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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Discussing "A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower"

Let me start by pointing out some other sources that might prove useful in discussing the Sea Service maritime strategy.

One of the first things to read is The National Strategy for Maritime Security. This document, available from the White House website, lays the foundation for the Sea Service follow-on. It contains the following:
Maritime security is best achieved by blending public and private maritime security activities on a global scale into a comprehensive, integrated effort that addresses all maritime threats. Maritime security crosses disciplines, builds upon current and future efforts, and depends on scalable layers of security to prevent a single point of failure. Full and complete national and international coordination, cooperation, and intelligence and information sharing among public and private entities are required to protect and secure the maritime domain. Collectively, these five strategic actions achieve the objectives of this Strategy:

a. Enhance International Cooperation
b. Maximize Domain Awareness
c. Embed Security into Commercial Practices
d. Deploy Layered Security
e. Assure Continuity of the Marine Transportation System

These five strategic actions are not stand-alone activities. Domain awareness is a critical enabler for all strategic actions. Deploying layered security addresses not only layers of prevention (interdiction and preemption) and protection (deterrence and defense)activities, but also the integration of domestic and international layers of security provided by the first three strategic actions. (NSMS, p.13)(note the original does not use the "a b c" list - I have added that for ease of discussion)
Compare these to the "six key tasks" set out in "A Cooperative Strategy" (ACS):
Six key tasks:
1. Limit regional conflict with forward deployed, decisive maritime power.
2. Deter major power war.
3. Win our Nation’s wars.
4. Contribute to homeland defense in depth.
5. Foster and sustain cooperative relationships with more international
partners.
6. Prevent or contain local disruptions before they impact the global system. (ACS, p.8)
If you treat the NSMS as "marching orders" for development of sea service strategy, it is not surprising that ACS adopts NSMS concepts. You can match ACS 5 with NSMS a, ACS 4 with NSMS d, ACS 1 & 3 with NSMS c, and ACS 6 with NSMS d.

Underlying both documents is the concept that we live in a world made better through and tied together with cooperative action. Almost anyone who works in the maritime industry, the aviation industry or the modern business world has dealt with these international linkages that allow consumer goods to flow from one part of the world to another in an orderly fashion, tied to commercial rules that in some cases date back to the first load of olive oil put into a boat hull to be traded in a foreign port.

That modern commerce has spread so that 80-90% of the world's goods are delivered by ship perhaps anticipates Thomas Friedman's World is Flat vision or Thomas P.M. Barnett's works in The Pentagon's New Map and Blueprint for Action. And perhaps the underlying reality reflected in the ACS is mixed with some underlying strategic thinking theory such as that laid out in Thinking Strategically by Dixit and Nalebuff in which they describe strategy as a recognition that your rivals in the world are also
...intelligent and purposive people. Their aims often conflict with yours, but they include some potential allies. Your own choice must allow for the conflict, and utilize the cooperation. Such interactive decisions are called strategic, and the plan of action appropriate to them is called a strategy.
One key to the ACS is its constant emphasis on the interrelationships among nations. All the countries of Barnett's "functioning core" and those trying to join that core depend on shared, open sea lines of communication (SLOCs) for their well-being and their growth. The impact of strategic decisions, even when they are not thought of has such, demonstrate the interconnectedness that relatively low cost and reliable sea transport has brought.
Foe example, that decisions made by our Congress impact the world is no where made clearer than in the recent Congressional mandates for increasing the production and use of corn-based ethanol - presumably meant to help wean the U.S. from its dependence on foreign oil (a strategy which I think reeks of isolationism) - but which has had the effect world-wide of raising food prices and hurting the poorest of the poor in other lands. A bushel of corn diverted means some family in Mexico or the Philippines has to pay more for food or go without. Automobiles from Japan circle the globe, computers from Singapore or Taiwan are shipped to France. Toys from China, oil from Iraq and Saudi Arabia cross the seas and bring revenue and other goods in return.

We can hardly afford to be isolationists now, and the ACS is very outer directed.

That Japan, China, the U.S., Europe and Australia rely on the same SLOCs should lead to a certain level of cooperation in maintaining the SLOCs was free and open passages. Indeed, the behavior of the functioning core in assisting Indonesia and Malaysia with control of the Strait of Malacca has been a wonder to behold. On one hand, the sovereign rights of these littoral countries have been honored. One the other, various market "carrots and sticks" (such as increases in the cost of insurance for vessels transiting the Malacca Strait) has proven a powerful incentive to those states to put aside concerns over sovereignty (potential conflict) and cooperate in setting up a framework of joint patrols that have significantly reduced the threat of piracy in the strait.

By way of another example, the problem with Somalia is that no "Great Power" or any other country wants to get involved with Somali politics, which are so clan-driven as to almost be "Stone Age" albeit coupled with a proliferation of modern weapons and communications. However, the UN through some of its agencies, is in there trying to prevent mass starvation while Somalia sorts itself out. The problem is that Somali warlords interdict shipments of food by land and extort money for allowing food to proceed. The alternative was delivery of food by ship. The food ships were being seized by pirates and held for ransom. This raised the cost of food delivery. Lately, however, some Core countries have agreed to provided escort services for the food ships, ensuring that whatever extortion occurs involving the food will not also include risking the ships and crew to piracy. Elements of a coalition naval force also patrol and monitor areas into which the pirates might attempt to move into as their "easy pickings" on WFP food ships has ceased. By cooperating the Core has lessened the risk to commercial shipping in SLOCs and yet not had to "buy" all of the Somalia problem.

The concept of cooperation where possible for mutual benefit is consistent expressed elsewhere as the "1000 ship navy" - Vice Admiral Morgan has stated that the minimum U.S. fleet should be 313 ships. Judging by the language of ACS, the fleet seems to be "bipolar"- one part comforting and non-threatening ships for regional presence, education, support and cooperation (perhaps the AFRICOM Global Station consisting of an large amphibious ship and a high speed companion is the model - it's hard to fear an amphib unless it is full of combat Marines)- with an onboard collection of NGOs, Department of State reps, and other trainers in effective government, the Global Station is Barnett's SysAdmin force in haze gray form but without the occupying colonialism. Global Stations leave no footprints.

The other part of the fleet must then be a high speed strike force, Barnett's "Leviathan" - a lean, mean force capable of striking hard anywhere, anytime against any foe, sometimes in plain sight, sometimes, as the ACS says, over the horizon. It is a force to give potential enemies and aggressors pause.

The concepts of the ACS are sound. As noted above, international cooperation happens every day at sea with merchant shipping and in the air with commercial aircraft. U.S. Navy ships and crews do lend a helping hand to even North Korean sailors in distress.

Most of the complaints I have seen about the strategy is that is short on specifics about what ships will serve the nation's interests best. I'm not sure that is a major weakness. The ACS is an advertisement of American intentions. It tells the world that we prefer cooperation and freedom of the seas and will work with anyone to keep the sea lanes open. It also tells the world that we are prepared to act decisively should our nation or nations friendly to us come under threat. It a way , it is that old Marine saying writ as strategy: "No better friend, no worse enemy."

As regards ship building to meet the demands of the, certainly, for the hard work in the littorals, near where the ACS notes most people on the planet live, it makes little sense to push multi-billion dollar cruisers into roles for which they are ill-suited. The strategy, in my view, begs Congress to fund lots of smaller coastal warships capable of rapid transition from peacetime sea control and presence operation to full war status. The "really cool" Littoral Combat Ship, with its nifty "mission modules" does not seem to fill that bill. Better to have ships like frigates with adequate weapons systems than being at work with the wrong module when you need it. Really, though, in my mind, these ship-type discussions are more operational issues than the strategic vision represented by the ACS. Many of our allies have the right ships, they just need to share the vision. And we see signs of that off Somalia, in the Arabian/Persian Gulf with Task Force 150. It's a good thing to have admiral from Pakistan or Bahrain running the Task Force.

In sum, the ACS is a vision deeply based in the real world. We need the ACS to tell that reality to the American people, reminding them and Congress that we are a great maritime nation both connected with the world and protected from potential enemies by the sea. The more I read the ACS, the more I find that the authors did a pretty good job of it.

UPDATE (4/2/08): Robert Work and Jan van Tol of The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments(CSBA)have written an impressive critique of the ACS, preferring to describe the ACS as less "strategy" and more "concept." You can download their work here. It concludes:
Despite its problems, The Maritime Strategic Concept for Cooperative 21st Century Seapower is a good step in the right direction, particularly in its emphasis on cooperative maritime partnerships and its ringing endorsement of an integrated, interoperable National Fleet with congruent strategic concepts. Moreover, its very existence will also work to sharpen the ongoing debate over the role of US seapower in the Global Era. In so doing, this maritime strategic concept represents an important contribution and operational stimulus. As the concept is revised and made richer and more complete, it may indeed become the new maritime holy grail and help lead the way toward a new and vibrant age of American seapower.
It seems hard to ask for much more from a Navy that still remembers a strategy that discounted aircraft carriers and assumed that battleships would rule the seas - until a day in December 1941.

Interested readers should also note that the Spring 2008 issue of the Naval War College Review (downloadable from here)has additional analysis, including from Captain(ret)Wayne Hughes, who sees things to like in the ACS:
A strategy has now been constructed in less passionate peacetime circumstances to foster collaboration. It has been vetted by the operational and sea service commanders who are affected by and must follow its tenets. The new maritime strategy serves as an agreed point of departure that will not eliminate contentiousness in the future but will be the cornerstone of implementation, of the determination of affordable resources, of training to carry it out with
the forces in hand, and of the design of future sea service forces.(Naval War College Review, Spring 2008, Vol. 61, No. 2, p.48)
UPDATE: Corrected a few typos and added a missing link.

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