In formulating multinational navy doctrine—in which we will operate alongside medium-power navies from smaller nations—the U.S. Navy should follow the example set by its own relationship with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Multinational navy doctrine essentially is a description of how navies intend to operate together as a multinational force, as well as a form of guidance for actions by the operational commander. Because the U.S. Navy is unable to perform its tasks associated with major regional contingencies at the operational- level of warfare without multinational partners, it stands to reason that multinational navy doctrine is extremely important and the development of such doctrine must be a high priority.
One possible means of satisfying the need for multinational navy doctrine is to release existing NATO navy doctrine to non-NATO nations, although doing so only would be a temporary substitute for more robust multinational navy doctrine designed for all forms of multinational navy interactions. Doctrine designed specifically for the North Atlantic Alliance might not be appropriate for multinational actions elsewhere. The U.S. Navy currently is preparing national operational-level naval doctrine and is contributing to operational-level national joint doctrine; however, operational-level multinational navy doctrine is also needed. In fact, the Chief of Naval Operations has ordered its preparation.
Dealing with the issue of multinational navy doctrine outside of NATO will be somewhat new for the U.S. Navy, but this not the case for nations who field “medium-power” navies—those which lie between the totally self-sufficient and the insufficient. Medium powers “try to create and keep under national control enough means of power to initiate and sustain coercive actions whose outcomes will be the preservation of its vital interests.”1 The most important issue facing a medium-power navy is its relationship to a superpower navy.
During the Cold War, the U.S. Navy saw itself primarily in relation to the Soviet Navy, and consequently, comparisons with friendly navies were held within the context of their contribution to the shared effort against the Soviet Navy. It was understood that the U.S. Navy would be in a position of leadership, since it brought to the table the major implements of war at sea. The self-identity of the U.S. Navy was determined by its relation ship with its major competitor. In today's international security environment, in which the U.S. Navy is the sole remaining superpower, however, the self-identity of the U.S. Navy now must be seen in relation to those medium-power navies with which it intends to operate.
Fortunately, a model for such a relationship has been ongoing for decades: the relationship between the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard is one of the world's largest “navies” and fields one of the largest “naval air forces.” But in fact, it is a medium-power “navy.” Its status outside of the Department of Defense requires the U.S. Navy to address such issues as the division of labor and the integration of the Coast Guard as a separate service within the U.S. Navy during wartime. This same status, however, means that international diplomatic issues, problems of intelligence sharing, etc., are not problems between the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. On the other hand, there are many medium-power navies that are more capable of interoperability with the U.S. Navy and share a dedication to war-fighting, and not constabulary, tasks—hence the model is not perfect.
Nevertheless, the U.S. Navy-U.S. Coast Guard relationship should be used to form the basis of how the U.S. Navy might approach medium-power navies from other nations. Later, as the multinational navy doctrine is more clearly defined, creative parallels may need to be drawn between such issues as the difficulties in creating multinational rules of engagement, and in training the U.S. Coast Guard both in civilian law enforcement standards (such as the “use of force continuum”) for dealing with a suspect who has not exhibited manifest intent to harm, and in military combat rules of engagement designed to deal with “hostile intent” prior to actual hostile action.
The unwritten assumption today is that U.S. Navy doctrine is the standard to which medium-power navies will have to adapt if they desire to be integrated fully with a U.S. Navy that continues to evolve with costly new technology. If they are unable to meet these demands—the case with some navies within NATO—then a separate command structure and area of operations enables them to perform tasks under national military doctrine.
Whereas U.S. service-unique and multiservice military doctrine must conform with joint military doctrine, U.S. Coast Guard doctrine, when prepared, is not required to conform to joint, multiservice naval, or U.S. Navy doctrine. In the event the U.S. Coast Guard were transferred to the U.S. Navy in wartime, it would maintain its own separate doctrine as a military service within the U.S. Navy. The record of military activity since World War II strongly suggests that the U.S. Coast Guard would operate alongside—rather than be incorporated within—the U.S. Navy during major regional contingencies, which would keep them from having to sort out the type of doctrine that governs actions. Recent regional contingencies demonstrate the ability of the Coast Guard to operate seemlessly with other military forces. It is possible, therefore, to have a medium-power navy operate successfully in support of the U.S. Navy—without fully integrated doctrine. The U.S. armed forces could have one doctrine when operating in a national environment and another while a multinational force.
During multinational military operations often only navies have the ability to cooperate in the attainment of multinational military objectives with coordinated-but-separate military activities. An example is the full interoperability of a medium-power navy with the U.S. Coast Guard, probably in a discreet sector. Of course other extremes during multinational operations are having a medium-power or smaller navy assigned to a separate sector where it pursues independent maritime tasks—being interoperable with neither the U.S. Navy nor other national armed forces—or having a medium-power navy totally integrated within the U.S. Navy. The U.S. Coast Guard already attempts the latter.
The U.S. Navy also should explore operations with medium-power and smaller navies outside of the NATO environment or North Atlantic Treaty-approved areas of operations. Smaller navies that find it difficult to integrate with the U.S. Navy may have fewer problems doing so with the U.S. Coast Guard and navy forces operated by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). In fact, many smaller and medium-power navies may prefer to work with the U.S. Coast Guard, because it would occur without the political "baggage” associated with the U.S. Navy.2 In addition, because they themselves do not recognize such artificial distinctions between their navy, constabulary, and special operations forces—as does the U.S. Navy—medium-power and smaller navies must have a relationship with the U.S. Coast Guard and USSOCOM, as well as the U.S. Navy. This suggests that multinational navy doctrine also must have an interagency component.
Whereas a U.S. task force or task group commander might have as his objective the attainment of a U.S. military objective, it is clearly the political objective of some governments of medium-power navies today to use their fleets to influence U.S. behavior. This generally is accomplished by having their fleets integrated into U.S. forces and by attempting to stake out staff and subordinate command positions. These differing military-political objectives often can clash when the governments of medium-powered navies must determine their level of participation during major or lesser regional contingencies—i.e., whether their navies will be sent merely to appear to be participating or actually to participate in combat. Hence, multinational navy doctrine is needed not only to account for how nations fight together but also to ensure that the forces of some navies are perceived as participating—though not actually placed in harm’s way.
Multinational naval doctrine needs to provide navies with honorable options to operate in a multinational environment as a fully-integrated member of a U.S.-led task group or as a foreign-led separate task group operating in separate waters. Although the current group of medium-power navies probably views full integration as the only honorable alternative, this will become increasingly difficult as the U.S. Navy adds even more costly technologies to the fleet—thus precluding full integration even by the U.S. Coast Guard in high-threat environments. Unfortunately, by acknowledging the sector option as an honorable alternative, the U.S. Navy could undermine the argument made by medium-power navies to their governments that they need additional technology or more capable forces. In turn, this could affect the sale of technologies or hardware to these countries.
The U.S. Navy stands at the crossroads of national doctrinal development and multinational leadership. It is cooperating fully with the development of U.S. joint doctrine and is a partner with the U.S. Marine Corps in the development of multiservice naval doctrine focused upon warfare in the littorals. The U.S. Coast Guard is working very closely with the Navy and joint commanders as it develops its own doctrine and associated concepts for inclusion into defense-related missions.
The U.S. Navy finds itself the inspirational leader of the navies of the world with the development of multinational navy doctrine—which may be as important as the development of joint and naval doctrine. Rather than develop multinational naval doctrine from scratch—especially that which will focus on the relationship between the U.S. Navy and medium-power navies from other nations—the U.S. Navy should consult its own existing relationship with the U.S. Coast Guard.
1 Adm J. R. Hill, RN (Ret.), Maritime Strategy for Medium Powers (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986), p. 31.
2 Capt. Bruce B. Stubbs, USCG, “The U.S. Coast Guard: A Unique Instrument of U.S. National Security,” Marine Policy, no. 18, 1994, p. 513. (This documents a number of instances in which the United States used the Coast Guard to show U.S. resolve, but with a force that has a humanitarian image.)
Dr. Tritten works at U.S. Atlantic Command and was until recently a special adviser to the Commander of Naval Doctrine Command.