Navy, Marine Corps Warfighters Gird for Multifaceted Missions

May 2000
By Robert K. Ackerman and Beverly P. Mowery
E-mail About the Author

New information networks, innovative devices and more ships are necessary for global coalition operations at distant sites.

The new network-centric U.S. Navy, flush with advanced information technologies, can expect greater challenges as it is tasked with more diverse and widespread operations well into the 21st century. Both the Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps will be dealing with major operational issues involving a longer military reach amid greater geopolitical tension and more complex coalition operations. And, both services will be relying on as yet unfielded technologies to fulfill their missions.

This adds up to “Chaos in the Littorals,” which was the theme of West 2000, the annual joint conference and exposition sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute. Held February 10 and 11 in the San Diego Convention Center, the event featured high-level speakers from the Navy, the Marine Corps, U.S. government and private industry.

Adm. Leighton W. Smith, Jr., USN (Ret.), led off the conference warning of chaos in coalition operations. These types of operations are more likely to occur in the future than they have in the past because they bring a political legitimacy that is desirable to political leaders, he charged. However, these missions represent “the worst kind of military efficiency.” Adm. Smith listed his firsthand experiences as Allied Forces Southern Europe commander in chief during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These included 13 months to obtain provisional approval for action against the Serbs; each participating nation having a direct link with its capital for consultation, and some national laws prohibiting specific alliance actions. A coalition of 35 nations has “command, but not control,” the admiral emphasized.

The credibility of deterrence depends on both capability and will. If either is lacking, deterrence is nonexistent. Adm. Smith related that the unity and coherence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), rather than the success of the mission, became the center of gravity in its operation. “Hope is not a course of action,” he declared.

In the keynote address, Undersecretary of the Navy Jerry Hultin stated that the high-technology U.S. Navy must change the way it does business. Hultin declared that the Navy must “just say no” to some acquisition programs on the table and instead focus on supporting other expenses such as personnel pay. The sea service has fallen behind in updating its business practices and should learn from the private sector. Hultin cited the Navy’s new business vision and goals document as an important step in the right direction. Unless the Navy modernizes its methods, however, adversaries will take advantage of widely available resources to wage effective asymmetrical warfare. “The bottom feeders are out there looking for asymmetrical ways to win,” Hultin warned.

The opportunities and challenges of globalization “are here to stay,” and the Navy must serve to build geopolitical stability for growth, education and freedom, he emphasized. About 2 billion people subsist on $2 a day, and these people are susceptible to demagoguery. How long, Hultin asked, before they march to a different drummer?

The range of high-technology possibilities in this uncertain future was among the topics discussed by keynote luncheon speaker John Gage, director of the science office for Sun Microsystems. Predicting innovations just around the corner, Gage described terabyte storage devices the size of a sugar cube built around gold-plated proteins. These devices could emerge from laboratories in as little as five years but no more than 15 years, and they will change the way information systems operate.

By 2010, when optical lithography reaches its limit under Moore’s Law, processors will have improved by a factor of 128, and communications will have improved by a factor of thousands. Network-centric computing, which succeeded disk-centric computing, will in turn be replaced by object-centric computing. Applications revolutions will occur in surveillance, digital money, sensors and actuators, video imaging and the propagation of high-resolution satellite imaging. “We are not close to even half of humanity being linked to the [World Wide] Web,” Gage declared.

These new technologies could bring pitfalls, however. Saying “what hath ARPA [Advanced Research Projects Agency] wrought,” Gage noted that the attributes of the Internet have led to its liabilities. Interoperability has opened the door to what is just the start of the hacker onslaught, he stated, adding that every time experts solve one problem, they start a new one.

Among the two panels on the inaugural day of West 2000 was one chaired by Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, USN, that focused on applying technology to the close-in littoral. Adm. Cebrowski, president of the Naval War College and a former J-6, warned that “we should see ourselves as guardians of the networks,” and that there are some “disruptive technologies” in existence that threaten operations. He cited the few classes of ships and aircraft under development as a problem. When speed is essential, having Marines waiting on transport ships is counterproductive, he noted. Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn, USN, commander of the Third Fleet, cited a need for a full set of sensors ranging from national overhead assets to manportable units that can be networked in a synergistic way.

Brig. Gen. James R. Battaglini, USMC, deputy commanding general of the I Marine Expeditionary Force, called for information assets such as a full tactical picture, better bandwidth management and rapid sensor-to-shooter information flow. Gen. Battaglini also predicted that the days of Marines storming the beaches may have passed into history, being replaced by forces airlifted to key points inland. The Marine Corps must develop an advanced amphibious assault vehicle three times as fast as current models and capable of delivering forces from 25 kilometers (15 miles) offshore. Other essential technologies include tools to monitor bandwidth management; high-capacity, over-the-horizon, continuous on-the-move communications to provide a full tactical picture; and intelligence systems to provide rapid sensor-to-shooter information.

Fred Belen, director, expeditionary warfare operations technology division, Office of Naval Research, also presented a wish list of items such as more accurate and distributed sensors; new conformal radars, including those that can find targets in clutter; and faster weapons or systems that loiter over a theater of operations for immediate use when needed. Ships need multipurpose antennas that eliminate “porcupine” clutter on topsides, and further in the future may lie new hull forms that allow vessels to move at 50 to 70 knots in reasonable sea waves.

Political issues surrounding ballistic missile defense have put U.S. forces at risk today with little means of defense, according to the members of a panel on projecting defense. Rear Adm. W.J. Holland, Jr., USN (Ret.), headed the group.

Rear Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, USN, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for theater combat systems, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, used a football analogy to emphasize the point. “The offense is on the field, but we cannot find a defense on the field.” He relates that a good defense needs to be up front and knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage.

Benson Adams, former director, strategic studies group, Office of the Secretary of Defense, stressed that the United States is trying to live with a treaty that is detrimental to national security. He argued that because major changes in circumstances have occurred and because the Soviet Union no longer exists, the ballistic missile defense treaty is no longer binding. However, he added, the United States has extended the treaty to include the current Russian government. Russia, he noted, will not want to change the arrangement because it is in that country’s best interest to keep the treaty as it is.

The danger today is sufficiently serious that someone will attack someplace we care about with ballistic missiles, related Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., director, Center for Security Policy. When that scenario happens, the United States will then build a sea-based missile defense to prevent it from happening again, he predicts. Why wait until it is too late, he asked, when we might be able to prevent the attack?

The first speaker of the conference’s second day, Adm. Archie Clemins, USN (Ret.), lauded the Navy’s efforts to implement its information technology (IT)-21 upgrade program and the planned Navy/Marine Corps intranet (NMCI). The former commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet related that the roadmap for IT-21 was laid out in this same conference just a few years ago by Adm. Cebrowski. Since then, the Navy has stuck to its schedule, and IT-21 should be completed in 2003.

Nonetheless, “a few hiccups” have occurred as some ships lack the capabilities to take full advantage of emerging operational procedures, he allowed. In one example, a Fifth Fleet ship could not access its operations orders that had been placed on the World Wide Web.

Still, this networking already is paying dividends. More than 500 maritime intercepts of suspected smuggling vessels off the coast of Iraq have taken place through the benefits of networking. And, these technologies have reduced the planning time for a Tomahawk missile attack from two days to 90 minutes.

Adm. Clemins cited the NMCI as vital to future operations. “Without NMCI, you don’t have a chance,” the admiral declared. It will interoperate seamlessly with IT-21 to provide connectivity “to the skin of the ship.”

Immediately following Adm. Clemins’ speech, Lt. Gen. John E. Rhodes, USMC, commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, gave the Marine Corps address. Gen. Rhodes warned that future operations will feature “savage, determined and intelligent” foes, and cited examples emerging from Rwanda, Vietnam, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Chechnya, Iran and Iraq. Reprisals for ethnic cleansing have been the norm in Rwanda and Kosovo. In Bosnia, foes used civilian radios to track NATO aircraft without highlighting their surface-to-air radars. In Chechnya, rebels invented their own forms of chemical warfare. The general predicted that, despite recent reports of Russian forces’ success in Chechnya, “there will be a round three” of combat over that breakaway republic.

Gen. Rhodes also warned that the U.S. military must prepare for hybrid threats that combine an asymmetric approach with symmetric capabilities. Anyone with Internet access has the potential to disrupt operations. “Lesser players” with some high-technology capabilities can offset Western military supremacy. U.S. planners must balance “technophilia with technophobia,” the general added.

The Navy is the United States’ “forward presence” against aggression, declared Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jay Johnson, USN. Speaking at the CNO luncheon, Adm. Johnson said that the Navy relies on three partnerships: its personnel, the Marine Corps and industry. Maintaining good personnel has become even more difficult, as the service has had to double its signing benefits and advertising budget. The relationship with the Marine Corps “has never been better,” as the Navy is looking at leveraging speed to improve Marine Corps capabilities. The admiral emphasized that the partnership with industry is “very exciting” as the private sector continues to deliver necessary technologies. “Network-centric warfare is the key organizing principle for all of us, and industry will make it happen,” Adm. Johnson declared.

The Navy is threatened, however, by its current shipbuilding pace, which the admiral described as “rock bottom” to be able to maintain a 300-ship fleet. At risk of growing smaller, the Navy may actually need to grow larger to meet the requirements being placed on it around the world. “The 21st century will take us to places we’ve never been before,” he predicted.

On the admiral’s technology wish list are electric drives for ships such as the next generation of destroyers; a “whole squadron” of unmanned underwater vehicles; and expeditionary sensors that will fit on a host of Navy and Marine Corps platforms and devices worldwide—all networked.

The network-centric Navy will need sufficient information technology expertise to keep operating, and this could be a problem. “For the rest of our lifetimes, the key will not be technology—the key will be people,” the admiral warned. He is not sure if the Navy will have a C4 community with a clear career path.

Among the day’s three panels was one that focused on winning the battle for information superiority. Moderated by Vice Adm. Michael McConnell, USN (Ret.), former National Security Agency director, this panel presented an alarming picture of the threat from cyberspace. Adm. McConnell led off the discussion by stating “we’re in a war today” over the information infrastructure. Because it depends on information systems to a greater degree than any other nation, the United States is most vulnerable to infrastructure attacks from cyberspace. However, planners must balance national security against domestic tranquility when developing information policy.

Michael Vatis, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Infrastructure Protection Center, said that having a declaratory policy is not sufficient if the government does not know who is launching an information attack in its early stages, which generally is the case. He called for a concerted effort by industry to build robust security into commercial off-the-shelf products and for the government to fund research and development focused on protection and detection. The problem area is the whole planet, including the United States.

Rear Adm. Robert M. Nutwell, USN, warned of the potential for information attacks on the global positioning system (GPS). Adm. Nutwell, deputy assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C3ISR) and space systems, also described some antijamming measures being implemented on the satellites, some of which will not be fully capable until 2009.

Vice Adm. Herb Browne, USN, deputy commander in chief of the U.S. Space Command, was even more blunt about the potential threat to GPS. “Every one of you needs to be terrified about GPS vulnerability,” he declared, adding that the technology to jam the constellation’s signal can be found in ordinary microwave ovens.

Michael J. Jacobs, deputy director for information systems security at the National Security Agency, warned against sacrificing security for the sake of speed, capacity and functionality. Citing the broad-based threat, he noted that the World Trade Center bombers were not merely trying to wreck a building but actually were trying to topple the towers onto Wall Street and wreck the U.S. economy.

Giving a background review on network-centric warfare was Vice Adm. Robert F. Dunn, USN (Ret.). Adm. Dunn, a former deputy chief of naval operations for air warfare, moderated a panel on maintaining coalition interoperability and connectivity in network-centric warfare.

The social and political aspects of interoperability are the biggest issues, according to Rear Adm. John A. Gauss, USN, commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, but technological interoperability is also important. Adm. Gauss outlined three categories of interoperability: the shared capability; the operational rules of engagement and command culture; and legal considerations.

Looking at network-centric warfare from the perspective of the Navy’s international programs office, its director, Rear Adm. James I. Maslowski, USN, related that the office has numerous responsibilities, including harmonization of requirements, improvement of disclosure, reinvention of foreign military sales, and support of the team user.

Cdre. Jim Stapleton, RAN, Commodore Flotillas, Royal Australian Navy, acknowledged that interoperability is always important. However, he also suggested that leadership look at other issues such as local implications, how to maintain interoperability and how other nations can afford the technology that the United States is pushing out at a great rate. Interoperability is not a choice, he added; it is essential. The United States cannot go alone, and the world has to understand the bigger issue. He stressed that a big issue is national strategic interests, and the United States is not the only group with strategic interests. “All nations have that reality,” he stated, continuing that there is an unintentional liability of not passing on information.

The qualities of leadership were at the core of a panel on restoring command to the commanders, moderated by Adm. Leon Edney, USN (Ret.), former commander in chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Rear Adm. Albert H. Konetzni, Jr., USN, commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, emphasized that people are the core value. He warned against a military that is “too anal-retentive” and suggested instead that it should tend to the important items and discard others.

Brig. Gen. Francis E. Quinlan, USMCR, vice commander, U.S. Marine Corps Pacific Fleet, stated that the Corps is changing its policies to reflect the changing youth of the United States. He called for a revamped retirement system with term increments that more closely matches the commercial world, instead of the fixed 20-year pension eligibility. Teaching core values is essential, as is bringing back the fun, challenge and sense of self-worth to being a Marine. “Op tempo is not our enemy,” he said, pointing out that short-term, regular deployments are good for retention.

Vice Adm. Michael L. Bowman, USN, commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, noted that retention has improved over the past year. Part of the reason is that commanding officers are feeling empowered to command once again. The past decade has been tough, especially with the service not having acquired enough aircraft and parts or retained enough personnel.

His Naval Surface Force counterpart, Vice Adm. Edward Moore, Jr., USN, cited the need to “get out of the zero-defects mentality” that prevents risk-taking for effective command. He also warned against having inadequate resources for doing the job, which creates a poor command climate with high attrition.

Enjoyed this article? SUBSCRIBE NOW to keep the content flowing.