of Strategic Concept and Resource Allocation

Quite a bit of back-and-forth over the new MS and lack of discussion over force structure/resource allocation.  Not the first time this has been confronted though and the following paragraph, drawn from a 1954 article in Proceedings by Samuel P. Huntington may be particularly germane to the current discussion:

"A second element of a military service is the resources, human and material, which are required to implement its strategic concept.  To secure these resources it is necessary for society to forego the alternative uses to which these resources might be put and to acquiesce in their allocation to the military service.  Thus, the resources which a service is able to obtain in a democratic society are a function of the public support of that service.  The service has  the responsibility to develop this necessary support, and it can only do this if it possesses a strategic concept which clearly formulates its relationship to the national security.  Hence this second element of public support is, in the long run, dependent upon the strategic concept of the service.  If a service does not possess a well-defined strategic concept, the public and the political leaders will be confused as to the role of the service, uncertain as to the necessity of its existence, and apathetic or hostile to the claims made by the service upon the resources of society." 

Here is the full article.   Of note is that it was written during a period where the Navy found itself facing new missions and challenges abroad while competing for scarce resources at home and this, a scant five years after the cancellation of the USS United States and subsequent "Revolt of the Admirals."

Maritime Strategy 2007: The Team Leader Speaks

 Ed.   As many know by now, the new strategy was released earlier this past week at the Naval War College and has generated a good deal of discussion.  The expectation is that the level of that discussion will elevate next week around the blogsphere.  In anticipation of that I asked the author if he would be interested in posting his perspective on the creation of this important document – to which he graciously agreed. I met the author at a CNA symposium on creation of the Maritime Strategy back in 2006 and, cognizant of the climb that lay ahead, nonetheless envied his opportunity given the corporate attitudes ("we don’t need a new strategy")  I had to fight when I was N51B advocating for a new strategy. Read what he has to say – read the strategy and let’s discuss over the coming week…  – SJS

     I would like to thank SJS for the opportunity to spend some time with his readers giving some background and insight into the development of “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower”, our new Maritime Strategy. From an email exchange, here is what he asked me to cover: 

Re. content — I think what most folks would like is visibility into the creation — what your entering argument was, what directions from leadership (military and civilian) were, the "sounding out" process (CNA seminar, NWC road show) and why you felt that approach had to be taken.  Of course, there are going to be comparisons with the ’86 MS and that might be a good foil — your call.”

I am an active duty Commander in the United States Navy, and I led the Navy team responsible for developing this strategy. By way of background, I was previously the CO of a DDG, XO of a Cruiser, and I am now in the midst of my fourth Washington Tour. I will retire in the Spring.

    In the summer of 2006, ADM Mullen gave a speech at the Current Strategy Forum in Newport, RI in which he called for the development of a new Maritime Strategy. At the time, I was a student at the Joint Forces Staff College, getting ready to come to DC for a tour in surface warfare requirements. I remember vividly thinking when I read the reports of ADM Mullen’s speech, that some poor S.O.B was going to have to be the guy that leads that effort. Several weeks later, I received a call from VADM Morgan (N3N5) telling me that he was re-routing me to work directly for him, that I was to be that poor S.O.B.

    I reported in September of 2006, having done a good bit of professional reading en route. During my first meeting with VADM Morgan, I asked a few important questions, questions that ultimately would determine my ability to do the job I was being asked to do. The first question was, “do you already have a strategy sitting in one of those desk drawers?”   I did not relish the possibility that I would work for a year, only to have him whip out a strategy at the last minute and say “here it is.” “No” was his answer. The next question I asked was, “Am I being hired to write a strategy that justifies a 313 ship Navy?” “No” was his answer. “What if we come up with a strategy that strongly indicates a bigger fleet is necessary?”   “Write it” he said. “What if it strongly indicates a smaller fleet?” “Write it” he said. What he made clear was what CNO had told him; he wanted an open and inclusive process, a competition of ideas. While I would have preferred locking myself with five smart folks in a room for a month, CNO wanted this to be a much more open process, to include reaching out to the American public along the way. We came to call these strategy symposiums the “Conversations with the Country”, and there should be no mistake about it—the idea for doing them came directly from the CNO.

    The other CNO decision that was ultimately very important to how the document eventually was written, was his insistence that it be a tri-service effort. Some will mistakenly look to this as a “Navy” strategy, and while it clearly speaks to much of what we do, it has the equities of the other two services bound up in it also.

    At first, I had two O4’s to work with me—both selected for O5 and really sharp. They had already begun to implement the broad outlines of a process, and the hard work of thinking and analysis had already begun in Newport at the Naval War College. Let me lay out the process of how we got to the Strategy announced on the 17th of October.

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