From a resource point of view, the U.S. Navy has not been doing well lately. Its program to expand the fleet to 355 ships, and the shipbuilding budget to support it, has suffered a series of setbacks—whether being raided for money to build a border wall, to fund the replacement ballistic-missile submarine program, or to bolster current readiness. Congress, despite its desire for a bigger fleet, has not increased the Navy’s top line sufficiently to accelerate ship construction, and, perhaps worse, the Navy has been unable to produce a force structure assessment (FSA) that passes muster with the Secretary of Defense.1
1. Ben Werner, “SECDEF Esper Blames Failures of Optimized Fleet Response Plan for Delay in 355 Ship Fleet Outlook,” USNI News, 26 February 2020, and Mark Cancian and Adam Saxton, “The Spectacular & Public Collapse of Navy Force Planning,” Breaking Defense, 28 January 2020.
2. Samuel P. Huntington, “National Policy and the Transoceanic Navy,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 80, no. 5 (May 1954): 483–93.
3. 10 U.S. Code, section 8062, U.S. Navy Functions, Composition, para (b), which states: “The naval combat forces of the Navy shall include not less than 11 operational aircraft carriers.”
4. CAPT Robert C. Rubel, USN (Ret.), “Use Carriers Differently in a High End Fight,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 144, no. 9 (September 2018): 34–39, and “The Future of Aircraft Carriers,” Naval War College Review (Autumn 2011): 13–27.
5. The most recent Chief of Naval Operations public guidance, FRAGO 1/2019 A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, makes reference to the concept. For a basic definition of distributed maritime operations, see Navy News Service, “CNO Visits Navy Warfare Development Command,” NNS170413-14, 13 April 2017.
6. CAPT Wayne P. Hughes Jr. and RADM Robert P. Girrier, USN (Ret.), Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations, 3rd ed. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2018), 284, but see also chapter 13, “Modern Tactics and Operations.”
7. See CAPT Robert C. Rubel, USN (Ret.), “Cede No Water: Strategy, Littorals and Flotillas,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 139, no. 9 (September 2013): 40–45, and “Think Outside the Hull,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 143, no. 6 (June 2017): 42–47. The impact of the Zumwalt class is unknown, but there are only three, and absent the railgun and laser-based defenses, it likely would be only marginally more useful than current classes.
8. CAPT R. Robinson Harris, USN (Ret.), et al., “Converting Merchant Ships to Missile Ships for the Win,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 145, no. 1 (January 2019).
9. The Halsey Group is an advanced research elective for about 25 Naval War College students who conduct iterative wargaming at a highly classified level. The group includes officers from all services.
10. Theresa Hitchens, “New Warfighting Plan Will Define ‘Top Priority’ JADC2: Hyten,” Breaking Defense, 29 January 2020.
11. David B. Larter, “Congress Slows the Navy’s Roll Toward a Robot-Ship Future,” Defense News, 10 December 2019, and Joseph Trevithick, “Congress Pushes Back on Stunning Navy Plan to Cut Back on Cruisers, Destroyers, Subs and More,” The War Zone, 26 December 2019.
12. CAPT Robert C. Rubel, USN (Ret.), “The Future of Aircraft Carriers: Consider the Air Wing, Not the Platform,” Center for Maritime and International Security, 3 December 2019.
13. Cancian and Saxton, “The Spectacular & Public Collapse of Navy Force Planning.”
14. For a critique of the Fleet Battle Experiment program, see Shelly Gallup, Gordon Schacter, and Jack Jensen, Fleet Battle Experiment Juliet Final Reconstruction and Analysis Report (Monterey, CA: Naval Postgraduate School, April 2003), 61-67.