Looking Within and Looking Beyond the Far Horizon
U.S. sea services are contemplating a future based on innovation while keeping a wary eye on events half a world away.
West 2014 Online Show Daily, Day 3
Quote of the Day:
“We have global responsibilities. We will not be able to do less with less. We will do the same with less.”—Gen. James F. Amos, USMC, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps
Internal change may be the key to managing external change as the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard enter a new era of limited budgets and unlimited global challenges. From research and development to acquisition, these services are looking toward changing methods and technologies to keep the force viable and accomplish their missions. Meanwhile, a range of adversaries continue striving to find and exploit weaknesses in U.S. capabilities and operations.
The final day of West 2014, sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute and held in San Diego, featured three panels that discussed the internal and external challenges that will define the force for the foreseeable future. The first was a morning keynote panel chaired by Al Grasso, president and chief executive officer of The MITRE Corporate and AFCEA chairman of the board of directors. The defense industrial base was the focus, and three other industry leaders weighed in on changes that should—or must—occur if the United States is to maintain its military superiority.
Jeffrey T. Napoliello, vice president, strategy and business development, Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training, warned that competition is actually hurting the industrial base and its military customer. Saying that greater competition is a business model, not a catalyst for greater innovation, he noted that the current model forces companies to shift more resources to proposal writing than to solutions.
“If we continue to use the same levels and methods to drive down costs, we will find we are doing less development,” he added.
Mike Petters, president and chief executive officer, Huntington Ingalls Industries, offered that competition in a low volume environment actually adds cost. “We are competing toward monopoly,” he charged.
Ellen Lord, president and chief executive officer of Textron Systems Corporation, called for a greater use by the Defense Department of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) as a way of keeping pace with commercial product introductions. Reusing systems is one way of improving economies and efficiencies, she said.
In addition, Lord warned that the defense industrial base is imperiled by complicated technology export regulations. Deliveries to foreign customers can be delayed by as much as 36 months by red tape, which is causing some foreign countries to turn to other nations, even if the sale involves inferior technology. “Foreign sales are keeping the U.S. industrial base afloat,” she pointed out.
All of the sea services are looking to industry to provide badly needed innovation, but each of the three has different challenges that they hope innovation will help overcome.
The U.S. Navy faces a challenge from the increase in proliferation of weapons for access denial, said Adm. Mark E. Ferguson, USN, vice chief of naval operations. He cited innovation as the greatest need for defeating this and other challenges, and he called on industry to work cooperatively with the Navy to explore new technologies and applications.
“The edge we will need will come from innovation” Adm. Ferguson declared.
Among the areas where the Navy needs innovation are cyber; the electromagnetic spectrum; and unmanned autonomous systems with stealth characteristics, both surface and underwater. Electromagnetic railguns and beam weapons for shipboard use could help counter the area denial threat posed by antiship missiles, the admiral offered.
The Marine Corps needs innovative technologies to help it reach the shore from the sea. Not only does the Corps lack a sufficient number of amphibious ships, its inventory is aging and may not be able to serve new mission requirements.
“Amphibious ships are the Swiss Army Knife of the fleet—we don’t have enough of them right now,” said Gen. James F. Amos, USMC, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. The general called for a new family of connectors, vessels that would be able to ensure transit from the sea to the shore.
“Connectors are really, really important,” he emphasized. “We need connectors that can haul a lot of stuff and can go to high speed; leave a sea base 75-80 miles off coast; go 120 miles downrange; and then turn to the shore and dispatch its Marines.”
The Corps is looking to work with industry on developing a new type of connector. These joint high-speed vessels would be brought aboard another ship at sea and then transition into connectors. They would travel at high speed when needed, and then fold up for storage “in some black bottom ship that can carry 20 of them.”
The Marines Corps is losing a large number of personnel as a result of postwar budget cuts, but Gen. Amos does not expect easier missions. “The world is not going to allow us to do less after the wars end,” he offered. “We have global responsibilities. We will not be able to do less with less. We will do the same with less.”
For the Coast Guard, affordability is the byword. The service is planning to replace its aging cutter fleet with a host of new vessels, but it cannot afford pricey technologies. The Coast Guard Commandant, Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., USCG, warned industry that it should not apply the Defense Department model to the Coast Guard when it bids on upcoming procurements. The Coast Guard will be scrutinizing bidders on its upcoming programs, he added, because affordability is the number-one requirement.
These procurement challenges come as the Coast Guard’s mission is increasing in difficulty. As the U.S. Navy shifts some of its assets to the Asia-Pacific region, the Coast Guard will be losing the support it used to receive from that sea service. It will face greater challenges interdicting illegal traffic in the Western Hemisphere, particularly with threats being more decentralized and harder to identify. To the north, the receding Arctic ice cap has increased the amount of navigable water that needs to be patrolled. The new national security cutter will function as a floating Coast Guard station, obviating the need for building any new permanent shore infrastructure. However, the Coast Guard will need a broader concept of maritime governance, including a new area of responsibility as the ice retracts further, the admiral said.
Half a world away, eyes are focused on China and its intentions, which will have major ramifications for the Navy and the Marines. Dr. James R. Holmes, a professor of strategy and policy at the U.S. Naval War College, warned that China’s small but growing Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) might be able to prevail in an ocean battle with the U.S. Navy. He explained that the PLAN would be facing only a fraction of the entire U.S. Navy if conflict arose between the two. Any fight would occur in waters not far from China, so it could bring shore-based assets—such as aircraft and missiles—to bear against the U.S. fleet. These assets have ranges as far as hundreds of miles, which would put most U.S. naval forces responding to a crisis in the area well within their reach.
Holmes noted that China is building a maritime force capable of defeating U.S. forces in that region. “China’s is a maritime strategy, as opposed to a naval strategy, through and through,” he declared.
And China increasingly is demonstrating hostility through its actions and words—especially those words published in open-source publications. Capt. James Fanell, USN, deputy chief of staff, Intelligence and Information Operations, warned that Chinese publications, including some published in English, describe aggressive plans to “restore China to its rightful place” by the middle of this century.
Recent actions by China’s civil maritime organizations have more than validated U.S. concerns about Chinese intentions. For example, the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has stated that it does not coordinate operations with China’s Coast Guard, the captain related. Yet, he noted, that is patently not true, and the Coast Guard has become an instrument of harassment in China’s seaward expansion. China has claimed territory belonging to several nations in the Asia-Pacific region, and its maritime forces are serving as an instrument for exercising those claims.
One solution to the growing tension over China’s territorial claims may lie in the rule of law. Capt Stuart Bell, USN, deputy assistant judge advocate general (international and operations law), said international law institutions could help resolve many of these disputes before they flare up into violent conflict.
He explained that international law is an essential tool for resolving these complex issues, which tend to fall into three categories: disputes over territorial claims to islands and reefs; aggressive assertions to maritime jurisdiction; and aggressive pursuit of natural resources such as oil deposits and fish stocks. Extant architectures are already in place to ensure that rules work, he said.
“Meaningful adherence to international law and norms is our best chance to resolve these territorial conflicts,” Capt. Bell declared.
Some countries already are pursuing this option. The Philippines went to international arbitration over territorial claims about reefs, and a ruling may be handed down in 2015. Both the Philippines and Vietnam have done a good job clarifying their territorial claims, he allowed.
In addition, Capt. Bell emphatically stated his personal opinion that the United States should ratify the International Law of the Sea Treaty as soon as possible, as this will give the country access to the treaty’s resolution mechanisms. The United States already observes the treaty, but ratification will give it greater leverage in disputes.
Mark your calendar for West 2015, February 10-12 at the San Diego Convention Center.