Maintaining presence and capability is also an ongoing concern for the Navy’s maritime patrol and reconnaissance (MPR) force. The MPR’s typical pattern is to train stateside squadrons, cycle them through a forward operating area, and then demobilize them when they return. However, Lieutenant Michael Glynn believes there’s another way to maintain the same presence while being mindful of budgetary concerns: the permanent deployment of four forward-based squadrons. “This force structure would ensure identical forward presence and support to combatant commanders while affording deep savings,” he argues. “Significant cost reductions could be made by minimizing active personnel costs and eliminating the need to train, mobilize, deploy, demobilize, and learn a completely new theater and set of threats.” Better yet, these funds could be reallocated to purchase new platforms, sensors, and weapons for the Fleet.
As the Navy seeks to meet the increasing challenges of the 21st century, a look back at its history can provide guidance on what to do (and not do). Commander Phillip Pournelle, a frequent Proceedings contributor, reminds us of the importance of preparation, even in the face of an uncertain future. The Navy did this quite well in the years after World War I, cultivating an iterative cycle of war games, analyses, and exercises that paved the way for victory in World War II. The Cycle of Research clearly has held us in good stead before, Pournelle observes, and therein lies a lesson for the current force: “We urgently need to revive that process today to help us prepare for future political-military-economic competitions.”
Captain David Adams is troubled by the Navy’s recent refocus on large-scale conventional war at sea, writing that “this siren’s song draws our Fleet to rocky strategic shoals by reinforcing our service’s deep reticence to navigate the messy, complex dimensions of irregular wars. Just as we would like to put such wars in our rearview mirror, the dawn of irregular warfare is breaking across maritime horizons.” Revisiting the lessons from then-Lieutenant Niel Golightly’s 1990 prizewinning Proceedings essay, Captain Adams cautions today’s naval planners against repeating Golightly’s three strategic mistakes—all of which overlook the realities of irregular warfare. The Navy’s most necessary pivot is neither geographic nor geopolitical, he believes, but rather “it is to alter our operational construct to confront the maritime implications of the evolving character of war.”