Navy Information Warfare: A Decade of Indulging a False Analogy
(See H. Stephenson, online, January 2019)
Whatever the merits of Captain Stephenson’s opinion on whether information warfare (IW) is analogous to other warfare areas, he can’t build his argument on Navy policy or doctrine. The facts say otherwise.
First, the creation of OPNAV N2N6 and the Information Dominance Corps (IDC) in 2009 did not beget the IW commander (IWC) or a new doctrinal category of warfighting. A close reading of the 2013 Center for Naval Analyses study he cites reveals that the IWC actually had its origins as the space and electronic warfare commander in the early 1990s, well before the formation of IDC and its renaming as IW in 2016.
Thus, the plan to fill the IWC with a screened IW community officer has come more than 25 years after the doctrinally identified position and functions were established. In short, the IW community has not “seized command” but rather responded to the recent growing trend of carrier strike group commanders designating the senior IW community officer in a strike group as the IWC.
Second, as to whether IW matches the nature of other warfare areas enough to treat it identically, again the facts are clear—and the answer is yes. Navy Warfare Publication 3-56, “Composite Warfare: Maritime Operations at the Tactical Level of War” (NWP 3-56), and OPNAVINST C3501.2L, “Guidance for Developing Unit Required Operational Capability Projected Operational Environment Statements,” describe IW mission areas—cyberspace operations, electronic warfare, information operations, and intelligence—alongside and on par with air warfare, antisubmarine warfare, and strike warfare.
Third, the article suggests IW doctrine glosses over the details of how information fits into naval warfighting but, miraculously, always suits the bureaucratic interests of OPNAV N2N6—calling into question the integrity of the whole library of IW doctrine since 2009—but offers no specific examples. As the lead reviser of NWP 2-0, “Naval Intelligence,” NWP 2-01, “Intelligence Support to Naval Operations,” and other tactical memoranda, I can assure Captain Stephenson that N2N6 had no interest in my efforts, nor did my efforts to ensure intelligence operations and intelligence support fit into naval warfighting have anything to do with anyone’s bureaucratic interests. Given the extensive review process each piece of doctrine undergoes across the fleet, and with the publications signed out by the commander of Navy Warfare Development Command, such a claim is breathtaking.
Fourth, and perhaps most alarming, is the misrepresentation of Navy composite warfare commander (CWC) doctrine. CWC doctrine doesn’t forbid anything: While it is authoritative guidance, it requires judgment in application; there’s no “fatal blow” here. Furthermore, a warfare commander is the officer delegated or assigned some or all the detailed responsibilities of the officer in tactical command (OTC) for a given mission area. The OTC is granted the tactical control authority to accomplish the assigned missions and tasks. There’s no asterisk or footnote next to the IWC to say that this doesn’t apply to him.
In fact, the IWC is clearly identified as one of the five warfare commanders. In addition, the OTC/CWC can delegate certain command functions to the IWC specifically regarding emissions control and tactical situation management. The overlaps that exist between all warfare commanders—none unique to the IWC—are otherwise known as “seams,” and commanders go to great lengths to ensure command and control is as clear as possible in them.
Finally, the domain discussion is a straw man—a limited understanding of the definitions to show there’s no “informational domain” but rather only air, cyberspace, land, maritime, and space. The root problem is not IW “taxonomical sloppiness” but rather an incomplete understanding of Navy doctrine and definitions.
—CAPT James L. Bock, USN
The Expeditionary Warfare Issue
(See April 2019)
The April 2019 Proceedings insightfully emphasized the need for greater expeditionary capability across all phases of war in the face of a shifting geopolitical landscape. However, the issue failed to recognize the forces of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). While Editor-in-Chief Bill Hamblet called for contributions from SEALs to broaden input from expeditionary forces, there was no call for submissions from explosive ordnance disposal, naval construction forces, coastal riverine, expeditionary logistics, or expeditionary intelligence sailors. More than 20,000 sailors fall under one of these diverse elements of NECC, and each plays as critical a role in our nation’s defense as their fellow sailors and Marines do.
This omission highlights a common lack of familiarity with the relatively small force. And it echoes a larger, fundamental chasm that exists between NECC and the Navy’s conventional forces, in part because the Navy has struggled to understand the value these forces bring to the fight and invest resources accordingly.
It is too easy to dismiss NECC as outdated or nonessential capabilities that do not contribute directly to high-visibility operations. Perhaps their all-too-common classification as enablers—not warfighters—or their proportionally small size within the Navy makes it easy to focus resources on other priorities. Perhaps, their routine direct support of the Marine Corps and Army leads to questions about which service should bear their cost.
Time and again, the Navy’s expeditionary forces have been called on to provide essential capabilities too numerous to describe here in sufficient detail—in World War II, Vietnam, and today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The forebears of the NECC demonstrated just how vital the Navy’s expeditionary capabilities are to national defense. Today, these same skill sets are fundamental to future naval warfare concepts such as littoral operations in a contested environment, particularly expeditionary advanced basing operations and expeditionary logistics.
As the Navy and Marine Corps consider of the implications of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, they must more fully account for expeditionary requirements that NECC forces are uniquely suited to fulfill. Without the necessary investment of time and resources to integrate them into the evolving Navy and Marine Corps doctrine, we will find ourselves facing fatal gaps when NECC forces are needed most.
I hope Proceedings will facilitate the exploration, discussion, and development of the Navy expeditionary combat capability by including articles from NECC in future issues.
— LCDR Mike Sapienza, CEC, USN
Editor’s Note: A search of our archives since NECC’s establishment in 2006 reveals very few articles that even mention the command. Proceedings is an open forum that depends on members to drive the discussion. We welcome submissions from NECC sailors to share with our readers.
The Proceedings Podcast
(Guest: B. A. Friedman, Episode 73, 3 April 2019)
I found it surprising that nobody on the podcast mentioned the expeditionary fast transport (EPF) as a candidate for the affordable, rapidly procurable intermediate-size amphibious mission vessel Major Friedman considers necessary. This would fill the capability gap between the very capacious and expensive (thus difficult to risk in the face of adversary long-range, precision-guided munitions) oceangoing LHA/Ds and LPDs/LSDs and the small, short-range ship-to-shore connectors.
A fleet of EPFs would grow the amphibious vessel inventory from the present (and inadequate) 32 to a desirable 50-plus figure and would create assets for small-scale (platoon-to-company size) operations. The EPF is less capable than an LPD but much less expensive (and less painful to risk), which would enable more numerous, distributed feints and assaults to unbalance adversary defenses.
The EPF, which started out as the joint (Navy and Army) high-speed vessel (from which the Army opted out) is fast, with plenty of space, including berthing for two platoons plus seating for a company, sufficient for short six-to-eight-hour transits. For longer voyages, accommodations could be provided for an entire company and supporting units. It doesn’t carry specialized connectors but can easily accommodate the rigid-hulled inflatable boats and rubber raiding craft mentioned on the podcast. As heavy armor units are unlikely to accompany such small landing forces, the aft section could be cut down to provide davits port and starboard or even an athwartship davit for medium-sized landing craft.
Another candidate worth considering is a mini LSD. The French built one named Bougainville in the late 1980s. It was 113 by 15 meters, with a 78 by 10 meter well deck, big enough for eight LCM(6)s or three LCM(8)s. Lengthening the hull and improving the engines would enable such a ship to keep up with an amphibious ready group. The unarmed Bougainville probably cost about $200 million three decades ago; the faster, slightly larger ship proposed, armed with two SeaRAM launchers, should be procurable for under $500 million.
Marine Corps in Review
(See J. Hammond, pp. 80–87, May 2019)
On 8 March 2019, the Marine Corps placed the final nail in the coffin of the Marine tactical electronic warfare (VMAQ) community. The decommissioning ceremony of VMAQ-2 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point was the culmination of the systematic disbanding of the four VMAQ squadrons and the sundowning of 24 EA-6B aircraft.
What the Marine Corps addressed as a celebration of 45 years of the VMAQ community was, in reality, the inexcusable abandonment of the fifth function of Marine Corps aviation—electronic warfare (EW)—resulting in the loss of the entire Marine Corps airborne EW know-ledge base and expertise.
It is inconceivable that the Marine Corps has no organic replacement. Yes, the capability rested on an older airframe, but wing-fatigue life issues were resolved several years ago with wing and other upgrades that extended the life expectancy of the Prowler into the middle of the next decade. As for the weapon system, the aircraft was state-of-art technology, with capabilities equal to or exceeding those of the EA-18G Growler.
With the shutdown of training squadron VMAQT-1 in summer 2016, the Marine Corps ended not only Prowler training, but also the sole source of EW training for aviation staff officers. The ten-month EW training syllabus was extensive and designed to prepare these same individuals to be EW experts in staff planning and mission execution in support of Marine Corps and joint operations.
The F-35B that is touted as a Prowler replacement offers EA self-protect jamming and electronic support (ES) that could exceed Prowler receiver capabilities. But its operational capability to support other aircraft is limited, and employing its self-protection also makes it electronically visible, defeating its low-observable purpose.
The sundown of the EA-6B and the VMAQ community is an overwhelming tactical and strategic mistake that will take the Department of Defense years to overcome, while Marine Corps tactical airborne EW may never recover.
— LtCol Rick B. Johnson, USMC (Ret.)
The Navy Needs Better Weapons
(See K. Whalen, pp. 34–38, May 2019)
Rear Admiral Whalen’s analysis is very one-sided, presuming that winning naval engagements is all about speed, range, and warhead size, while lamenting that existing naval ships have insufficient magazine volume. Just limiting the discussion to the author’s “big three,” if range, speed, and warhead size are all increased, the only way to do that today, absent some sort of technological secret sauce, is to make missiles much bigger and more expensive, both of which would further limit magazine depth.
A holistic approach to weapons would go beyond speed, range, and warhead size to consider defensive countermeasures, sensors, stealthiness, networking, and effects.
If your layered missile defenses are effective, that negates any enemy range advantage. Such layered defenses already exist on Aegis ships, and these defenses are on course to get even better as lasers, railguns, and the like get closer to deployment.
Even if you have a shorter-legged weapon, if you sense first you can still shoot first. Existing and deployed sensors (not only on surface ships but on aircraft such as F-35s) provide a long-range sensing capability as well as long-range shooting capability. High-endurance unmanned aerial systems will only improve the ability of ships and other aircraft to respond first to threats.
If you can penetrate close to the enemy unsensed, then you have an automatic advantage, whether you are the shooter (say, an F-35) or the weapon itself. In any choice between stealthiness and speed, I’ll take stealthiness every time. All supersonic and even hypersonic missiles can be sensed and shot down or jammed. Stealthy missiles can’t.
Networking intersects with the items above. It allows every naval platform to function as a node as either sensor, shooter, or both. If your individual node—a warship, for example—doesn’t have to rely solely on its own sensors and weapons but instead is in effective contact with other nodes better positioned to perform, the combat advantage seems obvious.
Having the biggest boom has not always been the determining factor in naval warfare. High-precision weapons with customizable effects settings can end up being much more effective than weapons with far larger warheads. A 1,000-pound warhead whose missile only manages to detonate on the bow of a ship will have a far less effective result than a small warhead that very precisely goes to the magazine or power plant.
The precision of the missile targeting mechanism (the latest ones have sub-1-meter precision); the sophistication of unjammable passive sensors, such as imaging IR sensors; void-sensing and tandem warheads that allow a missile to penetrate one or even several compartments before detonating in the most vulnerable space; artificial intelligence that enables a missile to autonomously determine the most valuable target in a multiship formation—all of these factors result in effects that can be overwhelming.
Lethality is about far more than just range, speed, and warhead size.
—Duane J. Truitt
The Less Prideful Navy
“A kinder, gentler Navy” is a term every sailor serving today has heard. But the term fills old, crusty salts like me with questions—What the hell are we doing, and why are we allowing this to happen?
The military as a whole serves two basic principles, both of which directly serve one another. The first is to be a deterrent. We project our dominance over the seas and demonstrate the ability to provide sustained firepower and support anywhere in the world. The second is to fight when deterrence fails, to put “warheads on foreheads.” We train for this every day. We do so while hoping we never will have to, but our main goal remains to be ready to destroy our enemies.
Recent changes to naval policies and standards (or a lack of adherence to them) have this retired chief scratching his head in bewilderment. I am left questioning the reasoning behind some of the decisions leaders have made over the past few decades. Why we have strayed from the mind-set that we are a fighting force and into one that we are a safe space? Some of those changes have had catastrophic results, such as the collisions in Seventh Fleet. Others have less impact on life and limb, but maybe not on morale—the most recent coming just this past March, with gold service stripes for everyone.
It’s almost like watching The Oprah Winfrey show: You get gold! And you get gold! Gold stripes for everyone!
What a shame. Yes, the argument could be made that those who have received a nonjudicial punishment wear their mistake on their sleeves long past any imposed punishment. But the same argument can be made that hard work and determination to do right no longer will be acknowledged or commended. The incentive to earn gold stripes through prideful work and advancement has officially been removed, not to mention the sense of personal accomplishment that comes with donning gold on the sleeve of the dress uniform for sustained superior performance and adherence to all naval policies and procedures.
The sense of pride and personal accomplishment has been under attack for years. Evaluations have grown softer, with bullet points molded for promotion boards but lacking real, honest feedback on long-term performance. Evals should be brutally honest and worded to say whether a sailor is an asset to the Navy and deserves advancement or is just a skin sack in a uniform and a burden to the chain of command. Sometimes, that brutal honesty is a motivator—it was for me!
And let’s not forget the ill-conceived and thankfully short-lived attempt to remove ratings.
I’m not calling for the return of “fan room” or “line-locker” counseling, although many old salts may argue they served a definite purpose. No, instead, our leaders need to remember that when they travel from ship to ship and command to command, speaking with the sailors using terms such as “tradition” and “change,” those very changes are directly affecting tradition.
Policy changes that make the military more appealing or inclusive don’t always have the desired effect. Tough sailors with thick skins will deploy ready to fight and win. We can’t let our guard down and we can’t soften how we do business.
—CTIC Steve N. Sorkin, USN (Ret.)
Cyber Must Include Operational Support
(See S. Lassiter, pp. 14–15, February 2019)
I was disappointed to read that little has changed in computer operation and support since I retired in 2001. We are missing the big picture. Enemies reading from or encrypting false information into our systems are less of a danger than failure to support what we currently use.
The first danger is exhausting our people, and the traditional “Suck it up!”—especially with surface warfare—is not an effective answer.
The second danger is losing valuable people. In the 1990s, I was very impressed by the digital performance of our missile cruisers. But young sailors, who could buy a baseline computer at the Navy Exchange that was orders of magnitude more powerful than ships’ computers—not so much.
The Navy is engaged in a penny-wise/pound-foolish effort to keep ancient software and computers functioning. Lieutenant Lassiter is correct to say it is not worth what we lose in productivity and people.
—CDR Ed Griffith, USNR (Ret.)