Saturday, January 9, 2010

The First Week of 2010 in Review

Cavour Class Aircraft Carrier

Visby Corvette

2010 is starting off to be rich in many quality posts blooming across the blogs I read, like new grass on a warm spring day. Here a rundown of some of the most memorable.

Leading off is Galrahn, who growth as an important voice in naval centric affairs has earned him well deserved respect. In this post he coins a new moniker for what the U.S. Navy is calling the "New Navy Fighting Machine" by calling it, "Streetfighter 2010."  He begins with this introduction.
If a force's combat power grows out of proportion to its survivability, however, it becomes tactically unstable. And a tactically unstable force has diminished utility to the nation because it becomes risk averse. This already is happening in some areas. In Kosovo, for example, the most needed use of air power was proscribed in both time and space. As a result, allied aircraft remained at high altitudes. In short, commanders will be unwilling to risk forces because of the human dimension, because of the disproportionately large percentage of the force's combat power represented by a single platform, and because of the high cost in time and treasure when even one such platform is lost in battle. The Navy after Next could become tactically unstable in the face of sophisticated area denial strategies—great eggs, but too few baskets.
Unless you are a frequent reader of Galrahn's blog, you may not know that he is not a trained strategist, but came to be respected for his self-taught mastery of the often overlooked subject of naval grand strategy. His insights are as fresh, as they are provactive especially to those who seem to get caught up in the trap of preparing to fight the next war based on the tools and strategies of the last one.

Working backward, Galrahn starts by recommending several new vessels to beef up our ability to project our secruity in coastal (green) waters.

The Streetfighter 2010 study includes 9 new platforms as part of the green water force, or 10% SCN budgeted force. These vessels include:

Visby Corvette

Armidale Partrol Boat

400 Inshore Patrol vessels similar to the US Coast Guard Defender class boat.
160 Offshore Patrol vessels similar to the Australian Armidale-class patrol boat.
30 Coastal Combatants similar to the Swedish Visby class corvette.
12 Fast MIW vessels similar to the Norwegian Alta class minesweepers.
12 Gunfire Support vessels similar to the Finish Nemo Navy program except bigger, with AGS.
12 ASW Inshore vessels similar to an ASW dedicated Sa'ar 5 class corvette

12 Global Fleet Station vessels similar to the vessel recommended in the often discussed NPS GFS design study (PDF).
8 Light Aircraft Carriers similar to the Italian Cavour class but dedicated to VSTOL aviation.
2 Coastal Combat Tenders intended to support 10 Coast Combatants a piece.

Some of the comments from readers have questioned the reliance on foreign designed vessels. I for one would point out that we currently use a foreign designed platform for our Stryker Armored Fighting vehicle, the Belgian designed M-240 machine gun. and the new German designed H and K 416 Carbine. The strategy is that if a design works, then borrow the idea and add a good measure of American inginuity. Look what we did World War II when we refined the design of British Destroyer Escorts, begun as the Evarts Class, first built for Great Britian, to crank out 457 Destroyer Escorts for the U.S Navy in eight ever refined classes, during and after the war.

Galrahn lays out his argument in the following headings, each worthy of consideration.
You have to be in the littoral to influence the littoral.
Dedicated MIW and ASW matters.
A dedicated Command is a requirement for successful littoral operations.
Innovating into the future through experience.
Littoral Operations as a Strategic Capability.

In summary, this post speaks to the future.
Littoral capabilities at the low end in large numbers offer policy options for our elected leaders to look strategically at problem areas like the Gulf of Aden and provide support to regional partners without creating large physical (thus political) footprints on land. To this end, green water fleets enable strategic options that can prevent or reduce the risk of war in troubled maritime regions, and the Streetfighter 2010 study explores a blueprint for strategic options that can be offered with a balanced approach towards naval power. Because green water forces come with low price tags but high potential payoff opportunities as a long term consistent strategic engagement activity, the monetary investments make it financially worth it to just give these capabilities away to developing countries once developed in cooperation as 10 or 15 year plans. When executed as a strategic capability for global engagement, investment in green water forces represents a security "development in a box" solution at sea.

Read the whole post and the 55 and growing thoughtful comments.
 Streetfighter 2010: The New Navy Fighting Machine

Blog friend Mark, of Zenpundit  linked this post by another blog friend Adam Elkus. Mark's comments set the stage to read Adam's excellent piece.

We face a number of problems when it comes to formulating strategy and grand strategy. Not least is that, whatever the shortcomings on that score within America’s officer corps, there is a yawning gap of comprehension between the senior brass and most of the civilian “influencer” elite in and out of government.....
There is a deficit of knowledge among the class of officials and staff members with the authority to make or not make the most critical decisions in matters of peace and war. It cannot be remediated by an uncertain and unhealthy dependency on the Pentagon’s advice and a frustrating dialogue where civilian and soldier talk past one another.

Read more:
Elkus on Science, Defense and Strategy

Sticking with the strategic theme, I turn to look out across the Pacific to see what Shawn, keeper of the Cross Border Journal has to say about U.S. Grand Strategy for Asia and the Pacific Rim. Shawn has begun to blog more and I think you will find his posts well worth the time to visit and review. In this post Shawn reviews our government's foreign policy preformance in Asia this past year.

Quickly reviewing the key members of the government's foreign policy team's performance in 2009:
•SoS Clinton has maintained a fair amount of leverage through 2009 and heading into 2010 and has been an outspoken and frank voice in contrast to the subtle approach of President Obama. She has shown she is comfortable overseas based on her previous experience, but has shown a tendency to let single issues take control of her interactions with Asia-Pacific countries--climate change with China, bases with Japan.

•SoD Gates has been somewhat out of the public eye and conversation beyond the topic of Afghanistan and there is a reason why: he is doing a solid job and maintaining existing relationships from a defense and security perspective with Asia-Pacific countries. The only issue as of late relates to U.S. military installations in Okinawa, with which Japan is grappling domestically. But I see Clinton and Gates eventually working this out with the new Japan government.

•SoT Geithner had a rough year in 2009 and has done little to improve his situation heading into 2010. He can only hide behind Bernanke for so long, but policy has been lackluster with soaring debt and no fiscal restraint being displayed as a core value. This has made him weak in speaking with countries in the Asia-Pacific, especially China.
Shawn goes on to offer several ways that the United States might recover some of the momentum lost in 2009.
China, whether you agree with their policies or not, is a deliberately long-term thinking nation at the top in regards to domestic policy and thus a negotiator working with them to make changes to this domestic policy must factor this into their strategy. But I believe the Obama team can recover in 2010 by doing the following, amongst other things.
For those suggestions, read the whole piece.
 Obama's 2009 Progress on a Grand Strategy for the Asia-Pacific

Each of these posts offer food for thought about the future. How the U.S. Navy secures the sea lanes is a mission as old as seafaring, each epoc requires innovation and change to meet new threats. Adam Elkus counsels that we need to cast our net of ideas wider and become more flexable to craft a solid strategy.

I am reminded of something that Doctor Benjamin Rush said about how a free republic operated. He said,
"Our republics cannot exist long in prosperity. We require adversity and appear to possess most of the republican spirit when most depressed."
What he meant was that Americans would not deal with a problem until it was almost impossible to overcome. He wrote this over two hundred years ago during the American Revolution after Thomas Paine's American Crisis revived American spirits in December of 1776.  The free thoughts that bloom from blogs like those above, are in the finest tradition of the American Spirit to speak our minds and pitch ideas into the great caldron of our Repubic.

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