What will the air wing for these carriers and the remaining Nimitz class look like? Will its future complexion change much? Daniel Goure, a national-security analyst at the Lexington Institute, says no, at least not in the immediate future. Sure, the Navy will have the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and new unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to roll out, but most of the old-standby strike and reconnaissance aircraft aren’t going away anytime soon. And even unmanned systems still need people to run them.
But is the Navy running its unmanned systems properly? Lieutenant Lawrence Lederer and Commander John Byington don’t think so. They believe the Navy is stuck in a “brown-shoe” mindset when it comes to staffing UAS, and contend that a profusion of diverse skills and talent are being overlooked because of the myopic belief that only trained aviators can manage and operate these systems—when in fact a very different set of skills is involved.
While the aircraft carrier remains a top priority of the Navy, another vessel is much debated and discussed by service leaders and naval analysts alike these days. The Littoral Combat Ship continues to resurface in the news, its latest round of coverage coming on the heels of the Perez Report. As the third LCS, the Fort Worth (LCS-3), makes ready for her commissioning, retired Navy Captain Robert Carney Powers, who was present at the creation of the concept, provides us with a helpful overview of the 1990s origins of the program. Assessing how we got to where we are now, Powers asks where we go from here.
But lest we get too focused on platforms, we should not lose sight of some of the less-visible aspects of warfighting, such as networking and information technology. These capabilities are “just as core to an operationally effective Fleet as are new aircraft platforms, future nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, or new surface combatants and submarines” and must be funded appropriately, say Navy Captains James H. Mills and Jim Adams. They fear the Navy’s combat systems have become too dependent on off-site support and that as a result, the service’s network may not be able to endure a major conflict.
Technology and its attendant gadgets have certainly become ubiquitous in everyday life. But is it too much of a good thing? Does technology serve to stunt leadership by allowing commanders at all levels to micromanage their subordinates? Lieutenant Kermit Jones worries that we are producing a generation of leaders afraid to make decisions without guidance from their superiors. Technology is merely a tool, he reminds us, but only the commander at the scene can decide how that tool is used.
How technology manifests itself through social media can have even more insidious effects, especially on current and future warfare. Paul Scharre, who works in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, attributes such sweeping movements as the Arab Spring to tech-savvy militants who organized over social networks. He also fears the proliferation of GPS, which in the hands of adversaries could compromise U.S. troop movements. Our military fails to recognize this reality at its peril, Scharre warns.