A new U.S. defense strategy unveiled in January calls for a resized, refocused military. Proceedings asked the leaders of the world’s sea services: In an era of austere defense budgets and rapidly increasing technologies, what are the strategic objectives for your naval force over the next 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
Admiral Bernard Rogel
The sea is at the heart of the strategic issues of our century. The changes in our society, climate, and the increase in maritime flow because of globalization already are confronting us with challenges. The increasing scarcity of natural resources ashore leads to the demand for new maritime areas of sovereignty and could very quickly turn the sea into a place of conquest—and therefore conflict.
Likewise, the sea gives a real strategic strength and depth to those who monitor it, thanks to the freedom of action and flexibility it provides. The latest interventions have shown how important it is to control maritime areas, especially the littoral waters, and also how it is decisive to be able to operate on land from the sea.
France has a navy that, while modest in size, is able to carry out necessary strategic functions. However, like every Western country, we must do this within a reduced-budget context. We may not build the navy of our dreams. We must find the best balance between the ambitions of defense and security of our country, budget realities, and capabilities worked out to the minimum to meet the missions.
In the years to come, then, the size of the French navy is going to be structured by four basic principles:
Permanence at sea is essential. Naval forces are of course able to intervene quickly at sea, but also from the sea, and to stay for a long time in our areas of interest, as is the case with the carrier battle group. Being able to provide this rapid response capability, to intervene quickly, at low level, can help contain a crisis. Given global budgetary constraints, these tasks should be shared among allies.
The versatility of our capabilities is significant, for today, when a ship gets under way, the type of crisis she may face is rarely foreseen. Versatility gives importance to the concept of our new multipurpose frigates, which can deal with conventional and asymmetric threats. The air-land forces embarking on board our large amphibious ships also meet this need.
Precision is a prerequisite in conducting ever more complex operations. Collateral- damage concerns require us to engage targets as accurately as possible. Cruise missiles from frigates or submarines enable us to provide both a form of dissuasion toward disruptive states and to meet the need for precision.
Finally, modern operations are carried out in a joint—often multinational—framework. Working cooperatively is compulsory, giving operational chiefs real options. In an international coalition it also results in seeking necessary interoperability, shared intelligence, and tested targeting processes without hesitation.