Since assuming office in September 2011, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert has been an exceptionally prolific contributor to the open forum. In his remarks at the Naval Institute’s annual Meeting on 16 April, Admiral Greenert talked about the value of Proceedings, referring to it as “a crossroads of ideas” and a testing ground that he uses to “lay things out . . . find organizational blind spots . . . and have debate.”
The CNO has certainly led by example with numerous contributions during his tenure, notably his much discussed “Payloads over Platforms” in July 2012 and “A New Naval Era,” coauthored by Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos that appeared in June 2013. This month he returns with another piece that offers a similar big-picture perspective. Admiral Greenert and Assistant Deputy CNO Rear Admiral James M. Foggo III expound on the importance of forging a Global Network of Navies, a timely idea that can be seen as the linear descendant of such concepts as the 1,000-Ship Navy and Global Maritime Partnerships. Safe and secure seas are essential to the intertwined economic health of nations, but in a volatile world such as today’s, “safe” and “secure” don’t just automatically happen. The CNO and Assistant Deputy CNO serve up several examples from recent global events that underscore how international maritime cooperation is more crucial than ever.
In keeping with the theme of generating ideas and fostering debate, Rear Admiral Ted Carter Jr. aims to jump-start discussion about how the U.S. Navy can remain a dominant global force despite the wide-scale acquisition of long-range precision strike (LRPS) systems by potential adversaries. He details additional trends beyond the proliferation of LRPS systems, including the growth of cyber capabilities, the increasing use of remotely piloted and autonomous vehicles, and the gradual adoption of new technologies, and calls for U.S. military forces to revise their approach toward logistics. “We must reinvigorate our critical thinking and our actions if we are to meet the challenges of future warfare at sea,” he says. “It is essential to embrace the opportunities afforded by LRPS systems to field a Navy that can deliver resolute offensive power to discourage would-be adversaries and prevail in a fight should deterrence fail.”
Much of that offensive firepower will continue to be delivered by strike aircraft flying from the Navy’s fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Now that the nation’s newest flattop, the Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), has been christened and launched, eyebrows have been raised over costs that have grown to an estimated $12.9 billion. But as retired U.S. Navy Captain J. Talbot Manvel and David Perin point out, big-deck, big-ticket behemoths such as the new Ford class are in fact more cost-effective than smaller, compacter, seemingly more economical carriers. For one example, “a large-deck carrier can generate more than half again as many strike sorties as a midsize carrier. In other words, there is a clear case that large-deck carriers provide significantly more bang for the buck than comparable small or midsize carriers.” As the big-carrier pro-or-con debate continues, the authors make a good case for the idea that the Ford, after all, is at the heart of the word “affordable.”
But what about the Fleet as a whole? Retired Navy Captain Arthur H. Barber III weighs in on the intricacies of Fleet design, with the acknowledgement that the Navy’s current method is unsustainable. “At present projected budget levels, if we continue our current processes for setting the design requirements of future ships and aircraft, the service’s size will shrink over the next two decades to about two-thirds of today’s force-structure goals of 306 ships and 3,000 aircraft,” he warns. He points out that the future Fleet is being built one platform at a time, an unaffordable tactic in today’s fiscal environment. Fortunately, he proposes measures that could strengthen the Fleet-design process and reverse this troubling trend.
Captain Henry J. “Jerry” Hendrix presents another option. He revisits his novel “influence squadron” concept in this issue, contending that all the components are there to create them, such as small riverine-patrol combatants, littoral combat ships, the new mobile landing platforms, and the joint high-speed vessel. The Navy just needs to tie all these assets together. The result, he writes, should dovetail nicely with the CNO’s “payloads over platforms” mantra.
As always with the Naval Review issue, I want to extend a special thanks to those additional contributors who go above and beyond to give us an annual roundup of the Sea Services: Scott Truver; Robert Holzer; Joe DiRenzo; Chris Doane; Commander Jan Jacobs, U.S. Navy (Retired); Lieutenant Colonel John Berry Jr., U.S. Marine Corps (Retired); Shashi Kumar; and Sam Morison. They work quietly but steadily throughout the year accumulating the information you see presented here—all after putting in a full day at the office. It’s highly valued and much appreciated.