American Seapower Project And The Need For Strategy Courses At USNA
I am teaching a class on post–World War II Navy strategy in the U.S. Naval Academy’s Political Science Department. Samuel Huntington, Peter Swartz, and many others play a role in this novel course. Naval strategy is not just documents; it is also operational patterns. Inspired by the American Sea Power Project, I asked my 17 midshipmen what their contribution to or role in naval strategy is, now and in the future. Here is what they came up with:
Midshipman Kevin Tanaka: “Junior officers are critical in the development, interpretation, assessment, and execution of strategy.”
Midshipman Gabriela Layne: “Strategy should be understood to be part of ‘ex scientia tridens’—through knowledge, sea power.”
“At the lower levels of leadership both understanding and implementing strategy, as well as thinking of ways to prove strategy is incredibly important,” writes Midshipman Aidan Longley.
“It is significant to have a global perspective as a U.S. Navy officer because ‘the best ships are partnerships,’” Midshipman Nate Forrest writes. “As the future leaders of our Navy, the responsibility for empowering our people begins with us.”
Midshipman Jackson Caudell even came up with four strategic lessons for fighting efficiently, including: “Keep training on amphibious operations, utilize [Marine Corps] and troop ships like LSD and LHD, maintain development of Columbia-class SSBNs, and pivot carrier strike group movements from Middle East to Arctic and Pacific.
Midshipman Spenser Ianniello notes: “Few senior officers or civilians demonstrate within their strategic proposals an understanding of ‘why’ we fight. There is always a fixation on ‘how.’”
Midshipman Sean Martineau adds: “Just as each artist has their own shades and strokes when painting, so each strategist pulls from similar yet completely separate mind-sets to accomplish the political objectives of their nation. However, as each artist must have practice and failure be the guiding teachers to success, so must my fellow midshipmen. Our sole advantage over these poetic painters is that we have the mistakes and successes of the grand strategists before us to guide our decisions.”
In short, while we must think, read, write and converse in the largest terms about American sea power, there is also a definite appetite to teach the next generation.
The Naval Academy and the Chief of Naval Operations would be well advised in giving strategic studies more of a centerpiece in educating the future leaders of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. They say that every Marine is a rifleman: then, every naval officer is a strategist, whether they like it or not.
—Dr. Sebastian Bruns
Admiral Foggo’s commentary placed a large measure of responsibility for the overextended Navy on “politicians.” However, a large share of the blame rests on the Navy itself and on the unified command structure. There are several reasons for the overextended Navy. Many are not amenable to control by the Navy. However, some are. Among the most prominent is the Navy’s “can-do” attitude, which pushes the service to undertake every commitment and proposed mission, even when it does not actually have the assets to do so, while also conducting necessary maintenance, training, and upkeep. “Can-do” is the proper attitude in many situations, but it comes with long-term costs to the service.
Another factor is, as Secretary Work points out, the Navy’s own devotion to the naval presence mission. In the decades after the Cold War, the Navy turned to naval presence as a rationale for a Navy of a certain size. As a result, naval presence embedded itself in the mentality of the officer corps and became “what we do” to maintain the liberal post–World War II international trading system, promote democracy and free enterprise, and ensure freedom of navigation. Some presence missions have specific aims; others do not and are simply doing “what we do.”
At some point, the Navy will have to learn how to refuse commitments that exceed its true capability. And the Defense Department will have to create a mechanism to balance the constraints imposed by the size of U.S. forces with the demands of combatant commanders, who have no incentive to police themselves.
—CAPT John J. Hyland, USN (Ret.)