CS-21’s success can be measured in its ability to stand the test of time—it has guided our naval forces for eight years running. But much has changed. The market crash of 2008 was followed by cuts to curb spending through “sequestration.” The corresponding financial uncertainty in the Eurozone contributed to austerity measures in defense spending among key allies and partners. Crises across the Middle East and North Africa, from the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War to the rise of ISIL, from the continued spread of terrorism and violent extremism to the return of combat-experienced fighters to Europe, have significantly altered regional dynamics. Europe faces multiple security challenges, from a resurgent Russia and the crisis in Ukraine to the proliferation of ballistic missiles and mass migration. African nations are equally challenged, from failed or failing states and the associated civil unrest fueled by social, political and economic conditions, to illicit trafficking and the potential for another major pandemic event. Add to this the increase of activity in cyberspace and the proliferation of cyber warfare, the dramatic drop in oil prices, and the continued rise of China, and it quickly becomes clear just how necessary a new maritime strategy is in addressing these burgeoning complex challenges. “Version 2.0” of CS-21 has arrived just in time.
The journey to get from CS-21 to CS-21R was long, but rewarding in the final analysis. The codification of a strategy document is never an easy task for even one service, let alone three. A plethora of subject matter experts offered their insights and recommendations during the development of the strategy. Sir Lawrence Freedman of Kings College, London, was one of them. In his book Strategy: A History, he defines strategy simply as “the art of creating power.”1 CS-21R does just that. The synergistic effects generated by the three Sea Services create power—sea power—in support of our national-security objectives. While addressing all of the major changes in the geopolitical environment, the Sea Services have formulated a new and holistic maritime strategy at the “35,000-foot level.” Frankly, that is exactly what a strategy is supposed to do: provide broad direction and guidance to the operators in the Fleet. It is up to those operators—the fleet and component commanders—to “operationalize” the strategy at the deckplate level. So what are the numbered fleet commanders doing in execution of the new strategy? We’ll try to answer that question in the next few paragraphs.
‘Every Ship Counts’
The Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa (CNE-CNA), and the Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations, cover a territory that extends from the seabed to space, from the North Pole to South Africa, and from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to the very shores of Crimea in the Black Sea. Thus, we must be prepared to address a wide spectrum of challenges throughout an expansive area with limited resources. Every ship counts, and so does every dollar we spend on them. This is even more important during times of budget austerity. The relevance of a particular service has always been connected to the return on investment for the American taxpayer. In other words, what kind of security guarantees does each American citizen get for his or her investment in the Sea Services?
This is not something new. The May 1954 issue of Proceedings featured an article by Samuel Huntington, “National Policy and the Transoceanic Navy.” In this still remarkably relevant essay from more than 60 years ago, he articulated the quintessential requirement for any branch of the military: “If a service does not possess a well-defined strategic concept, the public and political leaders will be confused as to the role of the service . . . and apathetic or hostile to the claims made by the service on the resources of society.”2 The Defense Strategic Guidance of 2012 delineates a number of missions that are critical to our national security. Those missions that are naturally suited to the Sea Services line up as follows: Defend the homeland, deter conflict, respond to crisis, defeat aggression, protect the maritime commons, strengthen partnerships, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster response. CS-21R asserts that to accomplish these critical missions, the Sea Services must be able to perform five essential functions. Doctrinally, a function is defined in terms of Title 10 requirements, i.e. what is it that a service will organize, man, train, and equip to do? Apropos Huntington, how are we employing our nation’s resources to achieve the missions associated with our national security?
Herein lies the strength of CS-21R, which states:
We organize, train, and equip naval forces to accomplish these missions through the five essential functions: all-domain access, deterrence, sea control, power projection, and maritime security. We employ these functions in a combined-arms approach as the summation of U.S. sea power, providing a unique comparative advantage for the Joint Force and the Nation.3
The strategy artfully combines the strengths and resources of each of the Sea Services into a credible maritime force that makes the United States of America the dominant sea power on the globe. Distinct from CS-21, forward presence is not just articulated as an essential function of the Sea Services. In fact, in CS-21R, forward presence is in a category all its own. It is an “enabling function” (our term), one that makes possible all the rest. Without presence, we cannot gain and maintain access in areas where our adversaries pursue anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) strategies. Without presence, we cannot deter. Without presence, we cannot project power. Without presence, we cannot exert sea control. Without presence, we cannot establish and maintain maritime security.
Forward presence has been part of the fabric of our Navy from the earliest days of our nation. It continues to this day, and it certainly matters here in the waters around Europe and Africa. Every day, we are called on to maximize the presence of credible naval forces in a manner of ways. We have maritime forces that are permanently assigned, in a forward-deployed status, in a rotationally deployed status, or in a transient status. In addition to commissioned U.S. naval vessels, Military Sealift Command operates ships in this AOR that conduct logistics support, ordnance transfer, replenishment operations, maritime sealift in the case of the new Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), and numerous Theater Security Cooperation events and exercises.
As we take a tour d’horizon around the 6th Fleet area of operations, we will point out where our forces are present and how they are operationalizing the five essential functions of CS-21R.
Forward . . . and Critical
Our forward-deployed naval forces (FDNF) operate in the region on a continuous basis and provide a higher level of presence. They obtain critical “local knowledge” of the region, have far more opportunities to train and operate with our allies, and become highly proficient at missions unique to the European theater of operations.
FDNF ships play a critical role in the deterrence mission, which goes hand in glove with the reassurance of our allies. Over the past year, we have sustained a presence in the Black Sea, even as we operate consistently in the Eastern Mediterranean. We are making our presence in the region “normal,” and we are conducting regular—and frequent—exercises and engagements with navies in the area, strengthening the connections with all.
Our command ship, the USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20), provides a critical capability. With the Mount Whitney and the Fleet headquarters in Naples, Italy, we use a construct called “one maritime operations center (MOC), two locations.” This allows us to execute all the essential functions of CS-21R, with the ability to move part or all of the staff to sea, depending on the requirements, maintaining seamless command-and-control (C2) of all our forces in theater.
The Mount Whitney supports U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command. We demonstrated her capacity to conduct joint task-force operations at sea during Operations Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector in 2011, and in 2013 we conducted a proof-of-concept dual embark with elements of the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet staffs. The Mount Whitney is currently undergoing continuous modernization and the Service Life Extension Program to keep her relevant until well into the first half of the 21st century.
Our Rota, Spain–based FDNF destroyers, meanwhile, provide us with the ability to execute the five essential functions of CS-21R and perform myriad tasks, including ballistic-missile defense (BMD), and the full spectrum of maritime-security operations, along with bi- and multilateral training exercises.
This year, the USS Porter (DDG-78) and Carney (DDG-64) will join the Ross (DDG-71) and Donald Cook (DDG-75) in Rota. That represents a 400 percent increase in ships assigned to our area of operations in just two years! Stationing these four ships in Rota is ideal, as it maximizes their operational flexibility for missions in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean, Baltic, and Black seas. Also, the Rota-based Fleet Anti-terrorism Support Team (FAST) Company Forward, our only assigned Marine Corps force, stands ready to respond to an array of missions on short notice, and is specifically trained to reinforce diplomatic missions throughout Europe and Africa.
The forces deployed to our area of operations contribute directly to, or enable, all five essential CS-21R functions in unique and important ways, from our independently deployed ships—destroyers, frigates, submarines, the new JHSV, and our maritime-patrol/reconnaissance squadrons operating across the theater—to our military sealift team, which provides critical end-to-end logistics that enable our forces to sustain credible forward presence. Our deployed expeditionary forces, with their unique and specialized tactical capabilities, and our sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and Civil Service mariners who deploy here are always in high demand and doing complex, significant missions across Europe and Africa.
We work closely with our fellow maritime services across the theater. Coast Guard law-enforcement detachments bring their unique skill sets to bear during exercises and operations in Africa, helping our partners improve their own maritime security in this critical operation. We also coordinate with Marine Corps Forces Europe/Africa for the training and employment of their Special Purpose Marine Air/Ground Task Force–Crisis Response, leveraging key U.S. Navy bases around the Mediterranean to facilitate their operations.
One of the more unique capabilities coming on line in our theater is the first Aegis Ashore facility at Naval Support Facility Deveselu in Romania. A fixed, deterrent capability with rotational crews of U.S. Navy sailors, Aegis Ashore is a key part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) to BMD.
EPAA’s purpose is to protect European NATO nations and U.S. forces deployed in the region. Our NATO allies face a growing threat from the proliferation of ballistic missiles, which are becoming more flexible, mobile, survivable, reliable, and accurate, while also increasing in range. Missile defense forms part of a broader response to counter this threat. EPAA will help deter future conflicts—and defend ourselves and our NATO allies should deterrence fail. By the fall of 2015, we will complete construction of Aegis Ashore in Deveselu. Like its sister facility in Poland, it will be a force multiplier for forces afloat.
Uniquely, the U.S. contributions to European BMD, both Aegis Ashore and FDNF, are primarily maritime solutions, with highly trained U.S. Navy sailors at their heart.
Combining Presence with Partnership
As CS-21R correctly points out, forward presence and partnerships go hand in hand. The network of navies is not just a concept. In our area of operations, it is alive and well. As Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert has said, “All it takes is a willingness to cooperate . . . There’s a mission for everybody.” It is a part of the fabric of our daily operations, and we are working hard each day to make this network stronger. We are participating, exercising, talking (meaningfully), standardizing, and exchanging ideas.
We are doing this at the highest levels, with key leadership engagements with heads of navies and fleet-commander counterparts, down through the tactical CO-to-CO level, and even to the deck plates and boarding parties. Our active and sustained forward presence puts us in the unique position to help strengthen important alliances and partnerships in this dynamic theater encompassing both Europe and Africa.
Europe: Our NATO allies and European partners are vital to protecting the common security interests across the theater. We have a range of interactions that occur throughout the year, from bilateral operations and exercises between ships, to more complex multinational activities. These range from capability-building engagements with the Georgian coast guard and real-world rescue events with Italy and Greece to the more complex “high-end warfare” and live-fire exercises with NATO allies.
By far, our most high-profile annual exercise is Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), which has been conducted 42 times thus far. BALTOPS has always been a popular event, drawing broad regional participation from allies and partners alike, all of whom share our commitment to regional security in the maritime domain. The scenarios are complex and realistic. BALTOPS 2014 included air, surface, subsurface, and mine-warfare components, combined with advanced information-sharing. This recurring exercise has certainly helped us become more proficient at the high end of the operational spectrum, and we look forward to working alongside our friends as we continue to improve future iterations.
While many of the interactions are regularly scheduled, we’ve seen other opportunities arise with our sustained presence in the region. Our Seabees, who remain hard at work on our new Aegis Ashore facility in Romania, provided emergent engineering and repairs to the U.S. Marine Corps Georgia Training Team facility near Tbilisi. Our Marine security teams performed site surveys and engagement training and shared best practices with the U.S. Embassy staff in Bucharest. Our FDNF ships have conducted a range of engagements in the Black Sea with Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Georgia, and Turkey. As we continue to work together, the military-to-military operations are becoming increasingly complex, which in turn enhances our collective interoperability across the spectrum.
The at-sea neutralization of Syrian chemical materials on board the container ship MV Cape Ray (T-AKR-9679) was a superb example of the benefits of sustaining our maritime interoperability. The force that came together to support the mission included German, Italian, French, and Greek elements, and the operation was seamless because we know how to work together, how to talk to one another, and how to integrate as a multinational force. That capability can’t be surged; we have to be ready before the crisis takes place—and we are.
Africa: The challenges to maritime security in Africa are very different from those in Europe. High-end multimission ships like our FDNF destroyers are not as effective at addressing the issues in the African maritimes, but a flexible, adaptive unit like the JHSV or littoral combat ship/fast frigate, combined with an adaptive force package, may be an ideal solution. But it is more than the platforms we deploy. Nowhere is the value of strong, sustained partnerships more evident—and necessary—than in Africa, and we continue to see positive results from our programs across the region.
The annual Express Series exercises underpin our African maritime engagement. With European, African, and South American partner navies, we are combining training, operations, and mentorship. Each iteration yields not only an increase in participants, but also increased exercise complexity. Building tactical capacity is important, but we are also focusing more at the operational level. We are strengthening the “MOC-to-MOC coordination,” increasing the communication and collaboration between the national maritime operation centers, and helping to better synchronize regional efforts. Combined with the Codes of Conduct that have been agreed to by many African nations, we are seeing a greater emphasis on regional solutions to regional problems.
We had the chance to visit Ghana for the closing ceremonies of Obangame Express 15. The growing regional appreciation of the importance of security in the maritime domain cannot be understated. Ghana’s Vice President Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur specifically called for navies from “the Economic Community of West African States and Economic Community of Central African States to use this exercise as a foundation to enhance their cooperation to ensure a safe maritime security environment.”4 The enthusiasm we saw among our partners was invigorating, and reinforces the need to sustain and improve these engagements.
The skills and capabilities developed in exercises are operationalized through real-world events and the Africa Maritime Law-Enforcement Program (AMLEP). The Ghanaian Navy’s response to the hijacking of the oil tanker MT Mariam in January is an excellent example.5 Additionally, following this year’s AMLEP, the Senegalese government highlighted not only the lack of illegal activity in their waters, but also the general improvement in Senegal’s fishing stocks.6
We are also strengthening partnerships and building capacity at the small-unit level. The crew of the USNS Spearhead (JHSV-1), which included a mixed force of Marines from the United States, United Kingdom, and Spain, participated in regional exercises, AMLEP, and Theater Security Cooperation events in coastal West Africa and in the Gulf of Guinea. The Spearhead also served as the transport ship for delivery of two rigid-hull inflatable boats to Sao Tome and Principe after Portugal decided to donate the two platforms as excess defense articles so as to improve Sao Tome and Principe’s maritime-domain awareness and responsiveness to coastal threats. Our Seabees are also very active across Africa, with projects ranging from runway and boat-ramp construction to support of Ebola relief efforts in Liberia.
Sustained Partnerships, Strengthened Relationships
Working alongside our partners to develop skills and enhance maritime capabilities is essential, but the friends we make and the relationships we develop are equally important.
In February, we were honored to host the President of Mauritius, His Excellency Kailash Purryag, on board the USS Simpson (FFG-56) during exercise Cutlass Express 2015. President Purryag said of this year’s Cutlass Express:
It is important for us to partner with other countries in the region for this exercise of maritime security. Recently, you had a huge threat of piracy in this part of the world, and that was impacting the lives of people; the cost of living was going up. Seychelles, Mauritius, and other regional countries felt the pinch. Fortunately, with the help of the United States, the European Union, India, and other friendly countries, we have been able to bring down the frequency of piracy in this part of the world, and today we feel safe and that is very important for us.7
Our FDNF sailors are building navy-to-navy relationships through repeated engagements in a way that their U.S.-based peers never could. Our destroyer squadron commodore talks about how close the U.S. and Spanish officers and sailors are becoming through frequent professional and social interactions. He also highlights how our FDNF junior officers are becoming Facebook friends with their peers in allied navies. These JOs are tomorrow’s COs, commodores and fleet commanders, and their professional maritime friendships will serve us for years to come as the backbone of enduring military-to-military relationships.
This past March, in cooperation with the Naval War College, we hosted the Combined Force Maritime Component Commander Flag Officer Course Africa at our headquarters. Our goal was to enhance the effectiveness of senior regional naval commanders and to provide a forum for discussing maritime C2. While we presented concepts through lecture and case studies, the true value was the forum we provided to talk openly about a wide range of issues including strategic and operational planning, C2 structures, intelligence fusion, communications, maritime security, humanitarian-assistance/disaster-relief missions, and operational law.
Even as we combine the sustained forward presence of our tactical forces with steadily improving relationships in the most dynamic—and, we could argue, most dangerous—areas of operation on the globe, we face significant challenges.
We understand the risks to our forces from state and non-state A2/AD capabilities, and our staff spends a lot of time thinking through the problem to ensure we have assured C2, battlespace awareness, electromagnetic maneuver warfare, and integrated fires to attain and maintain freedom of action in any domain. The evolving threats in the cyber realm are a problem for us, and for all our NATO allies. Operating in a cyber-degraded environment is our new reality, and we’re training to do precisely that. Add to this the resource-constrained environment that all services are operating in. There are finite numbers of ships and aircraft in the Fleet, and competing combatant-commander requirements. Everyone wants more capability—we certainly do. It is therefore even more important to wisely, and creatively, employ the forces we have alongside our network of regional allies and partners as we work toward our collective goal of improved maritime security.
Fortunately, CS-21R takes us “back to the future,” refocusing our efforts on what navies are designed to do: be present with a sustained forward-deployed capability, and develop enduring relationships with our allied and partner maritime nations to address the common problems of our interconnected global community. The American public can be safely assured, and rightfully proud, that the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard in the Naval Forces Europe and Africa/6th Fleet area of operations are fulfilling their intended role: forward, engaged, and always ready.
2. Samuel P. Huntington, “National Policy and the Transoceanic Navy,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 80, no. 5 (May 1954), 483–93.
3. A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Engaged, Ready (Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, 2015), 19, www.navy.mil/local/maritime/.
4. Mary Mensah, “Collaborate to Combat Security Threat—Veep,” Graphic Online (Ghana), 30 March 2015, http://graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/40868-collaborate-to-combat-security-threat-veep.html.
5. Kwasi Kpodo, “Ghana’s Navy Frees Hijacked Tanker, Arrests Pirates,” Reuters, 18 January 2015, www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/18/us-nigeria-pirates-ghana-idUSKBN0KR0VD20150118.
6. “The Operation AMLEP Found No Activities Illegal (Army),” Agence de Presse Senegalaise, 30 January 2015, www.aps.sn/articles.php?id_article=138385.
7. “Mauritius President Tours USS Simpson,” U.S. Navy press release, 4 February 2015, http://cne-cna-c6f.dodlive.mil/mauritius-president-tours-uss-simpson/.