When terrorists attacked the United States in 2001, the gaps in our maritime domain awareness became clear. Coast Guard Captain Eric C. Jones teams with retired Commander Joseph E. Vorbach III to outline what shortcomings still exist and what can be done about them. But the overlap of responsibilities among government agencies can complicate responses to transnational threats. Retired Navy Captain Brian Wilson reminds us in “Making Stovepipes Work” that interagency cooperation is not just a pipe dream: A federal plan implemented in 2006 provides a working maritime model that could be expanded to meet challenges of all types.
Farther from our shores but with a potential impact on consumer’s wallets is the ongoing scourge of Somali piracy. Continuing with the theme of fuzzy boundaries, we examine the debate over whether piracy requires a military or law enforcement approach.
Navy Commander Joshua Himes says a better solution is needed to this challenge, but it won’t necessarily come from the sea. In contrast to the maritime triad of naval task forces, criminal prosecution, and commercial-shipping protective measures, a three-pronged ashore effort now addresses the legal, security, and financial domains. The U.N., E.U., United States, and United Kingdom are cooperating with regional countries to compel pirate leadership to reevaluate its business model. At the same time as the ashore triad strengthens disincentives to piracy, economic development must provide alternative opportunities for lower-level criminals.
Retired Rear Admiral Terry McKnight led the struggle against piracy as the first commander of Combined Task Force 151. His experiences in this role taught him that the maritime environment was too big for any one nation to go it alone. Only a new “coalition of the willing” will be able to effectively counter these maritime outlaws. “If one’s enemies happen to be pirates,” he explains “then every state is your friend.”
Another month brings more hand-wringing over the fate of the defense budget. This won’t end anytime soon and looks to get much worse before it gets better. Naval War College Professor Milan Vego has a warning for the bean counters: numbers alone do not provide an accurate assessment of a navy’s combat potential. They do not indicate the capabilities of individual platforms, especially when augmented by new technologies. A navy could be numerically very large but composed of small combatants. In this rapidly changing global security environment, he believes, Navy and Air Force capabilities should not be reduced, but increased significantly.
With billions of dollars in cuts on the horizon, retired Navy Captain Tony Heimer has an idea where to begin. He sets his sights on the Mobile Landing Platform, a flawed design, he says, that is both too expensive and too risky for the job it is supposed to do—ensure the safe and timely delivery of Marines and their gear to the beach.
One sobering example of the budget-cuts-vs.-mission-capability disconnect can be found in the Asia-Pacific region, as reported by Abraham Denmark in “Declining Capabilities and a Rising Subsurface Threat.” While a number of western Pacific nations are increasing their underwater fleets, the U.S. Navy is planning to reduce its attack-sub force by 15 percent in the years ahead—so maintaining our subsurface dominance there will have to be done creatively and “on a budget,” Denmark notes.