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 Sir Mark Stanhope
It is clear to me that the future global economic, societal, and security environments will continue to be characterized by uncertainty. This presents the Royal Navy, and many other organizations, with the challenge of providing clarity of intent while still maintaining flexibility of outcome. In an era of uncertainty, the value of a head mark is important, but we must also recognize that we may need to alter course along the way.
Our response to that challenge is articulated in the Future Navy Vision, which provides the head mark out to 2025 and beyond: an operationally versatile navy able to project power to protect and promote our nation’s interests worldwide. Such a vision demands that, among other things, we build agility into our platforms, flexibility into the employment of our people, and dexterity into our organizational decision-making. It is this backdrop that has shaped my strategic objectives.
Over the next five years the Royal Navy must ensure that the Ministry of Defence delivers its formidable maritime acquisition program, articulated in the Defence Review of October 2010. Preserving that program is vital if the country is to have precisely the new capabilities it needs in the years ahead.
Notwithstanding that, the ministry also has a responsibility to help address the nation’s difficult financial position. Thus it is imperative that we maintain our intellectual capital so we can adapt to new technologies when we are able to acquire them. That means recruiting and retaining high-quality people who, well paid and well trained, are confident operating in the maritime environment and able to think outside the box.
Preserving that intellectual capital is also imperative as the Royal Navy, with the U.S. Navy’s assistance, generates its carrier strike capability. Achieving this will fulfill my 10-year strategic objective, by returning the Royal Navy to a truly full-spectrum maritime force, one that continues to own the seams of power projection—from the sea, to the land, and in the air—able to meet the likely wide-ranging nature of future threats.
As we look further out, to the 20-year horizon, we must ensure that we retain the ability to think strategically. Despite the current global economic climate of cutbacks, we should resist paring our level of long-term maritime ambition. For it is ambition that fuels change, fuels progress, and—in the business of defense—fuels military advantage.
Common to all these strategic objectives is the overriding need to be adaptable. After all, given the nature of the uncertain world in which we live, it is imperative that the Royal Navy, along with other navies, retains the capacity to evolve with it.