The Navy's "Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower" provides an overview of the capabilities needed for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard to fulfill their responsibilities to the nation:
Guided by the objectives articulated in the National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, National Military Strategy and the National Strategy for Maritime Security, the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard will act across the full range of military operations to secure the United States from direct attack; secure strategic access and retain global freedom of action; strengthen existing and emerging alliances and partnerships and establish favorable security conditions.
The heart of the document, as it applies to the Navy in particular, is entitled "Maritime Strategic Concept." Many (if not all) of the stated capabilities and tasks in this section have some impact on the force structure, and thus the shipbuilding plan, needed to successfully execute the strategy. Here's my take on those impacts.
U.S. maritime forces will be characterized by regionally concentrated, forward-deployed task forces with the combat power to limit regional conflict, deter major power war, and should deterrence fail, win our Nation’s wars as part of a joint or combined campaign.Required:
- ability to keep a discrete amount of combat power, continuously forward deployed (limit/deter)
- ability to surge the amount of forward combat power on short notice (win)
Persistent, mission-tailored maritime forces will be globally distributed in order to contribute to homeland defense-in-depth, foster and sustain cooperative relationships with an expanding set of international partners, and prevent or mitigate disruptions and crises.Required:
- forward forces must be powerful enough to act alone, but small enough to provide multiple layers of defense to the US - forming the Mahanian battle line to force the conclusive battle isn't an option
- forward forces must fit in with international partners (e.g., not all battleships)
A. Regionally Concentrated, Credible Combat Power
Credible combat power will be continuously postured in the Western Pacific and the Arabian Gulf/Indian Ocean to protect our vital interests, assure our friends and allies of our continuing commitment to regional security, and deter and dissuade potential adversaries and peer competitors.Required:
- two discrete, independent sets of forward forces, always deployed
Limit regional conflict with forward deployed, decisive maritime power
Where conflict threatens the global system and our national interests, maritime forces will be ready to respond alongside other elements of national and multi-national power, to give political leaders a range of options for deterrence, escalation and de-escalation. Maritime forces that are persistently present and combat-ready provide the Nation’s primary forcible entry option in an era of declining access, even as they provide the means for this Nation to respond quickly to other crises.Required:
- each forward center must have enough striking power to defeat regional access threats and provide a forcible entry option to the nation
Deter major power war
We will pursue an approach to deterrence that includes a credible and scalable ability to retaliate against aggressors conventionally, unconventionally, and with nuclear forces.Required:
- each forward center must have a first strike capability and credible enough staying power to strike back against the enemy in the event he strikes first - drives increased defensive and offensive capability
- these forward centers might not be able to win on their own after taking the first shot, but must be able to stay in the fight
Win our Nation’s wars
In times of war, our ability to impose local sea control, overcome challenges to access, force entry, and project and sustain power ashore, makes our maritime forces an indispensable element of the joint or combined force. This expeditionary advantage must be maintained because it provides joint and combined force commanders with freedom of maneuver. Reinforced by a robust sealift capability that can concentrate and sustain forces, sea control and power projection enable extended campaigns ashore.Required:
- ability to establish and maintain regional sea control by eliminating anti-access threats
- enough assault lift for the expected maritime contribution to the land combat plan
- enough immediately available strategic lift capacity to close initial forces within xx days
- enough quickly available strategic lift capacity to keep up the flow of materiel for 6 months; includes replacement for potential combat losses among the immediate strategic lift
Globally Distributed, Mission-Tailored Maritime Forces
The Sea Services will establish a persistent global presence using distributed forces that are organized by mission and comprised of integrated Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard capabilities. This global distribution must extend beyond traditional deployment areas and reflect missions ranging from humanitarian operations to an increased emphasis on counter-terrorism and irregular warfare.
Contribute to homeland defense in depth
Identify and neutralize threats as far from our shores as possibleRequired:
- Surveillance assets in ports of origin for commercial shipping
- Continuous surveillance of approaches to US ports a minimum of xx hours out
Foster and sustain cooperative relationships with more international partners
Expanded cooperative relationships with other nations will contribute to the security and stability of the maritime domain for the benefit of all. Although our forces can surge when necessary to respond to crises, trust and cooperation cannot be surged.Required - continuous commitment of forces to regions other then the Gulf and WestPac
Additionally, the Sea Services must become adept at forging international partnerships in coordination with the other U.S. services and government departments. To this end, the Global Maritime Partnerships initiative seeks a cooperative approach to maritime security, promoting the rule of law by countering piracy, terrorism, weapons proliferation, drug trafficking, and other illicit activities.
- Standing NATO Maritime Groups (2)
- West Africa (Another numbered fleet some day?)
- 4th Fleet
Summary of the Required Capabilities
To implement the strategy, the sea services "must collectively expand the core capabilities of U.S. seapower" to reach the goals for peacetime engagement and major combat operations. Non-specifically the document calls for an expansion of forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response. All of those things are covered in the required capabilities stated above. In order to get to a force level, however, we need to make some assumptions about what types of assets can deliver the capabilities we need, and also about how we want to distribute those capabilities.
1. The "discrete, independent sets of forward forces, always deployed" can be satisfied by today's Carrier Strike Group and Expeditionary Strike Group together in a region. They provide a visible presence in the area, they have the ability to establish localized sea control, and they can project soft or hard power ashore as the situation warrants. The continuous surveillance and area battle force missile count of the ESF establish a baseline for sea control, while the combined power of the air wing, battle force missiles and MEU establish the baseline for power projection. CSG missiles = 350; ESG missiles = 300 (based on current deployed groups listed here).
2.a. The ability to establish regional sea control in support of winning our nation's wars requires multiple strike groups, primarily due to the surveillance area a single group can cover but also limited by the reach of battle force missiles.
b. The forcible entry option from the sea requires at least a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) Assault Echelon - Regimenal Landing Team, Marine Air Group, Brigade Service Support Group.
c. The following forces behind the MEB are at least the size of a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) - Marine Division (reinforced), Marine Air Wing, Force Service Support Group.
d. The sustainment effort after forcible entry will continue using available lift for up to 180 days before normal commercial lift can begin to take over the flow. That sustainment effort must support not only the MEF + MEB, but an Army Corps and an Air Expeditionary Force. The primary drivers for this lift are Class V and Class III.
3. Each Global Maritime Partnership station requires the assignment of at least one ship full time, and these commitments will grow from those identified above. The types may vary depending on the particular needs of the station. Assume that the total commitment is six ships.
4. Continuous requirements (1) and (3) each need two others in the pipeline to allow for normal rotations.
5. Major maintenance planned for any one conventional ship consumes 15% of its service life (e.g., 4.5 years over 30), 20% for a nuke.
6. Aircraft carrier and air wing force levels are outside the scope of this analysis.
So with all that out of the way, now I'm ready to lay out the total force requirements to satisfy the requirements. Unfortunately, that won't happen today. Stay tuned!