Bush: "The Might of Our Navy Is Needed Again"
Readiness Improvements Prove Critical In War on Terrorism,
But Future Navy Is at Risk |
Gordon I. Peterson
CAPT. GORDON I. PETERSON, USN (Ret.), the senior editor of Sea Power magazine since 1998, served as a naval aviator in Vietnam and, later, as a Navy public affairs officer.
President George W. Bush praised the veterans of two wars separated by 60 years during a visit to the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise on 7 December 2001. Several thousand Sailors, Marines, and their families gathered under cloudy skies on the carrier's flight deck and the ship's pier at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., to hear their commander in chief honor 25 survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and praise the crew of the "Big E" for their role in fighting the war on terrorism during Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Today is an anniversary of a tragedy for the United States Navy," Bush said. "Yet, out of that tragedy, America built the strongest Navy in the world, and there is no better symbol of that strength than the USS Enterprise."
Nearly three months before the president's visit, many of the crew on Enterprise were watching television at sea on 11 September and observed the hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 airliner strike the south tower of the World Trade Center. The carrier, nearing the end of her six-month deployment, was heading to a port visit at the time.
Without waiting for an order from the National Command Authority, Capt. James A. "Sandy" Winnefeld, the Enterprise's commanding officer, gave the order to put the ship's rudder over to return to the Arabian Gulf. The carrier's aircraft were within range of Afghanistan by the next morning.
Real Readiness On-Call
Reflecting on Winnefeld's initiative, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Vern Clark told The Almanac of SEA POWER, "That is being on-scene, on-call, and on-demand. That is real readiness."
Bush also praised the men and women of the Enterprise Carrier Battle Group for their readiness and skilled performance in fighting the nation's first war of the 21st century. "The Enterprise has been part of this campaign," Bush told his audience, "And when we need you again, I know you'll be ready."
Comparing the importance of the Navy's contribution to victory during World War II with the nation's protracted war on terrorism today, Bush said, "The might of our Navy is needed again."
The USS Carl Vinson, USS Enterprise, USS Theodore Roosevelt, and USS Kitty Hawk (employed as a staging platform for U.S. special operations forces)--fully one third of the Navy's force of aircraft carriers--were on station in the Arabian Gulf in mid-autumn to provide more than half a million tons of Navy muscle for the war on terrorism. The armadas of aircraft carriers, surface combatants, nuclear-powered attack submarines, and logistics ships were joined by the Sailors and more than 4,000 Marines of the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu Amphibious Ready Groups.
In mid-December, the San Diego-based USS John C. Stennis Battle Group arrived on station to relieve the Carl Vinson. The USS John F. Kennedy Battle Group had been ordered to advance its planned departure from the East Coast from March to January to relieve the Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group, and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked on ships of the USS Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, was scheduled to arrive in the theater of operations at year's end--with additional Marines from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif., also poised for deployment.
One year ago, Clark told The Almanac of SEA POWER that the Navy's ability "to deliver U.S. sovereignty" to any region of the world "is how you affect and influence events and environments." As combat operations demonstrated forcefully during the last three months of 2001, the Navy's people, ships, submarines, and aircraft were ready to deliver credible combat power from the sea over vast distances and with great precision during the largest concentration of naval power since the Gulf War.
The critical challenge facing the U.S. Navy during 2002 and beyond is whether it will be allocated sufficient resources to ensure its long-term readiness. Will the Bush administration and Congress redress the past decade's steep cutbacks in shipbuilding and naval aircraft procurement so that the Navy of the future will be ready to respond to the commander in chief's call when the nation's security and freedom are again threatened?
"You've Got to Evacuate"
The morning of 11 September dawned with predictable regularity along the Navy's Pentagon corridors. Vice Adm. Timothy J. Keating, deputy chief of naval operations for plans, policy, and operations, joined many of his fellow flag officers on the Navy staff in the newly renovated Navy command center at 7:00 a.m. for the daily CNO operations briefing.
One of Keating's responsibilities was to oversee day-to-day operations in the command center--a key communications hub in the Navy's monitoring of its forward-deployed forces and operations.
"We were looking at other parts of the world," Keating told The Almanac of SEA POWER. "The last thing on our minds was that the command center would be ground zero."
Keating left the center shortly after 8:00 a.m. to return to his fourth-floor Pentagon office. At 9:00 a.m., he began a meeting with David G. Newton, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen. Their conversation soon turned to the first anniversary of the terrorist attack on the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole on 12 October 2000 during a port visit to Aden, Yemen. The attack, masterminded by Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, killed 17 U.S. Sailors; 39 others were injured.
At 9:43 a.m., 55 minutes after the first hijacked American Airlines passenger aircraft struck the north tower of the World Trade Center, American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 en route from Dulles Airport, Va., to Los Angeles, Calif., crashed into the Pentagon. "We were discussing the fact that the Cole attack was coming up on a year's anniversary--those were almost our exact words at the moment the plane impacted," Keating said.
Two floors below, the new Navy command center was totally demolished by the force of the plane's crash and its burning fuel. Of the 43 Navy fatalities in the attack on the Pentagon, 25 of them were Keating's watchstanders, on duty in the center.
Clark, seated at a small conference table in his fourth-floor "E-Ring" Pentagon office overlooking Arlington National Cemetery, was receiving a budget briefing when the building shook. "The things that stick in my mind," he said, "were the concussion, the sound of the impact on the building, and not knowing exactly where it was--but knowing it was close." A member of Clark's staff entered the CNO's office and said, "You've got to evacuate."
"Defend the United States of America"
Behavior honed by years of training kicked in. Dense black smoke had already filled the Pentagon's hallways, but Clark immediately proceeded to the National Military Command Center (NMCC), located near the building's "river entrance" along the Potomac. After meeting there with senior Department of Defense (DOD) leaders, Clark decided to reconstitute the Navy's command center in another secure location in Washington, D.C. Because of the possibility of additional terrorist attacks, it was agreed that Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William J. Fallon would shift to an alternate location.
"There has never been an experience like this in my lifetime," Clark said. "We were thinking about the immedi-ate protection of the United States of America."
Keating vividly recalls the jarring impression that a message from the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., had on the reconstituted Navy staff in Washington, D.C. Buried in its text was a simple but historic statement: "The following course is required to defend the United States of America."
Navy ships and aircraft squadrons stationed or already at sea along the nation's East, West, and Gulf Coasts were rapidly pressed into action for a new and unexpected mission--homeland defense.
"We had carriers at sea," Clark explained. "I talked to Admiral Natter [Adm. Robert J. Natter, commander in chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet] and Admiral Fargo [Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet] about immediate loadouts [of weapons and armed aircraft] and the positioning of our air-defense cruisers. Fundamentally, those pieces were in place almost immediately and integrated into the interagency process and with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration]."
At his Norfolk, Va., headquarters, Natter also received a call from the deputy mayor of New York City confirming that terrorist attacks had caused havoc in the nation's largest city and asking for Navy support.
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington, operating off the Virginia Capes, was dispatched to New York following the recovery of armed F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Hornets from Naval Air Station Oceana, Va. The carrier USS John F. Kennedy, departing Mayport, Fla., was ordered to patrol the waters off Hampton Roads, Va., to protect the Navy's vast shore complex in Norfolk.
Natter also ordered two amphibious ships--the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan and the amphibious transport dock ship USS Shreveport--to proceed to Morehead City, N.C., to embark Marines from Camp Lejeune in the event additional medical personnel and disaster-assistance support were needed in New York City.
Within three hours, an undisclosed number of Aegis guided-missile cruisers and destroyers also were underway, their magazines loaded with Standard 2 surface-to-air missiles. Positioned off New York and Norfolk, and along the Gulf Coast, they provided robust early-warning and air-defense capabilities to help ensure against follow-on terrorist attacks.
Thousands of miles west, the U.S. Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis and USS Constellation were incorporated into the North American Aerospace Defense Command's monitoring of airspace on the U.S. West Coast and off Hawaii. Pacific Fleet Aegis guided-missile cruisers and destroyers also were staged along the West Coast, and in the waters off both Hawaii and Guam, as precautionary measures.
Navy fighter aircraft and E-2C Hawkeye early warning aircraft immediately were pressed into service to monitor U.S. airspace, along with U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard combat aircraft.
Fearing the worst as the full dimensions of the destruction of the World Trade Center became apparent, the fast sealift ship USNS Denebola and the hospital ship USNS Comfort were ordered to sortie from Baltimore on 12 September for New York City, where they supported police, firemen, and rescue workers by providing food services, berthing, and meeting spaces for city officials during initial disaster-relief operations. Because New York City's hospitals were sufficient to treat the injured survivors of the two attacks, the Comfort's medical facilities and staff were not needed for that purpose.
"I think we were responsive to something that came out of the clear blue, and I think naval forces reacted to it the way the taxpayers would have wanted," Natter told The Almanac of SEA POWER. "Readiness is the name of the game, and the ability of our people to respond is the second part of it."
The immediate assumption of a new role in homeland defense came naturally to a service that prides itself on operational flexibility. The Navy and Marine Corps demonstrated similar qualities when the war on terrorism moved on 7 October from the preparation phase to combat operations against Afghanistan's Taliban leadership and the al Qaeda terrorist network.
Clark was sitting alongside Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James L. Jones and the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 20 September when the president addressed both houses of Congress and the nation to discuss how the war on terrorism would be prosecuted. "I'll never forget it as long as I live," Clark said. "The president looked down to us sitting in the front row and said, 'I have a message for our military--be ready.'"
The imperative for the strategic agility and operational versatility so forcefully reflected in the Navy-Marine Corps team's participation in Operation Enduring Freedom is summarized succinctly in the Navy Strategic Planning Guidance published in 2000. It states: "Projecting U.S. power and influence from the sea is the heart of the Navy and Marine Corps' contribution to national security."
A number of correspondents and defense analysts wrote in late September that the sea services' contribution to combat operations directed against terrorist targets in landlocked Afghanistan would likely be minimal. Several hundred miles separate that mountainous country from the waters of the Arabian Gulf, where the nearest U.S. carriers were on station.
The commanding officers of Navy and Marine Corps aviation squadrons, making the same calculations in their ready rooms on the forward-deployed carriers, saw similar challenges. But, as Cdr. Mark Hunter, commanding officer of the "Marauders" of Strike Fighter Squadron 82 (VFA-82) on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, noted, the Navy-Marine Corps team offers an important advantage to U.S. joint commanders. "We bring our runway with us," he said.
Host-nation sensitivities, particularly in the Islamic nations of Southwest Asia and the Persian Gulf region, handicapped the U.S. Air Force's ability to stage tactical air strikes from land bases relatively close to Afghanistan.
Following an initial salvo of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched on 7 October from U.S. Navy surface combatants, and from both U.S. and Royal Navy attack submarines, Navy and Marine attack and support aircraft teamed with long-range U.S. Air Force B-2 bombers (flying from the United States) and B-1 and vintage B-52 bombers (staged from the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean) to mount an around-the-clock air campaign directed by U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command.
Vice Adm. Charles W. Moore Jr., commander U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and commander U.S. 5th Fleet, directed U.S. Navy and Marine Corps combat operations from his headquarters in Bahrain.
Navy and Marine Corps aircraft were refueled in flight several times during their six- to 10-hour missions by a fleet of U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force aerial tankers. Round-trip distances averaged 1,000 to 2,000 miles per mission. "Many of our aircrew were--and still are--flying sorties that are, comparatively, the distance from Washington, D.C., to El Paso, Texas, just to drop their ordnance and fly home, Moore told The Almanac of SEA POWER.
Supported to an unprecedented de-gree by long-range, extremely accur-ate, and highly lethal precision-guided munitions (PGMs), unmanned aerial vehicles and combat aerial vehicles (UAVs/UCAVs), and hundreds of U.S. and British special operations forces (SOF) on the ground, the air campaign had by mid-November almost totally isolated the Taliban and al Qaeda military units. Their destruction by battlefield air interdiction missions and Northern Alliance and SOF ground operations followed.
The deadly firepower of AC-130 gunships assigned to the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command also assisted ground forces in the final defeat of the Taliban and al Qaeda by mid-December--from Mazar-e Sharif, to Kabul and Kandahar, and to the caves and mountain hideouts of Tora Bora.
The first contingent of 1,500 Royal Marine and British Army peacekeepers arrived in Kabul on 22 December. With some delegates escorted to the ceremony by 80 Royal Marines, Hamid Karzai was sworn in to lead the new interim Afghan government. Franks observed the proceedings. Tears streamed down the cheeks of grizzled Afghan tribesmen, veterans of decades of brutal warfare, as their country's national anthem was played in public for the first time since the Taliban took control five years ago.
A New and Unusual War
The utility and tremendous versatility of U.S. naval power was manifested in many ways during the opening round of the new and unusual war on terrorism.
In addition to strike missions in Afghanistan, carrier- and land-based naval aircraft flew critical electronic warfare, early warning, and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) missions. Long-range Navy P-3C maritime patrol aircraft also conducted strikes with SLAM-ERs (Standoff Land-Attack Missiles--Extended Range). Aegis guided-missile cruisers and destroyers, linked with Navy E-2C Hawkeye and U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry early warning aircraft, maintained positive control of all airspace in the tactical operational area.
Logistics ships of the Military Sealift Command steadily plied the waters of the Indian Ocean, Arabian Gulf, and Persian Gulf to deliver the supplies, spare parts, weapons, and fuel needed to enable the carrier battle groups and amphibious ready groups to remain on station to conduct "24/7" combat operations for months on end without returning to port.
In October, Marine Corps CH-53E TRAP (Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel) helicopters staged from the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu retrieved a damaged U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter and its crew from the Afghan border with Pakistan.
In late November, the 15th and 26th Marine Expeditionary Units (Special Operations Capable), deploying from the USS Peleliu and USS Bataan ARGs in the Arabian Gulf, were airlifted into southwest Afghanistan to establish a forward base of operations from which to pressure Taliban forces and to apprehend both Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists seeking to flee the country. Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) teams of special operations forces paved the way for the Marines at Kandahar by conducting covert reconnaissance missions days in advance.
"Seabees" from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, homeported in Gulfport, Miss., were soon at work helping Marines at "Camp Rhino" improve their austere desert com- pound near Kandahar and repairing the combat-damaged airport in that southwestern Afghan city so that humanitarian-relief and military flights could land.
Wounded U.S. and Northern Alliance troops were treated by Navy doctors and corpsmen at Camp Rhino and aboard amphibious assault ships in the Arabian Gulf. On 12 December, the crew of the guided-missile destroyer USS Russell, teaming with a Navy P-3C and Air Force KC-10 tanker aircraft, rescued the four-man crew of a B-1 bomber from the waters of the Indian Ocean when they had to eject from their damaged aircraft.
Also at sea, maritime-interdiction crews and SEAL teams boarded merchant ships in the region to search for Taliban or al Qaeda officials seeking to avoid capture in Afghanistan.
Approximately 13 percent of the Naval Reserve Force--more than 9,000 naval reservists--were recalled to active duty by year's end during the partial mobilization authorized by the president. Most reservists fill critical requirements in such specialties as law enforcement, security, medical, supply, intelligence, and construction. According to Vice Adm. John B. Totushek, chief of naval reserve, others will be mobilized during the months ahead.
The search for Taliban officials and al Qaeda terrorists still in Afghanistan and Pakistan is expected to continue for at least several more months. Meanwhile, the British-led international peacekeeping force faces a challenging task in helping the new Afghan government restore order in that ravaged country.
But, for a conflict rich in symbolism since the tragic events of 11 September, a brief ceremony on 17 December sent a powerful message to international terrorists--and to any nations still harboring them. At the American Embassy in Kabul, Marines raised the same U.S. flag that last flew over the compound when it was abandoned in 1989.
"With the reopening of the United States mission in Kabul today," said James F. Dobbins, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, "America has resumed its diplomatic, economic, and political engagement with this country."
The speed and success of military operations in Afghanistan were a clear demonstration of the strategic grasp and tactical adroitness of the joint military forces of the United States and its coalition partners--but President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, and senior U.S. military officials all have cautioned that the global war on terrorism is far from over.
"Next year will be a war year as well, because we're going to continue to hunt down these al Qaeda people in this particular theater, as well as other places," Bush told reporters at his Texas ranch on 26 December. "Our war against terror extends way beyond Afghanistan."
"Doing It Right"
Chief of Naval Operations Clark offered The Almanac of SEA POWER a blunt preliminary assessment of the past three months of combat operations. "Operation Enduring Freedom has indicated first and foremost that the Navy and the Marine Corps team is doing it right," Clark said.
Clark maintains that Navy and Marine operations launched from the sea, over several hundred miles from landlocked Afghanistan, demonstrate the sea services' significant combat reach and reaffirm the value to the United States of having immediately employable forces forward-deployed around the world.
The Navy's joint operational capabilities during the U.S. Central Command's campaign in Afghanistan also have never been more clearly demonstrated, in Clark's view. "This just reinforces that we are a transforming force all the time," he said. "What this operation has shown is that this nation needs the capability inherent in our [carrier] battle groups and ARGs."
Moore said that he could not have been "more pleased" with the performance of Sailors and Marines during combat operations. "The legacy of these operations will be remembered and studied for years to come--and proves the value of Navy and Marine forces like never before," he said.
One Marine veteran told The Almanac of SEA POWER that he was not surprised by the way the Navy and Marine Corps combat operations unfolded. "Hell, we practice this all the time," he said.
Vice Adm. Dennis V. McGinn, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare requirements and programs, said that the Navy and Marine Corps performances as part of a joint team demonstrated the enduring value of naval forces. "They are expeditionary, and they operate from the sea," McGinn said. "They can provide a whole host of mission capabilities for the joint-force commander or the CINC [commander in chief], because they are sustainable, they have a small footprint [ashore], and they are ready on arrival."
Retired Rear Adm. Phillip D. Smith, president of the Association of Naval Aviation, noted that in September--prior to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon--the Defense Science Board was directed to study the role of the aircraft carrier in the 21st century.
"Clearly, in Operation Enduring Freedom," Smith said, "the big-deck carriers and their potent air wings have demonstrated in grand fashion the fundamental value of sea-based aviation, especially its ability to project power inland over great distances."
Projecting Power Overseas
Despite facing what he described as a "worst-case scenario" for carrier aviation--war in a landlocked country far from the ocean with few high-value fixed targets--the Lexington Institute's Loren Thompson said that naval aviation's performance drove home several lessons. "There was a degree of reach and precision on the one hand, and flexibility and versatility on the other, that are impressive," he told The Almanac of SEA POWER.
Asked to describe his initial impressions of the Navy-Marine Corps team's performance during Operation Enduring Freedom, Ronald O'Rourke, a highly respected defense analyst with the Congressional Research Service, offered several comments.
"The war has served to highlight the value of aircraft carriers in projecting power overseas in areas where we have partial or uncertain access to overseas bases," O'Rourke said. "That is particularly important in the sense that the world may be developing in a direction where unclear or ambiguous access to overseas bases is likely to be a continuing issue."
Operation Enduring Freedom also underscored the value of forward-deployed Marine expeditionary units, O'Rourke said, by showing that they can be involved in operations conducted far inland--and that Marines can come ashore and establish a presence on the ground in ways other than their more traditional across-the-beach amphibious assaults.
"The deployment of the Marines into southern Afghanistan will help to educate people about the different ways in which Marine forces can be inserted ashore and operate," O'Rourke said. "This should broaden the understanding of what a forward-deployed Marine force can accomplish."
O'Rourke said that the war also demonstrated, in several significant ways, the importance and potential of UAVs (for surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting) and UCAVs (armed with missiles to attack ground targets). "This creates both an opportunity and a challenge for the Navy to show what steps it is taking to accelerate its development of UAVs and UCAVs and to incorporate them into the fleet," O'Rourke said. In the past, however, he said, the Navy's planning in this area seemed to be "fairly timid," a judgment validated by the U.S. combat experience in Afghanistan.
Clark told a defense writers group in mid-December that the Navy is looking at a new approach to employ UAVs. "The leadership in the Navy believes that we have to move out more rapidly in this area," Clark said.
Operation Enduring Freedom also illustrated the growing importance of C4ISR (command, control, computers, communications, information, surveillance, and reconnaissance) assets, precision munitions, and the technologies that help to link them all together on the modern joint battlefield to create an unprecedented ability to find and quickly attack high-value targets. "In the future," O'Rourke said, "the emphasis will not just be attacking fixed targets, but moving targets as well--and the time line for doing so will be shortened."
Scott C. Truver, vice president for national security studies at the Anteon Corporation, said he finds it ironic that since the end of World War II the U.S. Navy has been the subject of "repeated bouts of intense scrutiny, heated debate, and sharp skepticism. ...
"This has been so," he continued, "even as presidents from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush relied upon naval forces to keep the peace and safeguard U.S. citizens, interests, and friends when they are at risk." In Truver's mind, the irony is made all the more palpable by the fact that, from 1945 to 2001, on every occasion that the Navy was forced to rejustify itself in the face of a changing geopolitical landscape the value of having effective and survivable naval forces was driven home unequivocally by world events.
"The jury is still out on whether President Bush and his advisors have relearned the lesson that effective and flexible naval forces are the sine qua non for success," Truver said.
A More Ready Force
The readiness and capabilities that allowed the Navy and Marine Corps to team with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, and SOF units to fight the war on terrorism with such telling effect under such unusual, and extremely challenging, circumstances resulted from many factors.
The haze-gray hulls of today's aircraft carriers may appear similar to the "bird farms" (as they are sometimes called in the fleet) of the Gulf War of a decade ago--or even to those like the Vietnam veterans Enterprise and Kitty Hawk--but appearances are deceiving.
As one result of the past decade's quiet transformation of the carriers' C4ISR, combat systems, aircraft, and long-range "smart" weapons, today's carrier air wing is nearly 500 percent more effective than its Gulf War predecessors. An additional 200 percent increase in "aimpoint efficiency" is projected by 2008 as newer weapons join the fleet, the Navy says.
The land-attack capabilities of surface combatants and submarines also will be substantially increased this decade with the introduction of the improved Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile (scheduled for initial operational capability in 2003), longer-range naval guns, and a new land-attack missile. The Navy's fleet of Aegis ships also is being progressively modernized with the introduction of the Cooperative Engagement Capability and other system upgrades.
Improvements in combat capabilities, however, only begin to account for the Navy's performance during Operation Enduring Freedom. Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England--appearing on the CNN "Larry King Live" news program on 13 December with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Clark, and Jones--was asked by King if he had been surprised by how well the U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan had gone.
"No, I'm not surprised," said England, who had visited Sailors and Marines in the war zone in October. "The enduring strength of the U.S. military is its people--highly trained, highly motivated, and highly capable people."
England has said frequently that platforms--i.e., ships, aircraft, and submarines--have no value as assets until they are manned by highly trained and capable people.
Key to Navy and Marine Corps success in the war on terrorism is the decision by England, Clark, and Jones--and their immediate predecessors (Richard Danzig, Adm. Jay L. Johnson, and Gen. Charles C. Krulak)--that the Navy and Marine Corps personnel and near-term readiness accounts receive top priority in the face of many competing demands for scarce resources.
Unleashing Navy Leadership
Shortly after assuming duties as chief of naval operations in July 2000, Clark focused the Navy's priorities on five key areas: (1) manpower--including recruiting, retention, and attrition; (2) current readiness--taking care of the Navy the nation has already paid for; (3) future readiness--the Navy's recapitalization and transformation; (4) quality of service--the balanced combination of quality of life plus quality of work; and (5) alignment--ensuring that the Navy's organizational structures and processes are correctly aligned to achieve established goals.
Asked if he had revised his priorities during the past year, Clark told The Almanac of SEA POWER, "I have decided to keep the top five the same," Clark said. "Let me be clear, however, that if I gave you my top five today, my list would have six items on it--and number one would be winning the war."
Clark's goals dovetail nicely with the four strategic areas that England said he will focus on during his time as secretary of the Navy and Marine Corps (as he is fond of saying): (1) combat capability; (2) people; (3) technology; and (4) business practices.
The increased funding for the personnel and O&M (operations and maintenance) accounts provided in recent years is paying rich dividends today in the war on terrorism. "It's that way because the nation has made the investments, and the current readiness accounts are healthier than they have been in a long time," Clark said. The amended budget for fiscal year 2002, he said, represents the best readiness budget that the Navy has had in a decade.
Compared to the FY 2001 budget, the Navy's amended FY 2002 budget reflected an increase of $3.4 billion for readiness.
"We must express our appreciation to Congress and to the leadership of the president for taking us in that direction," Clark told The Almanac of SEA POWER.
The emphasis on people as a top priority led to substantial improvements last year in the Navy's manpower posture and personnel readiness. Recruiting and retention are up, ship manning has increased, and a broad range of congressionally approved funding increases for pay, bonuses, and personnel programs has had a salutary effect. "I could not be more pleased with the progress we have made this year," said Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., chief of naval personnel.
The combination of improved recruiting and retention allowed Ryan to end FY 2001 with an additional 3,000 Sailors on the Navy's books--funded at a cost of approximately $250 million. With the secretary of defense's emergency lifting of end-strength caps for Operation Enduring Freedom, the Navy's active force of officers and enlisted personnel grew to nearly 378,000 by year's end.
Two years ago, Navy ships went to sea with critical shortfalls in nonrated personnel and skilled specialists. Today, Ryan said, aircraft carriers like the Theodore Roosevelt and Kitty Hawk were properly manned well before they were surged to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom. "They had these Sailors with them during their intense 12-month workup periods," Ryan said, "instead of getting people just as they left the pier to deploy."
"Our personnel readiness is up dramatically in every carrier battle group and amphibious ready group--up into the high 90s," Ryan told The Almanac of SEA POWER.
Ryan said that, in addition to the Navy Recruiting Command's success in meeting its goals for enlisting top- quality Sailors, Clark's emphasis on reducing attrition and improving the Navy's retention of both first-term Sailors (those completing their initial enlistment of obligated service) and career personnel is generating impressive results. "We have unleashed Navy leadership on this mission," Ryan continued. "We are retaining 57 percent of our eligible first-termers--the highest level of any service."
Ryan said the hard work of individual commanding officers, other officers at all levels of the chain of command, and senior noncommissioned officers is responsible for this achievement--but he also expressed appreciation for the role played by the administration and Congress in approving a host of improvements in pay, benefits, bonuses, and other personnel programs. All have served to improve the quality of life for Sailors and their families.
"The goal," England told Congress in July, "will be to create an environment where our men and women can excel at their chosen profession, unimpeded by factors that divert their attention from work and sap their morale."
"The CNO's challenge is for every unit to cut attrition by 25 percent this year," Ryan said. The Navy did not make that goal during FY 2001, but its increase of 17 percent in first-term retention and a reduction of 8 percent in attrition yielded important manpower savings. "This is a huge improvement when you consider the number of people in the Navy," Ryan said.
Ryan said he hopes this year to obtain the funding needed to address the second most frequently expressed reason why Sailors leave the service: slow advancement. ("Low pay" is the most frequently cited reason why Sailors join the civilian ranks.) Approximately $30 million is needed to increase advancement opportunity for the so-called "top six" Navy pay grades (E-4 to E-9). "I have seen the power of giving Sailors meaningful work and the opportunity to get promoted," said Ryan.
Clark's top personnel priority for the coming year is "Task Force Excel," a comprehensive study, launched with comparatively little fanfare six months ago, of the way the Navy trains Sailors. Clark said he wants to apply modern technology and training methods to revolutionize the Navy's training programs. "We are going to challenge all of our assumptions about when, where, and how we train our professionals--and where there are advantages in change, we will change," said Clark.
"Turning a Corner"
If having sufficient numbers of well-trained people at the right place and time proved essential to the Navy's attaining higher forward-deployed readiness and to its aggressive prosecution of the war on terrorism, increased funding for spare parts, consumables, ship steaming days, and aircraft flying hours also was critical.
Supplemental appropriations for ship operations increased approximately 17 percent during FY 2001 to cover increased costs for fuel, spare parts, and consumables. The increased level of funding is included in the FY 2002 president's budget. Similarly, funding for the Navy's FY 2002 flying-hour program has been increased by approximately 20 percent from the budget programmed for FY 2001.
While deployed readiness continued its upturn, nondeployed readiness was still below acceptable readiness levels through the end of FY 2001. Significant funding increases are projected for FY 2002 to correct the problem, but it is unclear how the Navy's high operational tempo during Operation Enduring Freedom will affect planned improvements during the months ahead.
"We will monitor operations closely to see how the strains of supporting our deployed warfighting units impact our ability to improve nondeployed unit readiness," said Ariane L. Whittemore, acting deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness and logistics.
The continued deterioration of the Navy's shore infrastructure remains another problem area. The backlog of maintenance and repair for Navy shore facilities is expected to reach $2.75 billion during FY 2002, due primarily to insufficient funding for repairs over many years. The FY 2002 budget has been funded to help curb the growth of this critical backlog, and a long overdue strategy has been implemented to maintain Sailors' work, living, and recreational facilities ashore.
"The Navy has transformed its basis for the Facilities Investment Strategy from 'backlog management' to an integrated full life-cycle approach," Whittemore said. Full funding and execution of facility "sustainment" will be followed by investment in facility restoration and modernization to renovate or replace facilities systematically when they are judged to have degraded an installation's condition, mission readiness, or quality of service.
England, Clark, and the Navy's other senior leaders have worked hard during the past year to align the Navy's organizational structures and processes to focus more sharply on fleet requirements. In August, Clark directed that the commander in chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet (Natter) serve concurrently as commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command. In this role, Natter is responsible for the overall coordination, establishment, and implementation of integrated requirements and policies for manning, equipping, and training not only Atlantic Fleet but Pacific Fleet units as well during their interdeployment training cycles.
Clark's alignment actions also have given Natter a greater role and more visible "seat at the table" in Navy budget deliberations in Washington, D.C., when operational and readiness decisions are discussed and finalized. "If we do not represent the fleet, then we are not fulfilling our responsibilities," Natter told The Almanac of SEA POWER. "I am very satisfied with the improvements we have made. We have received increased funding for ship repair and depot maintenance, and our at-sea manning has improved dramatically," he said. He acknowledged, though, that more improvements in these areas are needed.
With ships now scheduled "heel to toe" for maintenance, modernization, and training during the interdeployment training cycle, the Navy must plan its future operations carefully. Satisfying the competing worldwide demands of U.S. joint commanders for mobile naval forces was difficult enough before 11 September. It is a much more daunting challenge today.
Despite Operation Enduring Freedom's high tempo of naval operations, Sailors and Marines continued to maintain forward presence in other regions of the world in 2001. The ongoing war on terrorism is an unfolding story in 2002, however, and its full impact is only now becoming apparent.
"As the president said, we are in this for the long haul," Keating commented. "We have to husband our resources and assets carefully--but we recognize that we are at war, and it is a different ball game than it was on 10 September."
Clark, meeting regularly in recent months with his so-called "Warfighting Council" of deputy CNOs, is exploring alternatives to allow a Navy of just over 300 ships to sustain a higher tempo of operations for the foreseeable future. Alternative manning concepts, crew rotations, and overseas deployments longer than six months all are under consideration.
"We are doing a lot of analytical work and studies to try to figure out the best and [most] effective way that we can sustain a greater global presence," Clark said.
Despite such challenges, Navy officials voiced an upbeat outlook for the Navy's near-term readiness during the year ahead. "I would not say we have turned a corner," Keating said. "There is more work to be done--but we are turning a corner."
Navy Faces "Serious Risk"
If the U.S. Navy is, in fact, turning a corner in restoring near-term readiness for its operating forces, the same cannot be said for the long term. The Bush administration's announced plans for future Navy shipbuilding and aircraft procurement will not maintain a fleet of more than 300 ships--much less the fleet of 360 to 400 ships that many informed observers (former Secretary of the Navy James Webb, for example) maintain is needed for the Navy to carry out its roles and missions during the 21st century.
Seven ships and 83 aircraft were procured in FY 2001, and only five ships and 88 aircraft will be procured this year.
Clark is on record that the Navy needs approximately $34 billion annually to fund its procurement requirements for new ships, aircraft, and systems--approximately $10 billion per year more than it is presently allocated. "We must buy 180 to 210 aircraft and nine ships a year to sustain the 1997 QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review] force level of 4,200 aircraft and 310 ships," Clark told the House Armed Services Committee last July.
"For too long, we have deferred modernization and recapitalization of the force and paid for mission accomplishment by postponing maintenance and the repair of our infrastructure," the CNO told the House lawmakers. "This trend now poses, in my view, a serious risk to our future."
An average of only seven ships per year are projected to be built over the six years of the latest FYDP. As Clark reminded Congress in his July testimony, "We cannot sustain the Navy we have today with current funding levels, which would lead to a 230-ship Navy over time."
England told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense in July that the funding increase contained in the FY 2002 budget amendment was a first step in meeting many of the Navy's unfilled needs, but he said the increase does not adequately address the Navy's infrastructure and procurement shortfalls. "Looking ahead," he said, "we must begin to recapitalize our assets."
Concerned that the Navy's procurement budget for FY 2002 is $10 billion below necessary levels, Clark's CNO Planning Guidance for 2002 to the Navy's top leadership states that a fleet "smaller than today's is an invitation to greater operational risk and decreased international stability." Clark said he has directed sweeping actions to achieve the added efficiencies and cost savings necessary to free funds to buy greater numbers of ships and aircraft. His goal, he said, is to balance the competing demands of current readiness, procurement, innovation, and experimentation to enable the Navy to stay at the forefront of military transformation.
"Better business practices are essential for freeing up resources for enhanced procurement and transformation," Clark stated. "This means that all Navy leaders, in uniform and civilians, must think in terms of maximum productivity, minimum overhead, and measurable output."
Clark's guidance to Vice Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the deputy chief of naval operations for resources, requirements, and assessments, is to "increase ship and aircraft procurement rates by the end of the FYDP to, at a minimum, buy 10 ships and 210 aircraft per year."
Navy officials said it is impossible to determine at this early stage of the FY 2003 budget process how successful England and Clark will be in their quest to generate up to $10 billion in annual savings for new procurement. There is "every indication," though, they also said, that the Navy's senior leadership will be working "vigorously" with DOD, the White House, and Congress to meet this "extremely formidable challenge."
England also hopes to generate added funds for recapitalization by reducing cost growth in acquisition programs through the adoption of better business practices. "The only way I know to attack the problem is to control and, hopefully, bring down costs in some areas," said John J. Young Jr., assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition. Young has approached industry as part of a cooperative approach to identify ways to make systems more affordable and to create incentives for savings.
The administration's proposed de-fense plan for FY 2003, scheduled to be delivered to Congress in early February, will continue the past decade's trend of underfunding critical Navy procurement accounts.
According to Cynthia L. Brown, president of the American Shipbuilding Association, the Navy's planned FY 2003 budget "... would extend for six years the past decade of gross negligence in the shipbuilding account." The proposal, said to include a request for construction of only five ships, would drive the Navy toward a force level of 286 ships--primarily by reducing the number of surface combatants in the fleet.
Brown said in November that the proposed FY 2003 FYDP would increase the Navy's shortfall of ships needed to sustain a 300-ship Navy and "perpetuate" the decline of the fleet--to a level of fewer than 200 ships. "Unfortunately," she said, "the force that does the most in war and peace continues to be underfunded in Washington."
Although the shipbuilding accounts in the latter years of the proposed FYDP are said to reflect a modest increase toward "steady-state" replacement levels (i.e., a number that would sustain a 300-ship fleet if the current backlog of deferred ship construction also is cleared), there is no assurance that those levels will be realized.
"There is no clear indication in those submissions that the program-versus-resources mismatch that the Navy has been operating under for several years is going to be closed any time soon," O'Rourke told The Almanac of SEA POWER. "We have seen that sort of 'get well' in the final years before, and it has not materialized," he said.
"When I see plans like that I am reminded what a member of Congress said a year or two ago; he said, 'I have never lived in an outyear.'"
When President Bush spoke so eloquently to the men and women of the USS Enterprise in December, he concluded his remarks by making a personal pledge to the U.S. military: "You will have every resource, every weapon, every tool you need," the president said, "to win the long battle that lies ahead."
Despite this assurance from the commander in chief, there was no indication at year's end that the U.S. Navy will, in fact, be funded at the level needed to procure the numbers of ships and aircraft required to fight and win the continuing war on international terrorism. *
The maturation of the carrier air wing's longer-range, more precise, and highly lethal strike capabilities were vividly displayed during Operation Enduring Freedom. Precision-guided munitions (PGMs) were said to comprise approximately 65 percent of the ordnance dropped by Navy, Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force aircraft, a significant increase over PGM expenditure rates during the Gulf War.
"We are continuing to invest even more in our array of precision-guided munitions," said Vice Adm. Dennis V. McGinn, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare requirements and programs. "So-called 'joint' munitions--principally JDAM [Joint Direct-Attack Munition], JSOW [Joint Standoff Weapon], and precision Tomahawk--are absolutely key to operations now and in the future."
The high PMG usage rates were a concern to strike planners during the operations in Afghanistan, but Navy officials told The Almanac of SEA POWER that available stocks were sufficient then, and are now "adequate"--at least for the immediate future.
McGinn said that the Department of Defense's acquisition team, and industry, demonstrated a "tremendous" response capability by so rapidly increasing the rate of production for Navy and Air Force smart-weapon stocks. Deliveries of new-production weapons began arriving in early December. "We are going to sustain this much higher production rate on all of our weapons lines so that we replenish our magazines to the levels that they should be," said McGinn.
Increased funding for accelerated PGM procurement will help to remedy a critical fleet-wide shortage. In early October, Adm. Robert J. Natter, commander in chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet and U.S. Fleet Forces Command, told the audience at the U.S. Naval Institute's annual symposium that the Navy faced an unfunded $5 billion requirement for PGMs over the six years of the current FYDP (Future-Years Defense Plan).
The Navy and Air Force, and the Raytheon Corporation, provided a glimpse into the future of PGMs in early December with the successful completion of the first free-flight test of the unitary-warhead variant of the JSOW at the Naval Air Systems Command's weapons test range in China Lake, Calif.
The AGM-154C variant of the JSOW was launched from an F/A-18C/D at 0.8 Mach and an altitude of 20,000 feet. With the aid of GPS (global positioning system) satellites, the weapon flew autonomously for approximately 20 nautical miles, located the target (using an imaging infrared seeker), and hit it at precisely the desired aimpoint.
The JSOW-C's uncooled, long-wave infrared seeker and its Autonomous Target Acquisition (ATA) algorithms will provide the Navy with a "launch-and-leave" weapon with standoff precision-strike capability. The JSOW-C also will be the first U.S. weapon to incorporate the broach-penetration multiple warhead, developed by the United Kingdom's BAE Systems.
"This flight [the December test] is extremely important to the Navy," said the Navy's JSOW program manager. "The JSOW family of weapons provides a cost-effective alternative to other weapons and provides aircraft survivability with Standoff Outside Point Defense [SOPD] capability."
The JSOW-C, now in development, is scheduled to begin production in 2003. The program is managed by the Program Executive Office for Strike Weapons and Unmanned Aviation (PEO (W)), a unit of the Naval Air Systems Command.