On 26 December 2004, a massive earthquake close by Indonesia generated a tsunami of Biblical proportions, killing hundreds of thousands of people, leaving hundreds of thousands more without food, potable water, and shelter, and damaging or destroying virtually everything in its path-a broad swath of death and destruction bordering the Indian Ocean.
Almost immediately in the tsunami's wake, the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN72) carrier strike group (CSO) and the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) expeditionary strike group (ESG) diverted and raced to the region, the vanguard of Operation Unified Assistance.
According to Capt. J. Scott Jones, U.S. Navy, Bonhomme Richard's commanding officer, helicopters began flying nearly round-the-clock relief missions, delivering food, water, and medical supplies to thousands of survivors. "We take ashore what they need, when they need it," he said at the time, noting also that Navy construction battalions-Seabees-and coalition forces were helping the Indonesian government reestablish infrastructure and critical civic functions. "This proves not just the combat power, but also the humanitarian power of our ships."
2004 Highlights. . .
"I can't help but look back to where we were five years ago, and we couldn't muster ready forces the way we can today, including our response to the tsunami disaster," Admiral Vern Clark, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) told me during a January 2005 interview.
This year he harked back to that earlier theme-people: "That's still the case. You cannot be a ready force unless you have the right manpower resources, and we do. Because we're winning the battle for people and because we're 100% manned in the fleet, all those things have made it possible for us to establish and sustain a culture of readiness," he said. "[We're] more ready than we've ever been since I've been in the Navy."
The Navy exceeded manpower and readiness goals last year, increasing the percentage of new recruits with college experience by 60% over Fiscal Year 2003. Retention numbers also remained strong. More than 4,000 sailors transferred to undermanned ratings, and the service began a pilot program onboard the USS Decatur (DDG-73) that has chief petty officers filling the majority of division-officer billets. [See p. 179 for a different view.]
The Navy commissioned the USS Virginia (SSN-774), designed from the keel up for post-Cold War littoral missions, and accepted delivery of the USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23), the last of the aborted three-vessel Seawo//(SSN-21)-class. The Seawolves were built for the Cold War but with significantly improved payload capabilities, particularly for special operations forces, to satisfy post-9/11 requirements. On 15 December, the Navy awarded to Lockheed Martin a $188.2 million contract for detail design and construction of the first Flight 0 Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).
The Navy tested SSGN [nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine] effectiveness in a joint scenario with networked forces at sea, in the air, and on land, and conducted Exercise Undersea Dominance 04, a complex antisubmarine warfare experiment, while pushing the envelope of innovation in dynamic bandwidth management and reach-back in Exercise Trident Warrior 04. The Navy exploited modern technology including the X-Craft, an innovative Navy-Coast Guard manned ship (16 Navy and 10 Coast Guard crewmembers) built by the Office of Naval Research and to be used as a test platform for the LCS and the Coast Guard's Deepwater cutters; an operational-scale electromagnetic rail gun capable of firing kinetic-energy warheads more than 200 nautical miles; new concepts for persistent littoral undersea warfare; programs to enhance the joint tactical use of space; and Sea Basing enablers.
Best Laid Plans . . .
Clark told the Senate Armed Services Committee last July that, upon his reappointment as CNO, he would focus on three goals for the next two years: " . . . [delivering] the right readiness at the right cost to support the global war on terror and to meet the nation's war-fighting needs; [continuing] to develop our 21st century work force and deepen the professional growth of our sailors; and [accelerating] our investments in our naval strategy, Sea Power 21, to recapitalize and transform our Navy."
Secure in the prospect of becoming the longest-serving CNO since Admiral Arleigh Burke, Clark surprised almost everyone when, on 7 February 2005, he announced he was stepping down later in the summer. "It is time," he said.
GWOT Not a Navy Spotlight. . . for Now . . .
Looking back at 2004, it was not all that clear what the Navy had actually done in the Global War on Terror.
". . . The spotlight's shining on the Army and the Marine Corps," Clark said, "and that's exactly the way it should be. We have large numbers of soldiers and Marines on the line every day, facing the enemy, and some of them giving the ultimate sacrifice. The focus of the Navy's work in 2004 and into 2005 has been to support that effort."
"But, you're right," he admitted, "it's not widely known that we've got several thousand sailors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our other operations throughout the world seemed routine. For example, our SEALs are all over Iraq and Afghanistan, and we also are providing people in a combat service support and EOD [Explosive Ordnance Disposal] roles to support the Army. We operated Army equipment because there were insufficient Army people to handle the rotations. And of course, we provided all the medical care for the Marines, so we had somewhere around a thousand of the Navy's medical people in there."
Everyone is stretched, but some-especially EOD technicians, Naval Special Warfare/SEAL forces, and Reservists manning Inshore Boat Units-are faced with even greater demands.
"We were constantly rotating EOD dels [detachments] to Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other places like the Philippines, in some cases multiple deployments for the same detachment," Captain Thomas Dee, Commanding Officer of the EOD Technology Division at Indian Head, Maryland, told me. "While not a new concern to the EOD community, the IED [Improvised Explosive Device] has proven to be a highly effective . . . particularly in Iraq. In the first quarter of 2004," he explained, "we were facing about 190 IED . attacks each week. At the end of the third quarter, that had ballooned to more than 500 weekly, and the pace has not diminished. We have been very busy," he concluded, "and not just overseas, as the terrorist IED threat is significant at home, too." For instance, Navy EOD technicians were in much demand at the Democratic and Republican conventions, just in case.
As an example of a Navy supporting role during 2004, Expeditionary Strike Group Three-the first Navy strike group led by a Marine Corps general officerserved as a command-and-control hub to protect Iraq's oil-production infrastructure and maintain maritime security in the Persian Gulf, according to Brigadier General Joseph Medina, U.S. Marine Corps, the group's commander.
Operating with Navy patrol boats and Coast Guard cutters, the strike group guarded the Khawr Al Amaya and Al Basrah offshore oil terminals, which handle more than 1.65 million barrels daily, as well as a pipeline that connects them to the mainland. Elements also helped train the Iraqi Coastal Defense Force, which in October contributed a patrol boat to the maritime coalition force that includes British and Australian ships, Medina concluded.
Protecting the oil terminals was a relatively small part of the mission. Medina's group arrived in the Fifth Fleet area of operations in July and by the end of November had performed nearly 600 ship boardings.The strike group also aided in maritime security by escorting high-value ships into Kuwaiti waters. A detachment of HH-60 helicopters from the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) carrier strike group joined in combined maritime security operations when it supported the Multinational Division in southeastern Iraq.
The More Things Change . . .
"Somebody asked me the other day about some rumbling in the fleet about all this change," Clark noted during our interview. "I said: 'Change is difficult. Change is hard, but here's the deal. If you want to make your command better, you've got to change.' Every leader in any organization needs to understand something about change management. Whether they do or not is a whole other question. In the United States Navy, it's part of your success line.
"We spent a lot of time visiting [subordinate] commands to see how the business of the Navy was being conducted," the CNO said. "We found out that there were many opportunities to change the way we did our business, perform better, and at a lower cost than had been the case before," Clark said. "I partnered with the Center for Creative Leadership several years ago to garner a broader set of skill sets for our leaders to know how to run a $120-billion company.
"That said, I don't want people to get nervous about what our main mission is here ... to project combat capability around the world and give the president options, not run a business. But, when you get real senior in the Navy, there's a business side of this that I expect our people to understand."
Clark offered an example. "I have a depot. Sailors work in it. They used to come to work at 6:00 in the morning, work till 8:00 at night. They were supposed to produce 20 engines a month. But they were producing eight and just killing themselves for a losing cause. Not making it. Working night and day, family lives started degrading and job performance plummeted. We came in with Task Force Lean. We started by sending people back to school. We started to find . . . where the wasted time and effort went.
"Now, this exact same team of sailors comes in 7:30-punches in, gets off at 11:30 for lunch, 45 minutes for lunch. Leaves at 4:15, sharp. They're now producing 40 engines a month. And not because of any change in the human capital, but something did happen to the productivity. You better believe it, because the output changed and the cost of human capital didn't change one dime. And this is what's going on all over the Navy."
"For two years I have been talking about an experiment . . . called Sea Swap," Clark told the Senate last July. "One of the ships, a brand-new DDG [USS Higgins, (DDG-76)], went to the Persian Gulf for 18 months, and then one of the oldest ships I have in the Navy, a destroyer [USS Fletcher, (DD-992)], went there for two years. I rotated the crews instead of bringing the ships back to homeports. In the process of doing so, I eliminated approximately 80 days of transit time (times four for the destroyer), and 80 days of transit time (times three for the DDG)."
Despite these efforts, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) in Novemberconcluded that the service has not done a good job analyzing and quantifying the methods and results. One effect on morale, the agency's report said, was that sailor re-enlistment rates on destroyers that took part in the crew swaps were lower than on comparable ships. GAO noted that the Navy has limited its cost assessments to fuel savings, days saved in transit to deployment areas, and some crew, maintenance, and training costs.
As if anticipating the GAO's conclusions, at the National Press Club in June the CNO commented, "We're at war . . . what does that mean for sailors? Sometimes they're going to come home from deployment and have a period of deep maintenance, and sometimes they're going to come home and have a period of shallow maintenance. This has changed the reality for our people. He also warned sailors not to expect apologies when the President requires surge operations. "Anybody who has a problem with that is in the wrong profession.
"Our initial Sea Swap tests are telling us something," he said. "We weren't finished but we were already learning that the ships were doing remarkably well. In 2004, we brought those ships home. We parked a brand new DDG that had been on a six-month deployment, alongside the pier with the DDG we brought home after three Sea Swap rotations in 18 months. And we asked a fundamental question: What do you see different? And the people that went on there had a real hard time finding much different. And what that meant was that in three cycles that new DDG did just fine. Now, you would be suspect if you hadn't also had this old -963 [the Fletcher is a Spruance (DD-963)-class destroyer] that we pushed out to two years, saying, 'let's test this thing and see where the breaking point is.' We never got to the breaking point. The ship was still doing extraordinarily well, when she came home."
What Future for Sea Swap?
"There are some things out here I don't know how to do. I don't know how to do a carrier. I admit it. But in 2005 I expect to at least do a computer simulation, modeling and simulating Sea Swap on a carrier," Clark said. "And, LCS [Littoral Combat Ship] is designed from the keel up to be swapped. I totally expect any brand new ship being designed to be designed for Sea Swap. And that includes both DD(X) and CG(X) [next-generation destroyer and cruiser programs]. I also believe that we will be able to Sea Swap all of the small combatants.
"I'm convinced that multi-crewing is the right approach," Clark said. "Not just keep swapping crews that already Own' a ship. More . . . somewhere around six crews for four ships or eight crews for five ships. The nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) approach is two crews for one ship. There's goodness there, and we need to exploit it."
More, the Navy intends to conduct a Sea Swap experiment involving a multiship expeditionary strike group, which could confirm a reduction in the need for 12 groups as assessed by teams under then-Rear Admiral Joseph Sestak, when he was Director of the CNO's Assessment Division (N81). If fleet posture, forward presence, and surge-response capabilities could be assured with a smaller number of expeditionary strike groups, the Navy could reallocate any costs avoided into other priorities, including next-generation maritime prepositioning ships to support evolving Sea Basing concepts.
PULSEX 2004 Reveals "Latent" Surge Capabilities
In July's Summer PULSEX 2004, the Navy successfully surged seven carrier groups nearly simultaneously-the first sea trial of the Navy's Fleet Response Plan. The "Six Plus Two" plan calls for six of the Navy's 12 carrier strike groups to be ready to deploy within 30 day's notice and another two within 90 days. (At the end of the year, the Defense Department directed the Navy to decommission one of its oil-fired carriers-it will probably be the Mayport, Florida-based John F. Kennedy (CV-67)and plan for a future with no more than 11 carrier strike groups . . . perhaps only ten.) A total of 143 ships (48% of the active force) and 62,980 sailors participated in Summer PULSEX. Combined with other ops, more than 65% of the Navy's ships were underway or deployed overseas.
The seven carriers involved in the exercise included the two currently deployed strike groups led by the USS George Washington (CVN73) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74); John F. Kennedy began a combined and joint exercise in June, followed by its overseas deployment and support to PULSEX. The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) strike group conducted a scheduled training exercise followed by pulse operations with USS Enterprise (CVN65). The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), the Navy's newest carrier, operated within the U.S. Northern and Southern Command theaters during the ship's transfer from Norfolk to its homeport in San Diego.
"We're experimenting," Clark noted, "in a sense conducting sea trials with the operating forces. We're going to see what it takes while en route to elevate their status from an emergency surge capability to whatever level of readiness they're going to achieve. Last year, during Summer Pulse, the strike group commander, Rear Admiral Mike Tracey, told me, and I quote: 'I was really surprised how quickly the group responded and how quickly we climbed the curve.' This is what we found out in our test of the emergency surge strike group in Summer Pulse, when we surged seven carrier strike groups."
The number-seven carrier in the exercise was the emergency surge carrier and was in the process of working up when the call to deploy came. "Now, of course, the surged number seven didn't have to do what strike group number one had to do. Strike group number one and two had to dominate the whole battle space, but strike group numbers six and seven could arrive with tailored mission readinessnot all the capabilities of group one, but sufficient to meet critical needs, for example, strike assets as opposed to E-2 Hawkeyes for the battlespace dominance piece."
Not One Thin Dime . . .
"The other crucial thing we tackled in 2004 was getting at a human capital strategy," Clark said. "This has been my personal project. I needed to know, what do we know about ourselves? What is our default human capital strategy? We had one, but people had to work to identify it."
Last July, Clark told a Senate hearing that "I'm the one service chief that . . . is reducing the number of people. We have a Cold-War personnel structure, and I'm seeking to realign and transform my personnel system to the maximum extent that is possible to do within the structure that we have today. To compete in the 21 st Century, we have to compete in the marketplace for the human resources-a young man and woman who are more and more gifted and in more and more demand in the marketplace-that will make our Navy what it is going to become.
"How do you acquire these individuals? How do you retain them? Should you sign onto a philosophy that says they're going to join the Navy for life? Is that realistic in the 21st Century? If not, do you have on-ramps and off-ramps for people?
"Here's my commitment," Clark told the Senate. "We will spend whatever it takes to grow and develop and retain the young men and women who have made the choice to serve the nation, but I don't want to spend one thin dime on a person that we don't really need," Clark warned.
"The story I use," he recounted in January, "is that of a lieutenant commander aviator that I spent $5 million training, but who doesn't screen for department head in the aviation community. And suddenly he's out of business, but now he's a lieutenant commander, and yet we commit that we're going save a spot for him so he can get to 20 years and retire. That was our default strategy. I happen to think that's not a very smart thing to do. It doesn't pass my 'business case'."
Human Capital Strategies from the Fleet Up
"But I also was determined that we were not going to have a human capital strategy formulated by the Chief of Naval Personnel in Washington, D.C. for the rest of the world. That was not going to work, because every one of the Navy's communities is different, and we're going to create strategies that work for everybody.
"I know this is very ambitious, and some companies work for years trying to do what we're trying to do in a year.
"The promise is that we are committed to lifelong learning for our people. We are focused on personal growth and development, and we're going to make lifelong learning available," he said. "And, oh by the way, we're going to even expect it. Someday you won't be able to be an E-5 or an E-6 unless you have an associate's degree.
"I believe that in order to have the kind of 21 st-Century Navy that we're dreaming about," Clark continued, "we must have incredibly competent, capable, human capital, and that capital is our people who are continuing to grow and develop.
"Let me give you another example," he offered. "The Navy's JAG [Judge Advocate General] community is a small community of very highly specialized people. We learned that [the leadership] was not really responsible for the development of the community . . . [even] something as fundamental as accession plans.
"Not any more," Clark smiled. "I now have someone who owns this process, who's asking some hard questions: What do we believe about the accession process for attorneys? What do we believe about what it's going to take in order for us to compete in the U.S. marketplace for lawyersFm a marketplace guy-and our marketplace is not competing with the Air Force or the Army. It's competing with companies in the private sector."
"That's my message," he said. "We're competing for the best people that we can find. No apologies. 'Come on ... we're a high-tech outfit!' Great companies seek to become greater by getting the best people that they can get!"
How Many Ships in the Transformed Navy?
Several times last year Clark remarked, "10,000 people equal about $1.2 billion worth of resources. If we can learn how to bring more combat capability with fewer people, we can invest that in the streams that create tomorrow's military capability." Analysis during 2004 led him to propose cutting some 60,000 people from the service's roster, as Sea Swap, optimal manning initiatives in new-construction as well as legacy ships, new maintenance philosophies, and other efficiencies permit him to do more with less. If successful, he could garner more than $7 billion a year to reallocate to the ships, weapons, sensors, and ordnance needed for the tough jobs ahead.
"I staked my whole first tour on the point that we're going to build people," he underscored," so this is not about cutting people, it's about buying the right level of readiness and a recapitalized Navy for the 21st Century. It must be good for the sailors, but it must also be good for the taxpayer too."
The tension between sustaining current operations and readiness and making the appropriate investment for a recapitalized and transformed future fleet came to a head last year. "Certainly numbers count, and for a couple of years I've been talking about my belief that we need about 375 ships in the Navy. I can report to you that I do not know what that number is for sure now," he said at the Senate hearing last July, "because our on-going operational availability analysis is going to allow me to bring more combat capability to the nation at a lower cost. . . ."
It had become increasingly evident that the resources available for tomorrow's fleet just simply were not there. The Congressional Budget Office reported that the Navy averaged about $8 billion per year in shipbuilding and conversion, about six ships per year from the 1990s through 2003. This would support, over the long term, a Navy of approximately 180 ships of all types and capabilities, far fewer than required to meet global commitments under even the new fleet response plan and other efficiencies.
In August, the Navy prepared a shipbuilding brief outlining the resources required to meet near- and long-term requirements. That briefing, which was never delivered, included data that requested only four ships in FY-2006, with a proposed but uncertain ramp-up to 12 ships in the last year of the five-year defense plan. Congress and the shipbuilding industry, which projected a 25% loss of jobs by 2008, were not amused.
"I think it's unacceptable," Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA), Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said last November. "Our shipbuilding accounts are grossly below what they need to be. When you stretch that out over a period of time, you're going to end up [with] a 200-ship Navy," he warned. While transforming to a much more capable force in the future was imperative, he noted, numbers count and quantity has a quality all its own. [See "No Bucks, No Buck Rogers," this issue, p. 54.]
So, how many ships are enough? "After nearly two years of exhaustive and comprehensive analysis," Clark told me, "I now talk about a spectrum of capabilities provided by the ships that are in service, and a spread of about 260 to 325 shipsthe capabilities posture of the fleet needed to accomplish our missions."
A New Kind of Navy, Too
"Building a force set that is designed only to deal with major combat operation is the incorrect approach," Clark said. The war on terror, for instance, will not be won any time soon. In his keynote speech at the Surface Navy Association Symposium in January 2005, he acknowledged that "The navy is not correctly balanced and optimized for the world of the future, and . . . faces a three-decade-long effort to fully reform its forces to accommodate national security needs such as anti-terrorism and homeland security.
"This is going to be a dramatically different Navy. I expect to have 50 to 75, maybe even 100, LCSs [littoral combat ships] out there because I think that's the kind of platform you're going to need for the world that we're living in. Not just because it's near land, but because of its off-board sensors. The requirement to be Off-board' is crucial to dominating the battlespace.
"That's why the technological innovations and human-systems integration advances in the CVN-21 (the next-generation carrier), and other future warships-the LCS, DD(X), and CG(X)are so critical," Clark noted.
"As we introduce such innovations as swapping crews and, in the future multicrew ships and advanced off-board systerns . . . and we expand our presence in overseas bases such as Guam, we get a much more efficient, effective and responsive force posture that allows us to do what's required with fewer numbers of ships. In fact," he underscored, "our readiness and response capabilities and our operational availability will increase as newer ships with enhanced per-unit operational capabilities enter the force."
Clark noted several important areas:
* Better networking will revolutionize the way all U.S. forces fight. FORCEnet, the Navy's element of the Defense Department's Global Information Grid, is designed to let joint forces use the network the Navy has established when they arrive in theater and it will also enable coalition partners to connect to the Navy.
* The Navy is leading the transformational joint concept of Sea Basing, allowing joint and coalition forces to conduct expeditionary maneuver warfare from the sea to preempt enemy actions and foreclose enemy options.
* The Navy is building new platforms, weapons and systems to support the Global War on Terrorism and combat in the littorals . . . a wide array of advanced technologies and systems, such as the electro-magnetic rail gun and free-electron laser.
"The LCS is very, very important to us," Adm. Clark stated. We're going to lay the keel this year and get a ship in the water by the end of 2006.1 talk about speed and agility in warfare. Let's talk about speed and agility in the acquisition process. LCS is going to revolutionize the way we create combat capability at sea," Clark said. "But, the bottom line is that we're buying ships the worst way we could possibly buy them: one at a time, absorbing all of the overhead of a particular element of a small industrial base. One platform at a time. In 1967, we built five submarines and ordered more than 200 A-7 attack aircraft, plus another 400 aircraft. This year [FY-05], I'm buying nine ships and 113 aircraft."
And New Missions
And yet the service is taking on new responsibilities. "We are transitioning to new missions like missile defense. We'll look back on this period in which we're taking the small steps with the initial deployment of a ship-based capability. We've got people on station right now."
The USS Cunis Wilbur (DDG-54) conducted the first U.S. fleet ballistic missile defense (BMD) patrol in late September, according to Rear Admiral Kathleen Paige, director of the Aegis Missile Defense program. "Aegis BMD went to sea on September 30, able to track an intercontinental ballistic missile and to communicate that information to the Ballistic Missile Defense System," she noted in a published interview. "Today we mark the fact that we will soon add firepower to Aegis BMD with the SM-3 missile. . . . Because naval forces are inherently mobile and capable of multiple missions, Aegis BMD will provide a broad array of options to operational commanders responding to a wide variety of dynamic world situations."
In October, the Missile Defense Agency began receiving initial deployment rounds of the SM-3, and within two years 18 warships are scheduled to be fitted with the ballistic-missile surveillance, tracking, and engagement capability. Since January 2002, the Aegis BMD system had successfully intercepted targets in space five times out of six tries with the SM-3.
"Warships are ready to assist in the targeting process," Clark said, "and that's all been very successful but these are just the beginning steps. All of 2004 has been about the focus that really fits into our Sea Power 21 architecture and projecting offense and defense. Mostly we still talk about projecting offense. In years to come, it will be more about projecting defenseour ability to flex not just offensive power and long-range over-the-horizon strikes but to do the same thing from a defensive perspective. . . . There is a need to assure a maritime domain awareness that extends well over land, to make sure that Sea Shield is effective.
The proposed Standard Missile (SM)-6, an extended-range active missile will be critical to that requirement. In September 2004, after DOD had canceled various Navy missiles and missile-defense programs, the service awarded a $440 million sole-source contract to Raytheon for the SM-6, which is expected to provide extended-range anti-air warfare capability against a multitude of targets, including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, land-attack, and antiship cruise missiles in flight, either over sea or land. With its active radar system, the SM-6 also is expected to engage over-the-horizon targets using a future networked fire-control data system for targeting.
"[We are] working much more closely with the Coast Guard," Clark said. This includes homeland secu- ; rity/homeland defense tasks as well as acquisition and operations. "Think about what this will mean to our 'National Fleet' partnership with the Coast Guard," Clark pointed out. "Now I don't have to build in homeland security capabilities, as I can tailor the mission modules when we work with the Coast Guard.
"The Navy is embracing the whole maritime domain awareness concept because we believe that it is essential. We need a maritime [version of] NORAD [North American Air Defense] that extends from the seabed of the continental shelf to space. Neither the Navy nor the Coast Guard can do it all, alone."
"I believe Sea Power 21, as an architecture, is good for us," Clark said. "To see this through to its end, I'd have to be the CNO for ten years and that's obviously not in the cards. This is work that's got to continue. It is work where we can see very clear progress, but much more needs to be done."
Dr. Truver is group vice president, national security programs, Anteon Corporation, Washington, D.C. David Goodman, Navy programs analyst in Anteon's Center for security Strategies and Operations, assisted him in this overview.