The New U.S. Maritime Strategy: A Navy Perspective

April 21, 2015 Topic: Security Region: Americas Tags: US Navy

The New U.S. Maritime Strategy: A Navy Perspective

"The 2015 Maritime Strategy is where vision and action come together."

The deployment of U.S. Naval Forces forward in sensitive areas of the globe, positioned for warfighting ensures the United States can engage the enemy promptly at the initiation of hostilities and to stop the advance of the enemy as soon as possible. U.S. Naval Forces have the organic ability to respond to contingencies or crisis situations worldwide with the discrete type and magnitude of forces necessary to achieve a given objective. Ready on arrival, Naval Forces can commence combat operations immediately upon reaching a crisis location. They are often the first on the scene and the last to leave.

Operating forward provides the president with immediate options to defend our interests, de-escalate hostilities, respond to crises, and keep conflict far from our shores. Additionally, our forward naval forces reassure our allies, build trust with partners, and protect the strength of the U.S. economy by deploying with the credible combat-power to ensure the unimpeded flow of maritime commerce.

The value of naval forward presence to the nation was recently re-demonstrated by the USS George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) ability to conduct air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq last fall. Within 30 hours of presidential tasking, this CSG commenced 54 days of strikes as the only viable U.S. strike and power projection option. In August 2013, the five U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyers off the Syrian coast provided presence and military resolve to the diplomatic efforts to successfully remove Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles. Within two days of AirAsia flight QZ8501's disappearance in December 2014, the USS Sampson (DDG 102) and its helicopters were on-station in the Java Sea coordinating surface and aerial searches with Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency.

  • Continue to Strengthen Alliances and Promote Partnership

Throughout history, however, we have learned that it is almost always in the best interest of nations to act together when responding to crises, whether it involves deterrence or combat or providing humanitarian support. Accordingly, the U.S. Navy has rarely operated alone in a crisis. One of our advantages, as a nation and as a Navy, has been our extensive network of alliances, partnerships, and coalitions. By leveraging the robust capacity of navies worldwide, we are better postured collectively to face new and emerging challenges in the 21st century. There is no magic number of ships required to make coalition operations successful. What does matter is getting the right mix of capacity and capability in the right place, at the right time.

The value of a Network of Navies is that it provides an open and adaptive architecture for facilitating both long-term cooperation and spontaneous, short-lived collaboration. This network can allow countries with converging interests in the maritime domain to form mission-focused—often temporary—goal-oriented associations to address common maritime-security challenges. Whereas close partnerships can take years to develop, a network can rapidly support multiple “coalitions of the willing” and react quickly to changing circumstances, while simultaneously providing an enduring backbone for the growth and development of deeper cooperation.

In the current economic environment, most navies are facing fiscal challenges at home, which is forcing cuts or slowing growth in developing seapower to meet their respective needs. At the same time, security challenges in the maritime domain continue to grow. Accordingly, we will look for new ways to nurture relationships and form partnerships (ad hoc as appropriate) with traditional and nontraditional maritime partners who share a stake in international commerce, safety, security, and freedom of the seas. Operating together, we will prepare innovative and low-cost ways to respond to these emerging threats to regional and global stability. We will conduct more combined, multinational exercises with foreign navies to build capacity and interoperability. We will integrate our most capable allies and partners into cooperative deployments and real-world operations. By practicing how we fight in peacetime with our allies and partners, we are better prepared to win should conflict arise.

One way we strengthen relationships with our allies is to conduct integrated operations at sea. Recently the USS Harry S. Truman CSG conducted five weeks of combined carrier operations with the FS Charles De Gaulle (R 91) and French Navy Task Force 473. We practiced combined flight operations—landing our aircraft on the French carrier and vice versa—combat search and rescue operations, and personnel exchanges in the Fifth Fleet area of operations. Last April, we joined over 20 Pacific navies—including the Chinese—in signing the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES). This code calls on mariners to forgo provocative actions on the high seas and in international airspace, and to contact one another to clear up such misunderstandings as they do arise.

  • Assure Global Access

The Navy’s increased attention on assuring global access is in consonance with the 2015 National Security Strategy, which states: “Collective action is needed to assure access to the shared spaces—cyber, space, air, and oceans—where the dangerous behaviors of some threaten us all.”

The Navy and Marine Corps must focus on assuring global access in order to thwart any effort to lock the United States out of important world regions and to enable us to fight and win should war be inescapable. To ensure this goal is achieved, the Defense Strategic Guidance unequivocally states, “the U.S. military will invest as required to ensure its ability to operate effectively in anti-access and area denial environments.”

Our strategy establishes a new essential function—all domain access—to ensure we organize, train, and equip our forces to overcome these threats and assure access and freedom of action in any domain (sea, air, land, space, cyberspace, and the EM spectrum). All domain access allows joint force maritime component commanders (JFMCC) to generate a range of options in all domains to defeat anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) measures through synchronizing and integrating the capabilities that provide battlespace awareness, assured C2, integrated fires, and electromagnetic maneuver warfare. The latter is a relatively new concept, which blends fleet operations in space, cyberspace, and the electro-magnetic spectrum with advanced non-kinetic capabilities to create warfighting advantages. Clearly, the United States and our allies and maritime partners must have the capability to carry out the full range of military operations in order to use the seas without threat or hindrance.

  • Rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific

The 2015 National Security Strategy states: “The United States has been and will remain a Pacific power… American leadership will remain essential to shaping the region’s long-term trajectory to enhance stability and security, facilitate trade and commerce through an open and transparent system, and ensure respect for universal rights and freedoms.” The Department of Defense prominently emphasized India’s role in the Asia-Pacific rebalancing in DoD’s 2012 Strategic Guidance, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” which states that the United States’ “economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia to the Indian Ocean region and South Asia...The United States is also investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to be a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean.” This guidance makes it explicit that the United States views India as the southwestern cornerstone of its strategic rebalancing towards Asia.

The Indian Ocean region is of immense strategic significance not just on account of its centrality to the current trade and energy flows, but also because of the extreme disparities and inherent volatility of the region. The region faces an array of security challenges, both traditional and non-traditional. Indeed, U.S. and Indian strategic maritime interests in the Indian Ocean region have converged to include the security of these critical energy and trade routes, transit denial for terrorists, and effective responses to natural disasters, leading to increased naval and maritime cooperation. In response to these realities, the strategy has been expanded from an Asia-Pacific security framework to an Indo-Asia-Pacific security framework.

Without question, China is building a modern and regionally powerful Navy with a modest but growing capability for conducting operations beyond China’s near-seas region. This creates both opportunities and challenges for the Navy. The issue at stake is the fundamental question of whether China will use its growing economic and military power to assert its interests without respect to international norms. The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) notes that, “the rapid pace and comprehensive scope of China’s military modernization continues, combined with a relative lack of transparency and openness from China’s leaders regarding both military capabilities and intentions.”

Despite mounting U.S. concern, our nation seeks a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China that welcomes China’s ability to take on a responsible leadership role. The Navy’s overall military concept is a balance of deterrence and encouragement, inviting the Chinese Navy to play a responsible and constructive role in promoting security and peaceful development.

Because of the China’s past behaviors in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea, and the lack of transparency in China’s naval modernization, the U.S. Navy will continue to monitor closely China’s naval developments and the implications those developments have on the military balance. Through  its continued forward presence and constructive interaction with Chinese maritime forces, the U.S. Navy will reduce the potential for misunderstanding, discourage aggression, and preserve the U.S. commitment to peace and stability in the region.