It has become fashionable in some defense circles to give amphibious operations short shrift, dismissing them as a relic of past wars. But that mission is just as vital today as it was 70 years ago, according to Admiral John Harvey, Commander, Fleet Forces Command, and Marine Corps Colonel Phillip Ridderhof. In their rundown of Bold Alligator 2012, they show how the annual exercise accentuates the importance of maintaining a strong amphibious capability within the Navy-Marine Corps team. The authors stress that rather than being simply one-way movements from ship to shore, such operations allow the United States to dominate an extended littoral area, ensuring access at a time and place of our choosing.
Most debates on the budget are usually prefaced with some variation of the phrase “as the war in Afghanistan winds down (or ends)” that feels almost pro forma. But we should never forget that for those in theater, this is still very much a war. How will it end? The U.S. presence in Afghanistan has become a sad tale of diminishing returns to many observers. “It’s hard to swallow, but the United States and its NATO allies are in a worse situation than their Soviet predecessors,” observes retired Navy Commander John T. Kuehn. But when the Soviets finally left Afghanistan, they also left for us a worthwhile example of how to make the most of an inevitable pullout; their retrograde-under-fire exit offers the blueprint for a U.S. withdrawal, sooner rather than later.
Stepping back from the big picture and getting into the details, what kind of hardware will our warriors be fielding in the future? The dean of naval warfare studies at the U.S. Naval War College, retired Captain Robert C. Rubel, advises us to “remove our blinders” and envision new uses for unmanned aerial vehicles to give the Navy an operational edge.
Today’s robotic innovations play a greater role than ever on the battlefield. While the idea of autonomous war machines may be terrifying to some, we should remember that it was people who carried out the countless massacres and other brutalities throughout history. But although human decision-making is fallible, it will always be needed as part of what Lieutenant (junior grade) Matthew Hipple terms “cloud combat”—which, he insists, will change the way we fight.
Maintaining information dominance requires unmanned subsurface systems, says retired Navy Captain Paul Siegrist. Those data-gathering systems are not yet at an optimal state, he concedes, but argues that they should nonetheless be integrated into the Fleet, even as their capabilities are being honed and their role determined.
I take this opportunity to congratulate our Web Business Group leader Mary Ripley and her merry band of bloggers for winning the “Best U.S. Navy Blog” award for the third year in a row. Since its launch in 2009, the USNI blog has greatly expanded the reach and impact of the Naval Institute. Mary’s stable of bloggers run the gamut from junior officers and enlisted, some just starting their writing careers, to experienced wordsmiths such as Admiral Jim Stavridis and Admiral Harvey. Bravo Zulu, all!