The United States Navy


The Navy-Marine Corps Team is in the midst of a radical transformation that will ensure its operational primacy well into the next century. The transformation from a Cold-War force focused on a global, superpower threat to one tailored for future operational requirements in the world’s littorals as well as on the open oceans will give U.S. naval forces the capabilities to protect America’s citizens, interests, and friends anytime and anywhere they may be at risk. As some observers have characterized the 20th century as “The American Century,” others are now predicting that the 21st century will be “The Naval Century” — an era in which naval and maritime power become even more critical elements of national power and prestige.

Three core objectives of the National Security Strategy for a New Century are critical elements for the nation’s naval expeditionary forces, today as well as 25 years from now:

The U.S. National Military Strategy for a New Era likewise identifies three fundamental tasks for the U.S. Armed Services:

A critical factor in these strategies is the basic need to sustain decisive military power in forward areas during peacetime and to ensure its readiness for immediate response to crisis and war. The nation’s strategic framework for the 21st century enables the Armed Services to focus their resources in those areas of the globe where America’s vital interests and the immediate challenges to them converge. More often than not, the force-of-choice to safeguard these vital and important U.S. interests is the forward-deployed Navy-Marine Corps Team.

Indeed, the Navy and Marine Corps have continued to refine their strategic concept first articulated in …From the Sea in 1992 and, two years later, in Forward...From the Sea. Navy strategy and policy explicitly link the Naval Services’ peacetime forward-presence operations to quick-reaction crisis-response needs and their integral support to joint (multi-service) and combined (multi-national) operations in major theater conflicts. In two key publications — Operational Maneuver from the Sea (1996) and Operating Forward…From the Sea (1997) — the Navy and the Marine Corps addressed the operational requirements and need for innovative thinking and planning for the future. Efforts continue to sharpen the Navy’s strategic vision and operational concepts for the post-2010 world while striving to ensure that current-day readiness and near-term modernization are supported in the most cost-effective manner. In all, however, the value of the Navy-Marine Corps Team’s unique presence, crisis-response, and combat capabilities has been continually underscored as the Naval Services redefine their future of vision, of presence, and of power.

Enduring Requirements

For more than 200 years, the United States has depended on its Navy and the Navy-Marine Corps Team to promote peace and stability and to defeat adversaries when necessary. The primary role of the U.S. Armed Forces is to apply decisive military power to deter or defeat aggression in support of our national objectives.

Today’s and tomorrow’s strategic contexts demand that the United States has the full-spectrum capability to deter conflict, to respond to crisis, and to fight and win against any foe . . . from the sea. A fundamental requirement is sea and area control. The ability of the Navy and Marine Corps to control critical sea areas and to extend this control over land is a key element in their ability to satisfy strategic and operational requirements, today and in the future. Command of the seas and airspace above them is the prerequisite for power projection.

The proliferation of weapons and information technologies is greatly increasing the risk of devastating attacks on ports, marshaling areas, airfields, other fixed sites ashore, and concentrations of land-based forces. In the future, surveillance and targeting systems linked to long-range precision-strike weapons — perhaps armed with nuclear, chemical, or biological warheads — could pose an even more complex, multi-level warfare problem to defense planners. This places a premium on the ability of naval forces to maneuver within the maritime battlespace and to focus on our adversaries’ critical vulnerabilities without the need to mass forces close off shore.

In future crises and conflicts, however, access-denial weapons could make the projection of U.S. power so costly that the United States might be deterred from acting. This could have serious consequences for our relationships with other nations, who might be then blackmailed or bullied by a regional aggressor. Thus, we must be mindful of the need for an expanded concept of sea and area control for theater battlespace dominance. We must be able to defeat an adversary’s intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, command-and-control, and attack capabilities — whether “conventional” or “asymmetrical” in their effects. The Navy is poised to take advantage of revolutionary technologies and innovative concepts of operations to ensure that these future needs will be met.

Enduring Need: Forward Presence

We cannot sacrifice today’s readiness and ability to safeguard interests as the Navy invests in technologies, systems, and platforms to achieve its future vision. Maintaining the presence of highly capable naval expeditionary forces in key regions is the most effective means to prevent conflict and ensure stability and peace.

On any given day, approximately one-third of our forces are deployed overseas, with another 20% or so underway from home ports. Naval expeditionary forces are “on-scene,” operating day in and day out, in each of the major deployment regions — the Mediterranean Sea, Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Western Pacific, and Caribbean — more than 50,000 American men and women embarked in some 120 ships. Our Sailors help to keep the peace and are ready to respond wherever they are needed. Figure 1 [use "back" key to return here] provides a "snapshot" of where U.S. naval forces were operating on a typical day in January 1999.

There are two prime factors to this forward-presence “equation.” The first factor is nuclear deterrence. The Navy’s contribution to nuclear deterrence is provided, at the strategic level, by our nuclear-powered Ohio (SSBN-726)-class Trident ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The most cost-effective component of our strategic forces, our SSBNs are also invisible and invulnerable when deployed at sea. Furthermore, their weapons are capable of engaging strategic targets, while their associated command-and-control systems are secure and reliable. The Trident force makes a unique and vital contribution to America’s ability to demonstrate to any potential adversary the futility of attempting to obtain a nuclear advantage over the United States. In addition to our contribution to strategic deterrence, the Navy also maintains the ability to re-deploy, on board its nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), nuclear-armed Tomahawk cruise missiles. This capability provides the nation with the ability to field a proportional and discriminate deterrent against regional rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction.

The second factor is the conventional deterrence provided by forward-deployed naval expeditionary forces. These forces prevent crisis and conflict, shape the security environment, and serve as the basis for regional peace and stability. This is especially important as the number of U.S. bases overseas continues to dwindle and continued access to those that remain becomes uncertain. The ability of naval forces to use the seas unfettered by claims of sovereignty, to arrive on station ready for action, and to stay for as long as is necessary, without host-nation support, is essential to conventional deterrence. Forward-deployed naval forces provide to our friends and allies a guarantee of protection across the full range of operations and enable the rapid deployment of follow-on forces. The Navy’s aircraft carriers, submarines, and surface forces are on station and engaged, providing credible combat power as a means of deterrence and conflict prevention. Today, this translates to the striking power of Tomahawk missiles — tomorrow, it will include theater ballistic missile defense and long-range precision naval fires in support of land attack. When the need arises, as in Operation Desert Fox in late 1998, the Navy’s forward-deployed forces will fire the initial salvos in defense of vital U.S. interests.

The Navy’s principal peacetime mission is to maintain a robust forward presence. The Navy-Marine Corps Team “shows the flag” around the world, demonstrates support of U.S. interests, and reinforces diplomatic policies and initiatives. In concert with other elements of the Armed Forces, and increasingly the U.S. Coast Guard, the Navy and Marine Corps carry out peacekeeping and peace-enforcement operations, among a multitude of other peacetime missions and tasks — combating terrorism, evacuating noncombatants, providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and conducting counter-drug operations. During 1998, for example, Navy ships, attack submarines, and aircraft logged more than 2,300 steaming days and 18,000 flight hours in support of drug-interdiction tasks and several large drug seizures.

Throughout the Cold War and at increasing rates since the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the Navy-Marine Corps Team has performed these important missions and more. During the Cold War, the Navy and Marine Corps responded to some 190 international crises (excluding the Korean and Vietnam Wars), on the average about one crisis-response operation every 11 weeks. From 1990 to 1997, the Navy and Marine Corps were called upon to respond to crises and combat in nearly 80 instances, approximately one operation every four weeks. In 1998, that period was reduced even further: one crisis response every three weeks. (Figure 2 ( January1991 to beginning of August 1995)(August 1995 to present ) [use "back" key to return here] provides a listing of selected Navy-Marine Corps post-Operation Desert Storm crisis-response and conflict operations.) From the January 1991 non-combatant evacuation in Somalia to the December 1998 reaction to Iraq’s resistence to U.N. weapons inspectors, the Navy and Marine Corps have demonstrated their value as the nation’s most flexible, immediate, and sustainable response to the full spectrum of political and military requirements. Worryingly, in light of the constrained resources confronting the Naval Services, such high- tempo, global responses will likely continue unabated in the decades ahead.

Moreover, the contributions of U.S. naval forces to regional stability and peace are increasingly important as the global economy becomes more interdependent. Military and political crises in one region can bring economic uncertainty and panic in another. For example, during the 1984 “Mines of August” crisis in the Red Sea and Gulf of Suez, the presence of naval mines and damage to some 20 commercial vessels caused maritime insurance rates to rise and jeopardized the safe movement of world shipping through this critical waterway. The quick response of U.S. Navy and multinational mine countermeasures (MCM) forces helped calm fears and safeguard international maritime commerce. During the March 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, Chinese naval maneuvers and missile tests caused the Hong Kong stock market to plummet, with reverberations felt throughout world stock exchanges. When the United States demonstrated its commitment to friends and allies by sending two carrier battle groups (CVBGs) and nuclear powered submarines (SSNs) to observe the Chinese exercises, the crisis was soon resolved, and stock markets around the world rebounded.

The forward presence of the Navy-Marine Corps Team also provides the base on which the full military power of the nation can respond to regional conflict. On-scene naval forces ensure full- spectrum dominance of the littoral battlespace and secure a strategic lodgment to enable entry of heavy, land-based follow-on forces. This was most clearly demonstrated by the U.S. reaction to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. Forward-deployed naval and ground forces were quickly reinforced by carrier battle groups and, ultimately, the largest naval force since World War II. This provided the foundation for the subsequent and massive in-theater buildup of the multinational coalition that ultimately liberated Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm.

Moreover, the continued presence of naval and ground-based forces provides the capability to respond to Iraqi threats to regional peace. Two times during 1998 Saddam Hussein went to the brink in challenging U.N. resolutions and U.S. resolve. A third time he went too far, and in December a combined British and U.S. force launched hundreds of Tomahawk land-attack missile strikes and equally numerous aircraft sorties that hit critical elements of Saddam’s political and military power bases. Since then, an uneasy peace has prevailed in Iraqi “no-fly” zones, with U.S. and allied aircraft, including carrier-based F/A-18 Hornets and F-14 Tomcats, on constant patrols against Iraqi adventurism, sometimes exchanging shots with Iraqi pilots.

The robust presence of naval expeditionary forces in important areas of the world is thus a critical component of U.S. national security. It signals our commitment to peace and stability, provides crisis-response capabilities, and assures allies and friends of a firm foundation for coalition operations. Forward presence of naval forces provides the nation with the cornerstone on which to build peacetime engagement, deterrence and crisis-prevention, and conflict resolution. We will continue to rely upon our naval forces to foreclose an adversary’s options and to shape the peace by remaining a tangible element of the local and regional security calculus that must be taken into account by friends and foes, alike.

Enduring Attributes of Naval Expeditionary Forces

Naval forces possess two primary attributes that make them well-suited for the expeditionary nature of America’s security and military strategies: flexibility and self-sufficiency.

Flexibility: Carrier battle groups and amphibious ready groups comprise diverse elements that can be “tailored” and committed to meet the needs of the situation at hand. Carrier air wings, surface warships, and submarines use a variety of weapons, including precision-guided bombs, Tomahawk land-attack missiles, embarked Marine forces, and naval “fires” to defeat an adversary. Naval expeditionary forces are the nation’s military “rheostat” that can be turned up or down to the extent necessary. They can be used to collect timely intelligence, to conduct maritime intercept operations, or simply to demonstrate U.S. commitment and political support. Non-combatant strategic sealift assets, which supply forces for combat as well as conduct humanitarian/disaster relief and evacuations, are important elements in ensuring operational flexibility.

Self-Sufficiency: Equally important is the ability of self-reliant and self-sustaining — expeditionary — naval forces to operate in forward regions without the need for an extensive network of land bases and other support facilities. The Navy and Marine Corps carry their own infrastructure when they deploy and arrive ready for immediate operations. As the Iraq-U.N. sanctions crisis of 1997-1998 proved, an aircraft carrier air wing comes not only with aircraft, crews, and weapons, but provides its own airfield . . . secure, supplied, and ready when and where it is needed. An amphibious ready group has its own command-and-control systems, air support, and sea-based troop billeting that is protected from terrorist attacks and free from status-of-forces agreements and sovereignty constraints. Key assets for intelligence, maintenance, security, and supply services are available, on-scene, when and where needed. As “expeditionary” has become the military adjective-of-choice, the Navy and Marine Corps — as they have for more than 200 years — continue to provide its most fundamental and accurate definition.

In short, America’s naval forces provide the operational flexibility and self-sustaining capabilities that commanders need today and in the future. They are the nation’s true “911” force-of-choice.

Today’s & Tomorrow’s Naval Revolutions

The Navy is developing new operational concepts and capabilities to meet evolving requirements and to sustain its superior warfighting capabilities. For example, WMD proliferation could threaten our forward-presence mission and change the way we address areas of importance to the United States. New threats will continue to arise that employ asymmetrical warfighting tactics, technologies, and weapons that could deny America’s military forces access to important regions. Simultaneously, fewer overseas bases and growing constraints on their use may impede the effectiveness of non-naval forces.

All these factors place a premium on agile, mobile, dispersed forces ashore and supporting them on-call from the sea. These forward-deployed, sea-based forces will provide critical support — theater air defense, naval fires, strike, mine countermeasures, amphibious operations — for naval, joint, and allied forces ashore. Ultimately, the success of such operational maneuver warfare will hinge upon information superiority. An open network architecture for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) that exploits the most secure and advanced technology available, will be critical for mission success. The Department of the Navy is developing a new architecture that will provide dominant battlespace awareness, faster and more flexible force deployment, unimpeded communications among joint and combined forces, and an information defense system that will ensure the security of all information.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) publication Joint Vision 2010 defined a common direction for all U.S. military services to meet the challenging and uncertain future. New technologies are to be merged with innovative operational concepts that aim to improve America’s ability to conduct joint operations across the full range of peacetime, crisis, and wartime missions. Key to this future is information superiority, which, along with institutional, organizational, operational, and technological innovation, will enable four new operational concepts to serve as a template for future naval expeditionary forces:

The Navy has responded to the direction in Joint Vision 2010 and to significant changes at home and abroad. We have embraced numerous opportunities to be innovative and creative regarding the nation’s needs for effective and affordable naval forces. Heralded by the publication in 1992 of …From the Sea, our transformation for the future is, itself, a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) driven by technological advances and operational, organizational, and institutional change. The Navy’s RMA could achieve quantum leaps in deterrence and warfighting capabilities.

The Navy clearly has a long tradition of combining technological change with innovative thinking. The development of carrier aviation and amphibious warfare in the inter-war period and the Cold War development of nuclear-powered submarines and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are good examples of previous RMAs that changed warfighting strategy and ensured U.S. naval power would continue to satisfy compelling national needs.

Today, the Navy and Marine Corps stand on the threshold of yet another RMA, this time fueled by revolutionary developments in information technologies. Largely the product of rapid commercial innovation, this transformation involves much more than the acquisition of new military systems; it calls for harnessing new civilian technologies and innovative practices to support the Navy-Marine Corps Team’s advanced concepts, doctrine, and operations. The full potential of this RMA can be realized, however, only by exploiting information superiority and by achieving an integrated set of systems founded on a common C4ISR architecture. To this end, the Navy’s evolving concept of Network-Centric Warfare (NCW) will provide the foundation for future exploitation of today’s and tomorrow’s RMAs.

The Navy’s RMA will be nurtured by a similarly far-reaching Revolution in Business Affairs (RBA) that will support the transformation of the Navy for the 21st century. This transformation includes new approaches to:

The Navy’s SmartShip and SmartBase are two initiatives that in essence combine both RMA and RBA elements to foster wide-ranging innovation and enhanced readiness. Faced with daunting and complex Post-Cold War challenges — severely constrained fiscal resources, plummeting force levels from nearly 600 ships in the mid-1980s to 305 in 2005, increasing worldwide commitments and operational tempos, and shortfalls in recruiting as the U.S. economy competed for the best and brightest of America’s youth — the Navy has embarked on a comprehensive assessment of shipboard practices and technologies. The objective of Navy’s SmartShip Program has been to identify the most promising labor-saving technologies available today for back-fit into existing ships and for forward-fit into future designs, and to “push the edge of technologies” that would save manpower funds and allow a greater proportion of crews to focus on warfighting. When perhaps as much as 60% of a ship’s life-cycle/total ownership costs can be attributed to its crew in one way or another (25% to payroll, alone), even modest reductions in manning could free up not only funds but valuable internal ship volume and space that could be devoted to combat systems and sensors, weapons, and ordnance. Following several years of test and evaluation with the USS Yorktown (CG-48), the Navy’s SmartShip innovators are convinced that the various initiatives could save 44 enlisted and two officer billets in each Ticonderoga (CG-47)-class Aegis cruiser, generating a total direct, indirect, and logistics-support cost-savings of $2 million per ship per year, at a cost of $23 million for all workload reducing initiatives. For the 27 Aegis cruisers that might ultimately receive the SmartShip installations, this could generate some $1.4 billion in life-cycle cost-avoidance during their remaining service lives, savings that could be reallocated to meet other pressing needs. The SmartShip approach is also shaping the Navy’s programs for future aircraft carriers, destroyers, and amphibious assault warships.

Smart innovation has also moved ashore. The Navy’s SmartBase program solicits industry, academia, and government agencies for innovative, state-of-the-market technologies and business practices that will boost shore installation efficiency. Two key enablers are the SmartLink and SmartCard. SmartLink established a state-of-the-market, wide-area network of major Navy installations. Planned to provide connectivity to 300 sites at completion, SmartLink in early 1999 provides voice, video, and data to more than 80 sites on the Navy’s Intranet, at significant savings. The Navy SmartCard Project starts at the Great Lakes Recruit Training Center. This computer-chip card is issued to each recruit to facilitate laborious administrative processes. Significant cost is already being saved, with a clear potential for additional savings as more applications are introduced.

Moreover, the aggressive reengineering of the Navy’s Total Force — Active, Reserve, and Civilian — and streamlining of support services and infrastructure are two more techniques that we will exploit to free up scarce resources, which can then be reallocated to current operations, modernization, and recapitalization.

All U.S. Armed Services increasingly will rely on commercial industry to provide the technologies and systems necessary for tomorrow’s operations. The rapid pace with which commercial technologies — most significantly in the information domain — proliferate and change presents the Navy with new challenges. We have therefore put in place the foundation for a continuing revolution in the manner in which we design, engineer, acquire, and place into service the technologies, systems, and platforms needed to ensure operational primacy. Furthermore, we will continue to assess our performance and the successes of others, and to manage our scarce resources effectively and efficiently.

Hard Choices

The Navy’s successes in numerous post-Cold War crises and conflicts were the result, in part, of decisions taken years before, which ensured that America’s Sailors had the “right stuff” for the tasks at hand. It follows that future successes depend on making the right decisions today — hard choices that are made more intractable and complex because of numerous challenges, uncertainties, and constrained fiscal resources — to ensure that our people will have the right equipment for tomorrow’s operations.

If the Navy’s transformation is to be a success, we must continually replace aging and obsolete platforms, weapons, and sensors. Equipment designed and procured decades ago is reaching retirement and must be replaced or substantially modernized to ensure continued usefulness. The Navy, however, must do more than just replace systems in kind; it must recapitalize and modernize for the demands of tomorrow’s threats and operational concepts.

New systems and platforms will address growing “jointness” and multi-national interoperability needs. The Navy and Marine Corps will increasingly be operating with other components of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Coast Guard. This will require compatibility of munitions; compatibility of maintenance, tools, spares, and support equipment; and, most importantly, compatibility of C4ISR systems. There will be continued consolidation of missions and tasks, and the Navy’s programs will reflect this. This points out the need to prepare continually for possible additional joint capabilities in the future and to work closely with the other U.S. services and our allies to ensure mission success.

The Navy will also build operational flexibility and adaptability into new systems and platforms that will join the Fleet. Missions, tasks, and threats change, but many platforms — most particularly aircraft carriers, surface ships, and submarines — last for several decades, if not longer. The USS Midway (CV-41), for example, was commissioned in 1945, when carrier service lives of 25 years were the norm. But Midway saw service in Operation Desert Storm, launching and recovering the Navy’s most advanced tactical aircraft some 45 years later. Projections of future aircraft carrier service lives now reach 50 years, if not more. This means that the last ship of the Navy’s next-generation, CVNX carrier class could be serving America until the dawn of the next — the 22nd! — century.

Operational flexibility and room for growth must continue to be designed and built in, not just in carriers, but in all of the Navy’s capital assets, ashore and afloat. Building to narrow design characteristics to save dollars in the near term will dramatically increase the risk of early and costly obsolescence as threats and missions change, and would thus be a false and dangerous economy. The Navy’s new platforms must be able to assume new and potentially vastly different missions easily, by changing electronics packages, software, doctrine, or weapons.

The Navy may be tempted to use scarce investment resources to meet today’s commitments and readiness needs. However, we cannot transform too quickly or radically for a still-ambiguous future and thereby dismantle important elements of today’s forces that have critical roles to play. We must remember that meeting today’s commitments by sacrificing tomorrow’s programs will mortgage the nation’s future security, with no guarantee that future forces would be capable of meeting the demands placed upon them. At the same time, however, if we focus too much on the future, this will increase significantly the risk that today’s forces would not be able to meet current needs. More critically, the quality of life for our Sailors and Marines, and their families, as well, could degrade to such a level that the skilled, motivated, and dedicated people who are the Navy and Marine Corps will leave the Naval Services for “better” jobs in the civilian economy. In short, it is at our peril that we fail to fashion a delicate balance between transforming for the future and meeting today’s global commitments.

Return to the Table of Contents