of Continuing Excellence
Today's Navy, and Tomorrow's: Solid Accomplishments, Daunting Challenges
and a Host of Institutional Obstacles
By JAMES D. HESSMAN
Editor in Chief
For the U.S. Navy, the first full year of the U.S.-led global war on
terrorism was marked by significant advances in virtually all areas of
combat readiness, by increased funding not only for readiness but also
for procurement and RDT&E (research, development, test, and evaluation),
by the huge and often heroic accomplishments of the fleet's forward-deployed
aircraft carrier battle groups (CVBGs) and amphibious ready groups (ARGs),
and by milestone achievements in recruiting, retention, training, and
other personnel areas.
The year ahead should be even better, according to Chief of Naval Operations
(CNO) Adm. Vern Clark--thanks to several programs initiated last year,
he said, and a number of new programs now ready to be launched.
Many of those programs will require additional funding, though--and,
although a new round of defense spending increases seems likely to be
approved by the new Congress, the specific totals allocated to each of
the nation's armed services will, as always, probably not be enough even
to fund all of the "highest priority" items on the individual-service
budget requests--which have to be approved first by OSD (the Office of
the Secretary of Defense) and then by the White House budget office before
being submitted to Congress.
The Navy's biggest line-item deficiency, again, will be the SCN (shipbuilding
and conversion, Navy) account. Obtaining the funding needed for aircraft
procurement also is a major concern. More problematical are the numerous
difficulties likely to be encountered if the United States has to deal
with two even "medium-scale" international crises or conflicts
at the same time--involving Iraq and North Korea, for example.
Following--from Clark's Sea Power 21 vision paper, articles in Sea Power
and the Naval Institute Proceedings, and the CNO's "Guidance for
2003" (disseminated in the first week of January)--are status reports,
in the subject areas indicated, and in Clark's words, on some of the Navy's
more significant achievements during the past year as well as, in some
areas, the additional programs and initiatives now in the planning stages:
Manpower and Personnel: Navy recruiters "made goal" for 16
consecutive months. Quality also has improved: "Last year, we accessed
92 percent high-school graduates--up from [the previous] 90 percent, and
nearly 6 percent of recruits had some college education."
Retention also has improved, and is now "at record levels."
At-sea manning shortfalls were reduced last year by more than 36 percent.
"Superb retention also allowed us to lower recruiting goals by over
7,500, saving millions of dollars"--which were applied to improve
fleet readiness and support quality-of-life initiatives.
There also was lower attrition. Losses caused by drug problems were down
8 percent overall, and by a spectacular 37 percent at the Navy's Recruit
Training Center in Great Lakes (Ill.). The improvement in retention is
translating into "a more senior force to lead and manage the increasingly
technical 21st-century Navy." The personnel distribution system has
been overhauled and improved through such innovations as Project SAIL
(Sailor Advocacy through Interactive Leadership), which is designed to
"fundamentally change" the relationship "between Sailors
and detailers" and to put more choice in the system. Among other
new and/or pending initiatives are geographic incentive pay, an "Optimal
Manning" program (to reduce ship's manning requirements by, among
other innovations, reforming shipboard watchstanding practices), and the
Sea Swap program--which changes crews during a ship's overseas deployment,
keeping the ship on-station overseas for a longer period and reducing
transit time significantly.
Current Readiness: Navy combat readiness is now at the highest level
ever, thanks primarily to prior-year investments in training, spare parts,
ordnance, and the fuel accounts. The major ship depot maintenance backlog
has been reduced by 27 percent, and aircraft depot-level repair back orders
were trimmed by 17 percent last year. The production of ordnance and of
spare parts has been "ramped up" to a higher (but unspecified)
The most visible improvement is in forward deployment--in Clark's words,
"We are taking the fight to the enemy." Eight CVBGs, six ARGs,
"and nearly 100,000 Sailors and Marines deployed around the world
in support of the global war on terrorism." To reduce the overseas
transit times for SSNs (nuclear-powered attack submarines), where the
fleet level is below the requirements postulated by the Joint Chiefs of
Staff (JCS) and the unified commanders, two SSNs have been forward-homeported
in Guam, and a third is "on the way."
The Navy also has moved out smartly in the still relatively new mission
areas of force protection (FP) and homeland security. "We invested
over $1.7 billion to improve security across our fleet, improved information-sharing
between agencies, assigned over 10,000 Sailors to antiterrorism and force-protection
duties, and grew the MAA [master at arms] rating from 1,900 to 4,600 Sailors."
Future Readiness: Several "potent new platforms" were added
to the fleet last year, the existing force has been incrementally upgraded
through the fielding of additional high-tech systems and subsystems, and
an "integrated Navy-wide experimentation plan" has been developed
(and is currently being implemented). The most significant achievement
in this area, though, was doctrinal: the development, refinement, and
dissemination of the Sea Power 21 vision paper, which: (1) "prescribes
a strategy-to-concepts-to-capabilities continuum that will result in greatly
enhanced power, protection, and operational freedom"; and (2) will
provide "the framework for how we will organize, align, integrate,
and transform our Navy to meet the challenges that lie ahead."
To provide the major increases in procurement funding needed to build
"the Navy after next," fleet commanders, program managers, and
OPNAV (Office of the Chief of Naval Operations) sponsors worked in close
cooperation last year to reduce not only the initial acquisition cost
of new systems and platforms, but life-cycle costs as well. The result
was "a projected cost avoidance of $43 billion over the future-years
plan by improving business and infrastructure processes, the divesting
of legacy force structure and programs, and ... [the use of] multiyear
Among the new-construction ships joining the fleet last year were three
Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided-missile destroyers (DDGs): USS McCampbell,
USS Shoup, and USS Preble. In addition: the keel of the nuclear-powered
attack submarine Texas was laid, and the conversion--to an SSGN (nuclear-powered
guided-missile submarine) configuration--of two Ohio-class Trident ballistic
missile submarines started. After their conversions are completed, the
new SSGNs (four are planned) will be capable not only of launching Tomahawk
missiles of various configurations but also delivering special operations
forces on covert missions overseas.
The new Navy-wide experimentation plan puts the fleet "in charge
of experimentation." Joint wargames and a broad spectrum of experiments
and exercises are planned to develop and test "new operational concepts
and technologies, such as the Joint Fires Network and High-Speed Vessels."
In addition, an Undersea Experimentation Working Group has been created
"to more fully integrate submarines into joint experimentation programs."
Quality of Service: The major investments allocated over the past several
years in "our most valuable asset--our people" led to "continued
improvements in compensation, operating facilities, information technology,
and educational initiatives." The end result was a much-improved
environment for mission accomplishment.
More specifically: (a) "Everyone earned at least a 5.0 percent pay
increase in 2002," and will receive an additional 4.1 percent increase
in 2003; (b) Medical care--for military families and military retirees
as well as active-duty personnel--has improved in several ways; (c) additional
family housing is being built; and (d) several innovative training projects
have been initiated, in cooperation with industry and academia, to improve
"individual training and education ... and to develop pilot projects
that leverage civilian training programs."
In addition to the preceding, Clark said that numerous other projects
are underway to improve and streamline the Navy's own organizational structure,
eliminate redundancies, reduce costs, and, in general, "put the fleet
at the center of all we do." A Naval Network Warfare Command has
been established, for example, to serve as "the fleet's coordinator
for information technology, information operations, and space activities."
The Navy Recruiting Command and Naval Reserve Recruiting Command have
been consolidated "to achieve total-force recruiting." And the
Navy Warfare Development Command and the Navy's "warfare centers
of excellence" are now working in closer cooperation "to stimulate
concept development and technology insertion for the fleet."
In the joint warfighting arena, Clark: (1) issued both a Naval Transformation
Roadmap and Navy Strategic Planning Guidance "outlining the capabilities
[needed] to enhance joint warfighting effectiveness through Sea Strike,
Sea Shield, and Sea Basing [the three conceptual 'pillars'of the Sea Power
21 vision paper]";
(2) Signed--as did outgoing Marine Commandant Gen. James L. Jones--a
Navy/Marine Corps tactical aviation integration plan "to enhance
interoperability, more fully integrate our people, and save billions of
dollars for both services"; and
(3) Provided support for the Coast Guard's Deepwater Integrated Systems
Program, worked with the Air Force in the development of a number of new
munitions programs, carried out joint experiments with the Army to help
determine the peacetime and combat capabilities of high-speed vessels,
and participated in a continuing series of "warfighter talks"
with the leaders of all of the nation's other armed services.
Rocks, Shoals, and Transformation
As Clark has pointed out many times--in speeches, in interviews, and
in articles in various Navy and Navy-oriented publications, including
Sea Power and the Proceedings--the creation and explication of the Sea
Power 21 vision represents only a start on the much-needed transformation
of the Navy to meet the new and exceedingly complex challenges of the
21st century. Implementation of that vision will be exponentially more
Obtaining and sustaining a major increase in the Navy's shipbuilding
budget will be the key to achieving most if not quite all of the goals
spelled out in the vision paper. "My best estimate today," Clark
said in an interview in the October 2002 issue of Sea Power, "is
that we need a fleet numbering approximately 375 ships. We will continue
to refine the number as we ... build the force profile and force packages
for the future ... so that we can distribute combat power over a wider
number of places around the world where it is necessary for the Navy to
represent the vital interests of this nation. We ... need to have more
ships to do that. ...
"Credible combat capability" is the "real" requirement,
Clark conceded--but he immediately reverted to the inescapable rule known
to all Navy contingency planners: "You can only be in one place at
one time with one ship, and so numbers do matter. Numbers ... have a quality
all their own."
Unfortunately, the Navy has not been doing too well in its ship-numbers
battles in recent years, and the outlook for the future suggests the situation
will get worse, perhaps much worse, before (if ever) it gets better. Clark
and other Navy officials have told Congress that the Navy needs a minimum
of $12 billion annually, for the foreseeable future, to build the fleet
needed to meet its current mission requirements; the assumption (perhaps
optimistic) is that that funding will be sufficient to acquire 10 new-construction
ships per year.
Last year, though, the president's budget plan requested only $8.6 billion
for Navy shipbuilding--approximately $1.6 billion less than had been appropriated
the previous year--and included funding for only five new-construction
ships (one less than in fiscal year 2002). Exacerbating the problem were
the "outyear" projections in the administration's future-years
defense plan (FYDP): funding for only five more new-construction ships
in FY 2004 and only seven ships in FY 2005 and FY 2006. Under the FYDP
submitted last year, in fact, it would not be until fiscal year 2007 that
the Navy would reach the 10-ship-per-year requirement postulated as the
minimum SCN goal.
The shipbuilding problem is also a matter of considerable concern to
Congress, particularly to members of the House and Senate Armed Services
Committees and their Seapower Subcommittees. Last year, Rep. Jo Ann S.
Davis (R-Va.) introduced legislation--the National Naval Force Structure
Act--specifically stating that it would be U.S. policy "to rebuild,
as soon as possible, the size of the Navy's fleet to no fewer than 375
ships in active service."
Included in that bigger fleet of the future, Davis said, should be enough
ships for 15 CVBGs and 15 ARGs. [Note: Under Sea Power 21, additional
ships--surface combatants and SSNs, primarily--would be assigned to the
ARGs to upgrade them to Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESGs) that would
have substantially more combat flexibility and power-projection capabilities
than the ARGs they would be replacing.]
The Navy League of the United States and the American Shipbuilding Association
both endorsed the Davis bill as "a matter of national urgency,"
setting the stage for what may well be a major controversy in the FY 2004
defense posture hearings.
The Navy faces a number of other rocks and shoals on its way to realization
of the Sea Power 21 vision--inadequate funding for naval aviation, for
example. Clark told Sea Power last year that large numbers of the aircraft
now in the inventory are nearing the end of their useful lives and becoming
increasingly difficult, and costly, to maintain. He said the Navy needs
to be spending "$8 billion to $10 billion a year for new aircraft
procurement," and that to replenish the current inventory will require
a sustained procurement rate of 210 aircraft per year. The administration
requested funding for only 83 new aircraft in the Navy's FY 2003 budget.
The ship numbers deficit and naval aviation problems are perhaps most
jointly visible in the Navy's fleet of 12 active-force carriers, which
includes eight nuclear-powered Nimitz-class carriers (CVNs). All members
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been telling Congress for many years
that the Navy needs 15 active carriers to carry out all of its assigned
missions--in peacetime. Republican and Democratic administrations alike,
though, have been content to maintain a fleet of only 12 carriers--describing
the three-carrier deficit as a "prudent risk."
In sum, the Navy needs a "steady investment stream" in the
area of $35 billion per year for all its procurements so that economics
of scale will enable the Navy to procure the numbers of ships and aircraft
that it needs.
The additional overseas deployments required to pursue the global war
on terrorism might change some minds in the upper echelons of the Pentagon's
civilian hierarchy. The eight CVBGs deployed throughout the world last
year all were operating at an extremely high tempo--and in some exceptionally
innovative ways. Carrier-based Navy aircraft were routinely flying combat
missions reaching out 700 to 1,000 miles, and stayed on station for two
to four hours. This was a "phenomenal" achievement, Clark said,
that not only validated the Navy's previous investments in sustainability
but also demonstrated the extended combat reach of today's naval forces.
The conventionally powered carrier USS Kitty Hawk displayed the new flexibility
also required in today's joint arena by serving as an afloat forward-staging
base for U.S. Special Operations Forces. Unintentionally, perhaps, the
Kitty Hawk's achievement also validated to some extent the Sea Basing
pillar of the Sea Power 21 vision paper.
The Sea Basing concept, perhaps the most revolutionary and most forward-looking
of the numerous transformational ideas articulated in SP 21, anticipates
the possibility--probability, according to many experts in the field of
counterterrorism--that the time will soon come when terrorist groups will
be able to build or buy weapons of mass destruction. The inevitable result
may well be that U.S. forces will be denied access to air and ground bases
overseas. Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Dov S. Zakheim conceded
as much last year in a Pentagon press briefing on the president's FY 2003
budget request--during which he also agreed with the need for more ships:
"I think the secretary [Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld]
has made it very, very clear," Zakheim said, we have to keep our
fleet up in excess of 300 ships. ... What Afghanistan made clear in spades
was what the Navy has been saying over and over again: that sometimes
bases will not be available."
As of year's end all of the nation's armed forces were preparing for
a possible new war with Iraq--a war that could require four or more CVBGs
to be on station in the Persian Gulf for an extended period of time. Meanwhile,
the disclosure that the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea--i.e.,
North Korea) now possesses at least a few nuclear weapons had created
another difficult situation for U.S. decisionmakers to deal with. Officially,
the U.S. government was downplaying the possibility of a "two-war"
situation--but the media was escalating the situation from a concern to
a confrontation to a crisis. If, in fact, there is a new U.S./coalition
war with Iraq, there will be few if any U.S. Navy carriers available to
deal with international crises anywhere else in the world and, if nothing
else, thoroughly refute the "prudent risk" fallacy. *
"Sailing Directions" From the CNO
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark concluded his Guidance for
2003 message with what he described as "Sailing Directions for the
21st Century." Following are selected excerpts from those sailing
"Winning the Global War on Terrorism is our number one priority.
This will not be quick or easy, but victory is our goal and it will be
achieved. Our Navy will play a leading role in this historic struggle
by contributing precise, persistent, and responsive striking power to
the joint force, strengthening deterrence with advanced defensive technologies,
and increasing independence through sea basing. This is the Sea Power
"We will innovate operationally by distributing striking power to
the furthest corners of the earth and [by] sustaining fleet readiness
to surge additional warfighting power on short notice. The [Navy's] Global
Concept of Operations [CONOPS], in concert with the United States Marine
Corps, packages our forces to meet 21st-century challenges ... [and] requires
a fleet of approximately 375 ships and procurement of 11 ships per year.
"I want [all Navy leaders] to understand that mission accomplishment
means both warfighting effectiveness and resourcefulness. It has been
said that great leaders do the right thing, and great managers do things
right--we must do both.
"We have a big budget. We must ensure we are spending the taxpayers'
dollars on the right thing. Sea Enterprise [another of the several tenets
that make up the Sea Power 21 vision] will coordinate a Navy-wide effort
to align and optimize use of these funds. It will allow us to harvest
efficiencies throughout our organization to be reinvested in warfighting
capabilities. I am convinced we must make Sea Enterprise a success or
we will not have the Navy our Nation needs. ...
"People remain at the heart of all we do; they are capital assets
in our Navy. We have invested heavily to do what is right for our people.
As we look to the future, we will build on the impressive progress we
have made in recruiting, assigning, and retaining our military and civilian
professionals. ... I expect [all leaders] to be deeply involved in developing
their shipmates. ...
"Our Navy is the finest it has ever been, and getting better every
day. I am counting on you to continue our superb record of accomplishment
and shape the Navy of tomorrow. Working together, we will achieve the