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 Manuel Rebollo Garcia
Although today’s strategic environment makes 20-year predictions difficult, current trends in globalization, the growing importance of the sea as a global common—particularly for commerce and natural resources—and crisis proliferation in the populated littoral areas tell us that the demand on navies to generate and deploy maritime capabilities surely will increase. This is especially evident for a maritime nation such as Spain, whose economy, energy supply, and prosperity largely depend on the maritime domain.
In looking ahead, the economy and technology are two key shaping factors. Economic recovery will have to take absolute priority, and defense budgets consequently will be reduced. Notwithstanding its force-multiplier and manning-reduction benefits, state-of-the-art technology will not always be affordable under current economic constraints. Navies will have to adapt to this new reality with a positive, imaginative approach.
In that context, the Spanish Navy’s enduring strategic objective is to maintain a well-balanced, interoperable, efficient ,and expeditionary-capable fleet, one that is able to successfully carry out its five core responsibilities: defense and deterrence, crisis management, cooperative security, maritime security, and contribution to state action at sea.
Our starting point is reasonably good. Procurement plans of the past decade have resulted in a technologically advanced and versatile naval force. Moreover, the decommissioning of legacy equipment (mainly light patrol boats) and strict austerity measures taken in the past four years have helped prepare the navy for the difficult years ahead. To navigate through the economic crisis, our objectives are as follows:
• Focus our procurement and modernization programs on not losing any critical capability—which would require vast future investments to recover—and supporting the national-defense industry.
• Prioritize training and sustain the capabilities needed for the most likely missions.
• Work closely with allied/partner navies (essentially NATO and the EU) and maritime agencies to find synergies and to increase efficiency.
• Analyze our organization to foster the transformation needed to increase fleet efficiency.
• Prioritize investments in the education and training of our personnel, our most valuable and crucial asset.
Though most of those objectives are permanent, some incremental staging is foreseen:
• In five years: Completion of an organizational review and an evaluation of current equipment programs to reduce spending.
• In ten years: A surge in defense budgets to procure capabilities defined in the previous stage—this being based on the hope and assumption that the worst of the economic crisis will be past.
• In twenty years: The consolidation of the model, resulting in a balanced, versatile, interoperable and expeditionary naval force.