Second Honorable Mention, Arleigh Burke Essay Contest
Nowhere are the cultural differences among the services more important than in joint war fighting. The last service to embrace jointness—here, the Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and soldiers of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division head to Haiti for operations Able Vigil and Support Democracy— the Navy must ensure its unique strengths and perspectives are not overlooked.
The 1994 Arleigh Burke Essay Contest winner, Rear Admiral James Winnefeld’s essay “Why Sailors Are Different,” was an insightful exploration of the underpinnings of the Navy and what separates it from the other services.1 Although the differences are significant, in and of themselves they amount to no more than differences in culture, rising from different histories, in response to different demands, developed over time into different ways of life. In the final paragraph of the essay, however, the author mentions the most important effect of this cultural difference: “the unique nature of the naval profession and its unique environment are certain to make a deep and lasting impression on the form and content of joint planning and operations.”2 In other words, it is in joint operations—i.e., joint war fighting—that the rubber meets the road.
The fallout from cultural differences among the services should be examined in relation to its impact on war fighting, for in war fighting, the differences move from the amusing world of “ceremonies and traditions” to the unforgiving realm of combat, where national interests are at stake, people die, and missions are accomplished or lost.
The sailors and officers who make up the U.S. Navy must be seamen and mariners always but war fighters first. This is the essential difference between a United States Ship and any other U.S.-flag vessel. How does the Navy fight? How does the naval service conduct operations? How do the Navy and Marine Corps approach combat in the joint arena, and what makes this approach different from that of the sister services? These are the sixty-four dollar questions. Answering them will provide insight into just how the Navy and the Marine Corps will make “the deep and lasting impression” on joint war fighting that Admiral Winnefeld refers to.
In the Beginning
From the start, the Navy was different. In the 19 January 1788 Independent Journal of New York, Publius—also known as James Madison—explained why the issue of the Navy was conspicuously absent from the long, strident debate that captured the nation’s attention in the years just prior to ratification of the Constitution:
The palpable necessity of the power to provide and maintain a navy has protected that part of the Constitution against a spirit of censure, which has spared few other parts. It must indeed be numbered among the greatest blessings of America, that as her Union will be the only source of her maritime strength, so this will be a principal source of her security against danger from abroad. . . . The batteries most capable of repelling foreign enterprisers on our safety, are happily such as can never be turned by a perfidious government against our liberties.3
That the Navy was different was established. The need for a navy, the role it would play, who would own it, the relationship between the Navy and the American people, and the threat (or lack thereof) the Navy posed to the American people—all weighty issues—were foregone conclusions, generally agreed upon in the midst of a contentious, nationwide political debate.
From different origins, a different kind of combat organization developed. Like the man in a Robert Frost poem, the Navy “would follow a path less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”4 The result is the “professionalism soaked in salt water” that Admiral Winnefeld so accurately describes.
At all levels—strategic, operational, and tactical—the Navy has a different approach to war fighting. This is true collectively and organizationally, and it also characterizes the outlook of the individuals who make up the Navy. This different approach is just as pronounced prior to war in doctrine as at the three levels of war.
On 1 February 1995, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili signed a revised Joint Pub 3-0, Doctrine for Joint Operations. Probably the most important of all the joint publications, Joint Operations is the capstone for the operations series. The February version contained only minor revisions and did not supersede the 9 September 1993 version of the publication; the two are virtually identical. One small sentence in the preface, however, caused ripples in the joint community when it came out and illustrates the differences of opinion among the services regarding the role of doctrine.
Joint Pub 3-0 states: "The guidance in this publication is authoritative; as such, this doctrine will be followed except when, in the judgment of the commander, exceptional circumstances dictate otherwise.”5 This statement replaced the wording in the 1993 version that said, “[This] publication is authoritative but not directive.”6 This small change reflects a dramatic departure—and a dramatically different approach to doctrine from that of the typical naval officer. It implies much less in the way of freedom of action than naval commanders have come to expect. The message is clear: only under exceptional circumstances can an officer justify deviations from doctrine.
The Navy’s first capstone doctrine has a decidedly different tone. Naval Doctrine Publication 1, Naval Warfare, says, “Doctrine is conceptual—a shared way of thinking that is not directive.”7 In the Marine Corps, the prevailing attitude generally is that doctrine always lags behind the cutting edge of development—tactical, operational, or otherwise. FMFM-1, Warfighting, the Marine Corps capstone doctrine, says that doctrine “requires judgment in application” and “therefore, while authoritative ... is not prescriptive.”8 In fact, this freedom is a long-cherished and zealously guarded prerogative in the naval service. It grew from the isolation inherent in the command of naval forces, whether Navy or Marine Corps, at sea or on foreign shores. It is reflected in Admiral Horatio Nelson’s approach to doctrine, the most famous example of which was his guidance that “no Captain can do wrong by putting his ship near the enemy.” The Navy has long operated on the principle that commanders should be given broad latitude to deal with situations within or outside of the bounds of doctrine.
Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf, the joint task force commander for Urgent Fury (Grenada) has written of the importance of “latitude to work the problem,”9 and as an example he offers his decision to elevate then-Major General Norman Schwarzkopf to the position of deputy joint task force commander during the operation. He said:
It raised the question, “By what authority did you do that. Admiral?” My response was that I needed a deputy commander, which to me was sufficient authority. Execution of the decision was simple. I assembled my subordinate commanders and told them that Major General Schwarzkopf was my deputy and that his authority emanated from me.10
This is a great example of the difference between being doctrinally correct and doing what makes sense based on a system of shared beliefs.
In the past, joint doctrine has most closely mirrored Army doctrine; the Navy is the new kid on the block in this arena. Whether the naval service’s differing views will be integrated into joint doctrine and serve the joint war fighter of the future remains to be seen.
In his 1957 Proceedings article, “Why a Sailor Thinks Like a Sailor,” Rear Admiral J. C. Wylie also discusses the differences between sailors and soldiers and airmen. In comparing their various viewpoints, Wylie states:
[N]o sailor is so naive as to suppose that the Navy alone is going to sail out and win all our wars. But what he can do is fix it so the sailor’s strength as well as the political, economic, and social strengths of this country can be applied in combinations as needed to defend the United States and to establish whatever kind of degree of control the United States may need.11
Wylie places the sailor’s way of thinking in the strategic context. His statement is echoed in the National Military Strategy, which states, “By ensuring freedom of the seas and controlling strategic choke points, naval and maritime forces provide strategic freedom of maneuver and thus enhance deployment and sustainment of joint forces in theater.”12 So how does this belief in sea power translate into a different strategic outlook?
In a prize-winning Naval Institute General Essay Contest article from 1951, Admiral Wylie posited a theory of strategy based on two categories of wars and campaigns: sequential and cumulative. A sequential strategy is one in which a series of actions builds to a logical conclusion. Each action grows from and is dependent on the one that preceded it. If one action is altered, it affects the sequence, and thus changes the war.13 Although Wylie uses both Admiral Chester Nimitz’s and General Douglas MacArthur’s campaigns in the Pacific as examples of sequential campaigns, he goes on to say that naval campaigns and naval warfare often are not sequential, but cumulative.
A cumulative war is one in which “the entire pattern is made up of a collection of lesser actions, but these lesser or individual actions are not sequentially interdependent. Each ... is no more than a single statistic, an isolated plus or minus, in arriving at the final result.”14 An example of a cumulative campaign—also from the Pacific—is the submarine war waged against Japanese shipping. This campaign, Wylie notes, was responsible for the destruction of nearly 90% of Japan’s shipping, which surely contributed to her defeat. Yet neither the significance of any individual action nor the time at which this cumulative campaign became decisive (if in fact it was) can be analyzed with any degree of certainty.
The strategic bombing campaign in Europe during World War II and the bombing campaign in North Vietnam also are examples of cumulative strategies. Again, there is no agreement on the effectiveness of these strategies, but they were not without impact. The massive bombing raids against Germany surely contributed to victory; the bombing of North Vietnam probably contributed to that nation’s willingness to negotiate—or at least was intended to. Yet the impact of any one action or the exact time at which these cumulative strategies tipped the scales is beyond analysis. This is what distinguishes a cumulative from a sequential strategy.
Wylie states that we can “predict in advance the outcome of [a] sequential strategy” but not of a cumulative strategy, and that sequential strategies probably are easier to understand. Cumulative strategies, he states, “Have long been a characteristic of war at sea.”15 The majority of naval operations conducted throughout the Cold War can be seen as the execution of a cumulative strategy. Air-power advocates recognize and understand cumulative strategies and today are among their most vocal proponents.
The most recent large-scale operation in which the U.S. participated was Desert Shield/Desert Storm, which had elements of both sequential and cumulative strategies. The air operations conducted against Iraq prior to commencement of the ground war probably were cumulative. They were directed at command-and-control nodes, lines of communication, and attrition of front-line forces, but no one engagement can be shown to be pivotal.
The ground offensive, on the other hand, was a classic sequential campaign, which was evident in General Schwarzkopf’s press briefing just days after its commencement. If the logistics bases with 90 days of supplies had not been placed in the west, if the threat of a Marine amphibious assault had not helped fix the Iraqis, if the bombing had not forced them to keep their heads down and blinded them to the movement in their front, if the XVIIIth Airborne Corps and the French had not secured the western flank, the campaign would have been altered. Any of these could have caused the ground offensive to falter or at least could have altered it in a predictable manner. This is the litmus test for a sequential strategy: the results can be predicted or foreseen.
Throughout history, the United States has waged war most effectively using sequential strategies—this is the American way of war, and this is the rub. In today’s environment, many conflicts likely will be cumulative in nature. The operation in Bosnia fits the cumulative paradigm much more easily than the sequential. Information warfare also best fits the cumulative paradigm. The joint operations of the future may well require a cumulative approach—the strategy most familiar to naval officers.
Operations and Tactics
In campaign planning, identification of enemy and friendly centers of gravity and ways to either attack or protect them are key components of operational art. To this the Navy and Marine Corps have added the concept of critical vulnerabilities, which focuses also on an enemy’s weaknesses. This approach is inherent in a maritime perspective; it always has been difficult to exert sea power against land strengths. The concept of critical vulnerability is a useful complement to centers of gravity.
The Navy’s composite warfare commander (CWC) concept, developed during the Cold War for open-ocean operations, is unique among the services and affects both the operational and tactical levels. One of the basic principles of the CWC—command by negation—is an example of the Navy protecting the autonomy of the individual commander, even though the technology is there for the higher commander to intervene. As the other services follow the Navy’s lead in embracing digital technology, the problem of too much direction from higher headquarters will have to be dealt with. The Navy’s ethic of “command by negation” and action at subordinate levels—fundamental elements of the CWC—can provide a solution. Air Force doctrine espouses centralized control and decentralized execution; the CWC concept essentially is based on decentralized control and decentralized execution. Within this difference may lie the solution to complaints about the timeliness and utility of the air tasking order in theater operations, as well as to concerns about encroachment on subordinate commanders’ initiative.
At the tactical level, the U.S. Navy considers a much broader area as tactical. It is not unusual for the tactical action officer in the combat information center of a ship to monitor a picture out to 500 nautical miles or more. For the naval war fighter, this is the area of tactical action, but it is an order of magnitude beyond the realm of tactical action for the Army officer. The Navy also integrates electronic warfare into every aspect of combat; it has been the Navy’s eyes and ears for years. Other services have electronic warfare capabilities, but have not embraced them to the same degree. As command-and-control warfare and information warfare increase in importance, the Navy’s expertise and experience in electronic warfare will be a valuable asset on land or at sea.
The Navy embraced the “C4I for the Warrior” concept before it had a name. Admiral Macke’s vision of a “fused, real-time battlespace” looks very familiar to the naval officer experienced in “the link.” The first subsystem operating on the new Global Command and Control System was the Joint Maritime Command Information System. This system is just a renamed version of the Joint Operational Tactical System (JOTS), which the Navy has used for years. C4I for the Warrior is the Joint Staffs vision of where the military is going, and it smells very familiar to the Navy. All of these are examples of the strength of the unique perspective the Navy has developed.
In the rush to jointness, the strengths of each service, including the sea services, must be integrated into joint operations and planning. As the last service to embrace jointness, the Navy now must ensure that its unique strengths and perspectives are integrated into the joint force.
1 RAdm. James A. Winnefeld, USN (Ret.), “Why Sailors Are Different,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, May 1995, pp. 65-70.
2 Ibid., 68.
3 James Madison, “Publius, The Federalist XLI,” The Debate on the Constitution: Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters During the Struggle Over Ratification, Part 2 (New York: The Library of America), pp. 52-53.
4 Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken,” in Literature, ed., Robert Di Yanni (New York: Random House, 1986), pp. 433-34.
5 Joint Publication 3-0, Doctrine for Joint Operations, 1 February 1995, p. 1.
6 Joint Publication 3-0, Doctrine for Joint Operations, 9 September 1993, p. vi.
7 Naval Doctrine Publication 1, Naval Warfare, 28 March 1994, p. ii.
8 FMFM-1, Warfighting, 6 March 1989, p. 44.
9 RAdm. Joseph Metcalf HI, USN, “Decision Making and the Grenada Rescue Operation,” in Ambiguity and Command, eds., James G. March and Roger Weissinger-Baylon (New York: Harper Collins, 1986), p. 279.
10 Ibid., pp. 282-82.
11 RAdm. J. C. Wylie, “Why a Sailor Thinks Like a Sailor,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, August 1957, pp. 811-17.
12 National Military Strategy of the United States, 1995, p. 14.
13 RAdm. J. C. Wylie, “Reflections on the War in the Pacific,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, April 1952, pp. 351-61.
Lieutenant Commander Hastings is a surface warfare officer who has served on board the Chosin (CG-65), the Gary (FFG-51), and the New Jersey (BB-62). He currently is assigned to the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, where he earned a master’s degree in strategy in 1994. He is a six-time winner of Naval Institute essay contests.