Now Hear This - We Must Continue to Own the Maritime Battlespace

By Rear Admiral Andrew L. Lewis, U.S. Navy

• Is the Navy ready to command and, if so, are maritime operations centers (MOC) resourced and focused adequately?

• The flexibility of the Composite Warfare Commander construct, and whether it is agile enough to keep up with the current fight, whatever its nature may be.

The basic fighting unit, the expeditionary strike force, consists carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups/Marine expeditionary units. This is not just the carrier, amphibious ship, air wing, Marine expeditionary unit, or surface combatants, but other assets that support and enable these types of operations. Expeditionary strike forces plug into the joint fight and enable it, sometimes encompassing it. By the nature of the battlespace (and doctrine), this fight must be commanded by naval organizations, meaning the carrier strike group/amphibious ready group/Marine expeditionary unit/expeditionary strike force at the tactical and the MOC at the operational level.

The differences between a maritime headquarters (MHQ) and an MOC are not always understood. The MHQ is the administrative headquarters for Title 10 command responsibilities: organize, man, train, equip, and administer. The MOC is the warfighting center that executes as the maritime component commander. The MHQ has administrative control of sailors, while the MOC commands joint and coalition naval operations. In joint parlance this is the joint force maritime component commander. The MOC executes at the operational level connecting forces to tactical tasks, monitoring and adjusting to achieve the combatant commander’s objectives.

At its core, the Navy functions at this operational level of war, assigning tactical tasks to maneuver units, the purview of the naval component of any joint force. The MOC is where this connection is executed deliberately and dynamically. This is where the maritime component commander fuses information from tactical task forces and applies the operational art and science of mastering the factors of time, space, and force to achieve victory. The Navy must ask these warfighting questions. Deficiencies must be rectified with rapid but focused study and action.

• What is the state of our MOCs? Is there a standard manning document that governs each combatant fleet’s MOC?

• Is the equipment that cultivates maritime domain awareness and communication and targeting organically standardized?

• Are MOCs an element in the Program Objective Memorandum?

At the tactical level, the Composite Warfare Commander construct has served us well and must evolve. Elements of it interact awkwardly with joint and combined operations, so our system of commanding naval forces tactically must develop to remain responsive and integrated. With the construct’s emphasis on domains such as air defense and strike, commanders are frequently stovepiped, even ignorant about carrier-strike-group capabilities that achieve warfighting effects in their domains. So domain commands must be replaced by capabilities commands, in air, sea, cyber, and so on. Major commanders in a strike group should be responsible for their units’ effects. The fusion must be at the carrier-strike-group level, where flattened staffs combine and coordinate capabilities in tactical command centers and report to MOCs.

Watchstanders, using the principles of mission command, must be empowered to make decisions armed with the intent of warfare commanders. The team must operate as an organism that synchronizes with the intent of those who command the carrier strike group/expeditionary strike force/joint force maritime component. Navy doctrine must discover and articulate this solution, and the fleets and lead type commanders must champion and implement it.

Being ready means having all the pieces in place to use the kinetic and non-kinetic fires provided to the warfighter to compel potential adversaries. Our secret weapons are our sailors, to whom we owe clear direction. Getting command and control right will ensure this.

Rear Admiral Lewis commands Carrier Strike Group Twelve.


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