No Free Ride in the Pacific: The Case for Investing in Mobility

Countering China Topic Week

By Walker Mills

In recent years the Pentagon has doubled down on a Pacific focus. It has published a new Pacific strategy and the individual services have been burning the midnight oil to write their own new concepts oriented around the Pacific.1 The Navy has released its classified new concept Distributed Maritime Operations,2 the Army has its Multi-Domain Operations concept,3 and the Marines are still working on Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations.4 All three concepts are predicated on an ability to maneuver through and within the First Island Chain. They assume the future operating environment will be heavily contested and involve threatened areas much farther from the central battlefields than the military has experienced in recent decades. In his recent planning guidance, the new Commandant of the Marine Corps warned:

“Potential adversaries intend to target our forward fixed and vulnerable bases, as well as deep water ports, long runways, large signature platforms, and ships…The ability to project and maneuver from strategic distances will likely be detected and contested from the point of embarkation during a major contingency.”5

Notably, this would negatively impact logistics and sustainment operations across the Pacific theater, and not just at the bleeding edge of the combat zone.

All the concepts seek to leverage distribution and rapid maneuver – whether through distribution of austere bases, task forces, or naval vessels. While they are intended to be broadly applicable the concepts are optimized for operations in the Western Pacific to counter a rising China and her military. Essential to all of these concepts is intra-theater mobility – moving lethality to the decisive point, but it has yet to be addressed in a meaningful way in acquisition and modernization priorities. The services have poured much needed resources into platforms and systems that can kill and destroy, but they have neglected to invest in operational mobility.

It does not appear that U.S. allies and partners in the region have the stomach for a larger basing footprint that would allow forces to be permanently or rotationally based forward. This begs the question – who is doing mobility and logistics? How will Army and Marine Corps advances in lethality actually reach a far-flung Pacific battlefield? How would the “forward deployment of multiple High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) batteries armed with long-range anti-ship missiles” that Commandant Berger envisions actually happen in a contested environment?6

Shortfalls in Pacific Mobility

Today the intra-theater mobility requirement is largely filled by Expeditionary Fast-Transports (EFPs). These aluminum, double-hulled vessels are relatively new to the fleet but have been a continual disappointment. They have not been able to meet critical requirements for ship-to-ship transfers of supplies.7 They have sustained hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage in trans-oceanic voyages, voyages they would be needed for in a conflict.8 They have been plagued by maintenance issues. And perhaps worst, they have trouble operating in the open ocean because of the higher sea states there. An Operational Test and Evaluation Report concluded “The necessity of avoiding high sea states while transiting is an operational limitation that could be significant.” And “To utilize the speed capability of the ship, seas must not exceed Sea State 3 (significant wave height up to 1.25 meters).”9 A Department of Defense Inspector General report found 28 total deficiencies with the vessels in levels ranging from minor to severe, which means the deficiency in question “Precludes mission accomplishment.”10 The report found more than half of these deficiencies were either related to the vessels ability to meet cargo carrying requirement or network with the fleet – probably the two most important capabilities for the platform’s success.

Designed for inshore transport, the EFPs had been used successfully as short-haul commercial ferries between the Hawaiian Islands before the design was chosen by the Navy. But they are largely unsuitable for longer trips, like the nearly 1,600-kilometer trip between Okinawa and Tokyo, or the 1,700-kilometer trip between Okinawa and Manila, or the similarly lengthy trip to Guam. Today many of these trips are made by air or by Marines embarked on large, amphibious ships like the America class which may be too vulnerable and valuable to operate inside an enemy anti-access, area-denial envelope (A2/AD). The demand for these amphibious ships far outstrips the supply. Despite a longstanding (but recently waived) requirement of 38 amphibious ships set by Marine Corps leaders, the Navy’s current shipbuilding plan will not reach that number until 2033 or perhaps ever.11 Other sources, like the Heritage Foundation have argued that the requirement is as high as 45 amphibs.12 The Marine Corps went so far as to note this in their 2016 Marine Operating Concept that “We will likely continue to fall short of the number of amphibious warfare ships to meet CCMD operational demands…”13 Other transport programs like the Navy’s Common Hull Auxiliary Multi-Mission Platform (CHAMP), are still in the concept stages are likely fall in priority to other Navy programs because they are auxiliaries.14

KUCHING, Malaysia (March 28, 2019) The Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4) arrives at the Port of Kuching for Pacific Partnership 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas Burgains/Released)

A new platform for intra-theater mobility can share some of the burden carried by the larger amphibious ships.

Intra-theater mobility is critical to future Marine and Army operations. Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment specifically calls for the capability “…to employ scalable landing forces using a variety of platforms including amphibious ships as well as alternative capabilities…”15 But the short list of available platforms makes clear that this is not possible without acquiring new platforms or significantly modifying existing platforms. Seconding this sentiment, Commandant Berger noted in his planning guidance that:

“Our naval expeditionary forces must possess a variety of deployment options, including L-class and E-class ships, but also increasingly look to other available options such as unmanned platforms, stern landing vessels, other ocean-going connectors, and smaller more lethal and more risk-worthy platforms…We must also explore new options, such as inter-theater connectors and commercially available ships and craft that are smaller and less expensive, thereby increasing the affordability and allowing acquisition at a greater quantity.”

This specific capability gap is in addition to the yawning general capability gap the Navy is facing in logistics and sealift capability. A recent report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis made clear their belief that the Navy and associated institutions were woefully deficient in sealift capability in the opening sentence of their report, “The current and programmed defense maritime logistics force of the United States is inadequate to support the current U.S. National Defense Strategy and major military operations against China or Russia.”16 Specifically the roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ships that Marines forces rely on to move tanks, light armored vehicles, HIMARS, and logistics vehicles in bulk are plummeting below acceptable readiness. “…even with service-life extension funding for 22 ships… 30 of 65 RO/RO vessels could age out within the next 15 years.”17 It is also worth noting that this scathing assessment did not even consider the potential requirements for emerging Marine Corps concepts requiring greater dispersion.

It would be negligent not to note the role of Marine and Air Force airlift – critical in moving around forces in theater, but it is not nearly enough. Not only are the available air transport options questionably survivable in the projected operating environment, but there are just not enough of them to do the whole job. Recall the infamous Millennium Challenge event where retired Marine General Paul Van Riper’s red force would have massacred the blue forces arriving on waves of rotary-wing aircraft.18 It is also likely that much of the extant airlift capacity would be tied up supporting expeditionary airfields per the Marines’ EABO concept or the Air Force’s “Rapid Raptor” concept leaving little to ferry ground forces.19

Other voices have also called for plugging the maneuver gap in the Pacific with new surface vessels. Douglas King and Brett Friedman recently called for a “Fighting Connector” in War on the Rocks that:

“…would use sea lines of communication to fill the gap between amphibious assault ships, sea-based assets, and Expeditionary Advance Bases (EABs) until shore-based threats are reduced. The size of the fighting connector would be in the range of sloop or small corvette class ships, displacing roughly 500 to 2,000 tons — a step or two smaller than the littoral combat ship.”20

A recent study by the Heritage Foundation noted “The Corps must work with the Navy to develop smaller, lower-cost ships that are better suited to the type of dispersed operational posture implied by LOCE.”21 And the Marine Corps itself has noted that it is deficient across the range of capabilities required to perform EABO. The authors of the 2016 Marine Corps Operating Concept summarized:

“The Marine Corps is currently not organized, trained, and equipped to meet the demands of a future operating environment characterized by complex terrain, technology proliferation, information warfare, the need to shield and exploit signatures, and an increasingly non-permissive maritime domain.”22

The Marines and the Army are investing in much needed, new ground vehicles and long-range, precision-fires capabilities essential for contributing to sea control or sea denial from the landward side of the battlefield. But the Navy and Air Force have also prioritized offensive systems like the FFG(X) and the F-35 programs. Even the Marines’ new CH-53K, ideally suited for moving vehicles, cannot cover the distances required by the theater with an external load.

Conclusion

This issue of lift is existential for Army and Marine operations in the Pacific. The theater is massive – in many cases hundreds or thousands of miles away from U.S. installations. The Marine Corps intends to distribute its forces widely, and has already begun. There is a new rotational force in Darwin, Australia, and a plan to move forces to Guam from Okinawa. This is good news, but these far-flung garrisons need platforms that can move them rapidly and in a survivable way to where they are needed in conflict. And these platforms need to be able to carry the gear essential to sea control like HIMARS rockets and G/ATOR radars, not just grunts.

If the United States wants to compete, deter, and win in a potential conflict its military needs to be able to move troops around the theater in question at will. To do this will require a reallocation of acquisition priorities and investments.

Walker D. Mills is an active duty Marine Corps infantry officer. He is currently studying Spanish at the Defense Language Institute. These views are presented in a personal capacity.

References

[1] Indo-Pacific Strategy Report: Preparedness, Partnerships and Promoting a Networked Region. Department of Defense (Washington, D.C.: 2019) https://media.defense.gov/2019/Jul/01/2002152311/-1/-1/1/DEPARTMENT-OF-DEFENSE-INDO-PACIFIC-STRATEGY-REPORT-2019.PDF.

[2] Megan Eckstein, “Navy Planning for Gray-Zone conflict; Finalizing Distributed Maritime Operations for High-End Fight,” USNI News (December 19, 2018) https://news.usni.org/2018/12/19/navy-planning-for-gray-zone-conflict-finalizing-distributed-maritime-operations-for-high-end-fight.

[3] “The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028,” TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, U.S. Army (2018) https://www.tradoc.army.mil/Portals/14/Documents/MDO/TP525-3-1_30Nov2018.pdf.

[4] “EABO,” Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, webpage. Accessed July 15, 2019, https://www.candp.marines.mil/Concepts/Subordinate-Operating-Concepts/Expeditionary-Advanced-Base-Operations/.

[5] “Commandant’s Planning Guidance: 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps,” U.S. Marine Corps (2019) 1-4.

[6] “Commandant’s Planning Guidance,” 3.

[7] Brock Vergakis, “Report: Navy Ship Designed for Fast Transport Has Problems,” Military.com (28 April, 2018) https://www.military.com/daily-news/2018/04/28/navy-ship-designed-fast-transport-has-problems-report-says.html.

[8] Nick Stockton, “Yar! The Navy is Fixing Its Busted High-Speed Transport Ships,” Wired Magazine (January 20, 2016) https://www.wired.com/2016/01/yar-the-navy-is-fixing-its-busted-high-speed-transport-ships/.

[9] “Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT &E) Report on the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV),” memo (September 22, 2015) https://news.usni.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/9-22-15-Follow-On-Operational-Test-and-Evaluation-FOTE-Report-on-the-….pdf#viewer.action=download.

[10] “Expeditionary Fast Transport Capabilities,” Inspector General of the Department of Defense (April 25, 2018) 6-7. https://www.oversight.gov/sites/default/files/oig-reports/DODIG-2018-107.pdf.

[11] Dakota Wood, “Rebuilding America’s Military: The United States Marine Corps,” The Heritage Foundation (March 21, 2019) 39.  https://www.heritage.org/defense/report/rebuilding-americas-military-the-united-states-marine-corps.

[12] “U.S. Navy” The Heritage Foundation (October 4, 2018) https://www.heritage.org/military-strength/assessment-us-military-power/us-navy.

[13] “Marine Corps Operating Concept: How an Expeditionary Force Operates in the 21st Century,” U.S. Marine Corps (September 2016) 20. https://www.mcwl.marines.mil/Portals/34/Images/MarineCorpsOperatingConceptSept2016.pdf

[14] Megan Eckstein, “Navy Wants 2 Variants Next Common Auxiliary Hull: One for People, One for Volume,” USNI News (January 16, 2019). https://news.usni.org/2019/01/16/navy-wants-2-variants-next-common-auxiliary-hull-one-people-one-volume.

[15] “Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment,” U.S. Marine Corps (2017)17. https://news.usni.org/2017/09/26/document-marine-corps-littoral-operations-contested-environment-concept.

[16] Timothy A. Walton, Harrison Schramm and Ryan Boone, “Sustaining the Fight: Resilient Maritime Logistics for a New Era,” Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analyses (April 23, 2019) i. https://csbaonline.org/research/publications/sustaining-the-fight-resilient-maritime-logistics-for-a-new-era/publication.

[17] Ibid., 85.

[18] Micah Zenko, “Millenium Challenge: The Real Story of a Corrupted Military Exercise and Its Legacy,” War on the Rocks (November 5, 2015) https://warontherocks.com/2015/11/millennium-challenge-the-real-story-of-a-corrupted-military-exercise-and-its-legacy/.

[19] Blake Mize, “Rapid Raptor: getting the fighters to the fight,” U.S. Air Force Public Affairs (February 20, 2014) https://www.pacaf.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/591641/rapid-raptor-getting-fighters-to-the-fight/.

[20] Douglas King and Brett Friedman, “Why the Navy Needs a Fighting Connector: Distributed Maritime Operations and the Modern Littoral Environment,” War on the Rocks (November 10, 2017) https://warontherocks.com/2017/11/navy-needs-fighting-connector-distributed-maritime-operations-modern-littoral-environment/.

[21] Wood, “Rebuilding America’s Military,” 40.

[22] “Marine Corps Operating Concept,” 8.

Featured Image: EAST CHINA SEA (Feb. 4, 2019) – Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) board an MV-22 Osprey assigned to the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) prior to flight operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

If Not China, Who? Competing in Africa Through Foreign Military Education

Countering China Topic Week

By Matthew Quintero

“If not China, who?” was a question asked during a class on foreign investment in Africa. The speaker was an African naval officer. The class was equally composed of American and African military officers, and the place was the United States Naval War College (NWC). The African officers all seemed to nod in agreement while the rest of the room shrugged. The author has heard this comment several times before by other exasperated African officers. They were tired of being reminded that China was only interested in the natural resources of their homelands, or that China was building ports, bases, and infrastructure on loans their nations could hardly repay. They were also acutely aware that China’s “no strings attached” development targeted their weak governments and “big man” regimes. It was sometimes difficult for this particular officer to express himself, as English was his third language after Bantu and French. But on this day he made himself very clear, stating:

“All Africans want democracy. We all want to be like the United States. We need help with roads and infrastructure, but our governments cannot work with USAID and the World Bank. Who can the people get help from? If not China, who?”

In his mind, China was helping exactly where it mattered. The question of whether the U.S. or China invests more in Africa was irrelevant. This was a matter of sentiments and perceptions. If competition for the Indian Ocean during peacetime requires building partnerships with African nations, the U.S. will be best served by focusing on people rather than ports or platforms. But as it now trends,  an entire side of the Indian Ocean in the form of east African nations is poised to embrace deeper strategic partnership with China.

Chinese Solutions to African Problems?

Like every other continent, Africa has problems. Africa has the youngest and fastest growing population in the world. By 2035, nearly half of all Africans will inhabit urban areas with poor infrastructure. These cities will struggle to provide their citizens with food, water, shelter, and employment. Africa’s GDP exponentially increased over the past decade due to the international scramble for its rich national resources. Yet with this remarkable rise in GDP, there has not been a corresponding rise in youth employment. Often when foreign investors come to Africa with a need for technical expertise they do not end up hiring African firms. This feeds a cycle of “brain drain” where Africans with scientific and technical degrees leave the continent for better employment elsewhere.

Climate change will also test urban infrastructure. Africa is warming at 1.5 times the global average. Flooding and rising sea level will continually impact the quarter of the continental population that lives within 60 miles of a coast. Climate change is estimated to cost Africa $50 billion per year by 2040. These struggling cities will also have to contend with the burden of displaced peoples.

Civil wars and ethnic struggles continue to foster Boko Haram in the West, Al Shabab in the East, and Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. In their wake, “populations of concern” whether they be refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced persons, have greatly multiplied in the past decade. Porous land and maritime borders, along with government corruption, facilitate criminal activity. These extremist groups can then draw on public anger at government corruption to recruit and radicalize disenfranchised youth. This resentment is only made worse when police and military forces abuse local populations in their hunt for extremists.

Many of Africa’s woes are symptoms of government inability to react to the changing African environment. Managing the impact of foreign actors, population, climate change, violence, and economic growth will all depend on governance. According to the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, overall governance across the continent is on a marginally upward trend. The past decade has also seen a wave of democratic reform, in which six nations have voted to limit presidential terms along with improving decentralized governance. Yet, more than a quarter of Africa’s population has never seen a change in leadership. Coincident with this upward trend, African governments show increasing divergence in performance. Some governments are getting better, while others are getting worse.

The realization of the importance of “good governance” in Africa has created a dilemma for donor nations. Traditional sources of development such as the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have safeguards built into their aid that are meant to stop or slow funding should the ruling governments use the aid for patrimonial purposes or in the violation of human rights. For many African nations, World Bank aid only comes with guarantees of democratic reform. Corrupt and oppressive regimes eventually refuse aid or refuse to change in order to qualify for aid. These same regimes often rule where infrastructure and other development projects are needed most. Should good governance or development come first? This chicken and egg dilemma is the topic of much current debate concerning international aid. And into this environment, China steps in.

As China’s need for commodities grows so does its involvement in Africa. China has invested heavily in Africa through the One belt, One Road initiative, and the Forum on Chinese-African Cooperation. With a policy of “noninterference,” Chinese development supposedly comes with “no strings attached,” meaning that China is ready and willing to work with corrupt African governments.

China is very effectively providing a counter-narrative to “western” international institutions. These ideas have most recently manifested in BRICS, the union of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. BRICS members see themselves as leaders of the developing world and have their own agenda and development funds, liberated from restrictions placed on aid by the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), and United States. This has worked very well for China. African nations are lining up to receive aid, and for their efforts, many Africans view China favorably.

But it would be unfair to say that Africans do not understand who they are dealing with. African civil society has criticized China for failing to promote good governance and human rights. For the African officers in certain war college classes, while they don’t necessarily like China, they don’t see development through the lens of great power competition. They see infrastructure projects increasing the quality of life within their nations. These projects just happen to be Chinese and not of some other foreign actor.

If not China, who will help? China wins over public opinion when they develop in nations with corrupt or weak governments. But Africa must have governments and societies able to resist both Chinese and U.S. influence, should that influence be malign. Capable democratic governments would be better equipped to handle their own problems and keep foreign actors in check.  That is what the U.S. must strive for. To counter China in Africa, the U.S. must promote resilient, prosperous African states and not spheres of influence.

A Role for Foreign Military Education

In the parlance of Multi-Domain Operations, how does the U.S. compete with China for access to the East African coast? If the problem is governance, what role can the U.S. military possibly play? While debating these questions and government policies, international officers must ponder of the heated debates that occur in American war college classrooms. Americans often speak critically of the U.S. government, but could African officers speak critically of their own governments? Could these conversations ever occur in a Chinese war college?

The U.S. military can best compete with China for influence in Africa through foreign military education. Influence will come when African leaders see that good governance, respect for human rights, and abiding by international law is worth working toward. U.S. military leaders can work directly with African military leadership, specifically in war college settings where uniformed service meets free speech and critical thinking. More African officers training side-by-side with bright U.S. military officers and civilian professors is where the U.S. can reconcile ground truth with strategic aspirations.

Foreign military education focused on governance, accountability, and human rights is a small sliver of Defense Institution Building (DIB). DIB nests within Security Sector Reform (SSR), which falls under Security Sector Assistance (SSA). DIB, SSR, and SSA spheres overlap and funding for subordinate programs is held by both the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of State (DoS). Education of this sort currently falls under DoS’s International Military Education and Training (IMET) program. Among other objectives, IMET espouses a “respect for…democracy and…internationally recognized human rights.” IMET receives the least funding of all DoS global SSA efforts, and sub-Saharan Africa only receives 14 percent of funds allocated to Africa. IMET is also susceptible to only going to nations the DoS and DoD can agree on, rather than where it may do the most good. While the DoD is charged with administering IMET, DoS determines the recipients, and Congress controls the funding. DoD must be in “lockstep” with the DoS throughout the annual budget request process to ensure both departments needs are met.

DoD “Regional Centers for Security” (RC) can fulfill functions similar to IMET. The DoD budget for SSA significantly trumps that of DoS, but most of those funds are focused on the tactical training and equipping of partner militaries in their efforts to defeat transnational threats. RCs are the exception as they are DoD funded education tools serving regional combatant commanders. RC roles have expanded from “strengthening civil-military relations in democratic society” to “the promotion of democratic accountability” and “respect for human rights.” In a given year the DoD can train over twice as many foreign military personnel through RCs than DoS can through IMET. These programs are different, yet overlap toward the same objectives, and therein lies opportunity.

Gen. David Rodriguez (front row second from left), commander U.S. Africa Command, visited the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., to meet with African nation Navy students who are currently attending the college in resident programs for international officers. (U.S. Navy photo by Mr. John Stone)

If more funding for education is untenable, the Gordian knot of SSA can be solved by more efficiently coordinating the education efforts of DoD and DoS. The DoD Inspector General summarized the situation well in reporting that “Without DIB policy that distinguished the DIB roles of…the Regional Centers or any other office or command conducting DIB-related efforts, a potential for duplication and inefficiency existed.” With the end goal of educating an entire military on international norms and good governance, RCs don’t necessarily target the required audience. IMET is intended for a wide audience of relatively young foreign officials. Conversely, RCs cater to a more selective group of senior foreign officers. However, as DoD initiatives, RCs are less vulnerable than IMET to political leveraging. IMET may be turned off due to political instability or coup attempts within the partner nation, which brings it back to the good governance versus development dilemma.

Foreign military education is of far greater importance and strategic potential than is currently realized, but these are often among the first types of programs to be cut from budgets. If for no other reason, the U.S. must address international military education because China is competing in this space as well.

China’s College of Defense Studies

The author would not have been aware of China’s competition in this space if it weren’t for African counterparts. Their story went something like this, “China has an international program too, but in China they teach us in our languages, we get a diploma, and a considerable stipend.” Every international student the author ever interacted with was extremely grateful for their opportunity to study at a U.S. war college, but this note about language is very important. Most African students at the Naval War College did not arrive with the requisite mastery of English to complete a master’s degree.

When they arrive in the U.S., the first stop for most international students is Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. Here they attend the English language course at the Defense Language Institute. They are put through a rigorous program, but at least for certain African colleagues, most did not meet the standards of the language and writing screener when they checked into the Naval War College. Failing this test ensured that these students would only receive a certificate of completion and not the diploma that most other students received. Even a 25-week course in English may fail to prepare a Swahili speaker for an English-only graduate school accredited by the same source as nearby Harvard and Yale. However, if given enough time to communicate, most of these students had as much if not more to contribute to any conversation about global politics than U.S. students. As most classes were held in a fast-paced seminar setting, one could only wonder if they felt their statements could impact discussions.

Since 2012, China’s College of Defense Studies (CDS) has awarded war college master’s degrees to international students. CDS is a program within the Peoples Liberation Army National Defense University (PLA NDU) that provides a strategic and operational level defense education to international students. It caters to most officer ranks and just like the U.S. war colleges it is a year-long program that ends with a master’s degree. CDS specifically targets sub-Saharan Africa for potential enrollments, and courses are available in Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. And, just like the international programs at the U.S. war colleges, there are cultural tours and spouses clubs. But not everything is the same.

Unlike the U.S. war colleges, the international students are not well integrated with the greater PLA NDU student body. Alumni of CDS have been critical of the physical location of their school, which is in a completely different part of Beijing from the PLA NDU. This distance made interaction with Chinese counterparts very difficult. Alumni also report that much of the course incorporates China’s official view of the U.S. as a “neo-imperialist,” especially in Africa, and there is very little deviation from this official position in their discussion. The relative strength of U.S. international programs is found in these differences since international students in the U.S. are invited to explore the good and bad of American society. Compared to the U.S. system, China’s methods of physical separation and imposed ideology do not offer value when it comes to attracting favorable foreign sentiment. 

Conclusion

Through enhanced professional military education, the U.S. can empower future African military leaders. Much like China’s College of Defense Studies, this U.S. program must also deliver an official party line and never deviate from that line, but that line must be democratic, open-minded, and inclusive.

To counter China in Africa the world needs resilient and empowered African states, not spheres of influence. Resilience is achieved when the African people believe in their governments, and in turn their governments are fair, accountable, and effective. So when an international student asks at an American War College, “If not China, who?” the answer must always be, “you.”

Lieutenant Commander Matthew Quintero, USN, is a Naval Flight Officer, E-2D Mission Commander, and recent graduate of the U.S. Naval War College. His views are his own.

Bibliography

Adams, Gordon, and Shoon Murray, editors. Mission Creep. Georgetown University Press, 2014.

“Africa at a Tipping Point – 2017 Forum Report.” Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Accessed July 15, 2019. http://s.mo.ibrahim.foundation/u/2017/09/14103424/2017-Forum-Report.pdf.

“China in Africa.” Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed July 15, 2019. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-africa.

“College of Defence Studies – Home.” National Defence University PLA China. Accessed July 15, 2019. http://www.cdsndu.org.

“Defense Language Institute English Language Center – Course Catalog.” DLIELC.edu – Home. Accessed July 15, 2019. http://www.dlielc.edu/prod/Catalog.pdf.

Hanauer, Larry, Christopher J. Springer, Chaoling Feng, Michael Joseph McNerney, Stuart E. Johnson, Stéphanie Pézard, and Shira Efron. Evaluating the Impact of the Department of Defense Regional Centers for Security Studies. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2014.

McNerney, Michael J., Stuart E. Johnson, Stéphanie Pézard, David Stebbins, Renanah Miles, Angela O’Mahony, Chaoling Feng, and Tim Oliver. Defense Institution Building in Africa: An Assessment. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2016.

Piombo, Jessica, editor. The US Military in Africa: Enhancing Security and Development?. Boulder: First Forum Press, 2015.

Van Oudenaren, John S., and Benjamin E. Fisher. “Foreign Military Education as PLA Soft Power.” Parameters 46, no. 4 (Winter 2017), 105-118.

“Whole of Government Security Cooperation Planning.” Defense Institute of Security Cooperation Studies. Accessed October 10, 2018. http://www.discs.dsca.mil/documents/greenbook/19_Chapter.pdf.

Featured Image: A Chinese paratrooper coaches his South African peers to use Chinese rifles during a recent tactical training exercise at a military training base in central China’s Hubei Province. (Photo courtesy chinamil.com.cn)

Localized Sea Denial: Countering Chinese Aggression in the South China Sea

Countering China Topic Week

By LtCol Roy Draa

“Free and open access to the South and East China Seas is critical to both regional security and international commerce…Through its illegitimate efforts to build and militarize islands in the region, the Chinese Communist Party has aggressively attempted to control these critical waterways and undermined international law. This legislation makes clear that any individual or entity supporting these illegal actions will be held accountable.”1

There can be no doubt that the United States lacks an actionable maritime strategy with respect to the South China Sea, nor does the maritime force exist to effectively counter Chinese expansion in this economically and politically critical space. The bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission made this clear in its recent report to Congress. While the Navy and Marine Corps have nascent  operating concepts in Littoral Operations in a Maritime Environment (LOCE) and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO),  the United States—given the current fiscal environment—is years away from developing a naval force in size and sophistication to directly contest Chinese militarization of the South China Sea through the implementation of said concepts. Moreover, as Rep. Mike Gallagher of the House Armed Services Committee recently explained, “The Marine Corps’ emerging Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations concept is a good start, but it needs to go further and focus on how to put capabilities in place persistently rather than moving them in place after a crisis begins.”2 In short, the maritime services have much work to do in refining and translating current operating concepts into a “just in time” stop-gap answer to an increasingly volatile security situation. They must do so in an innovative manner that inspires joint and combined action.

South China Sea Problem Response

A potential military solution to the ongoing and growing problem in the South China Sea lies in the middle ground between directly contesting and accommodating China’s illegal actions. This solution would be part of the “collective pressure” strategy recently recommended by Hal Brands and Zack Cooper. The United States, bringing all elements of national power to bear, would persistently reinforce diplomatic and economic relationships with regional partners (i.e. Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.) while focusing theater security cooperation in the region in order to demonstrate its commitment to offsetting malign Chinese influence in the region. Central to this will be a tactical solution that provides a credible deterrent, and is capable of sea denial in the vicinity of key maritime terrain while functioning as a covering force for the deployment of a larger Combined Joint Task Force (JTF).

In the last six months, the United States Marine Corps’ Training and Education Command Warfighting Club (TWC) has considered this challenge in the context of LOCE/EABO and published its preliminary findings in the July 2019 Marine Corps Gazette. Using commercial, off-the-shelf simulations software, TWC was able to confirm the ineffectiveness of current U.S. Navy and Marine Corps doctrine and tables of organization against a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)-led limited objective attack in the South China Sea.

TWC also ran several sea denial simulations with a specifically designed “Inside Force,” building a Multi-Domain Marine Air Ground Task Force (MD-MAGTF) around a reinforced Marine Infantry Battalion forward deployed on key maritime terrain (the Philippine island of Palawan). The simulated MD-MAGTF was supported by land-based anti-ship missiles, armed (kinetic/electronic warfare) unmanned aerial systems (UAS), and unmanned surface vehicles (USV), as well as forward elements of the Pacific Fleet operating over the horizon in the Leyte Gulf. In each simulation, the MD-MAGTF was able to force Chinese naval and aviation forces to culminate both tactically and logistically with limited friendly losses. Through the employment of swarming tactics, the MD-MAGTF (supported by a larger JTF) overcame threat surface/aviation units, exposing their inability to effectively counter a coordinated UAS and anti-ship missile threat. In certain iterations of the simulation, the MD-MAGTF was able to commence limited strikes on militarized islands in anticipation of the entry of a follow-on combined maritime force.

Implementation of this inside covering force requires several critical actions and enablers:

1. United States Marine Corps remissioning/restructuring to address critical gaps in Mission Essential Tasks (METs), anti-aircraft/anti-ship missiles, and armed UAS capabilities. Service-level training exercises (SLTE) could easily incorporate these problem and potential solutions sets in the near future in live, virtual, and constructive maritime environments with requisite input and support of the Navy and Coast Guard.

Remissioning: As a part of the METL review process, Marine Corps planners must take a hard look at the Navy’s Composite Warfare doctrine and how Sea Denial is not addressed as a MET, with supporting Training and Readiness (T&R) tasks across the MAGTF.

Restructuring: The Marine Corps lacks critical capabilities to execute sea denial. In a fiscally constrained environment, these shortfalls can only be addressed through restructuring and a revision of tables of equipment. The focus should be on air defense, UAS, and artillery battalions.

Training and Exercises: At present, SLTEs are focused on land-based, offensive operations. Exercise design must also look at maritime operations in the littorals in partnership with the Navy and Coast Guard. This necessitates a dedicated plan of action for updating range and landing beaches on San Clemente Island, as well as this training area’s incorporation into SLTE design, whether through live or constructive means.

2. Focused INDO-PACOM partnership with the Philippine Armed Forces, specifically Task Forces 41 and 42, the 4th Naval District, and the 10th Marine Brigade Landing Team. The MD-MAGTF cannot effectively train nor operate without partner nation political and military support. With that in mind, INDO-PACOM must move beyond scripted amphibious bilateral exercises centered on Luzon. INDO-PACOM and III MEF planners must work with the Philippine Armed Forces in order to redirect efforts toward bilateral, free-play exercises in Palawan and the Philippines’ western littorals.

3. Over-the-horizon aviation and logistical support for the MD-MAGTF should be provided by an Expeditionary Strike Group (Task Force 76/31st Marine Expeditionary Unit) operating in the Leyte Gulf. This can easily be incorporated into INDO-PACOM’s current list of joint and combined exercises.

4. On call logistical support from an Expeditionary Transfer Dock vessel capable of over the horizon aerial/surface resupply via UAS/USV. The Navy and Marine Corps have conducted extensive experiments using this class of support ships as an adjunct to the ARG. Further experimentation is required to determine how non-L class ships can be added to or replace those capabilities typically found in a standard ESG. These experiments should focus on what personnel and support equipment capabilities are required to support launch and recovery of ordinance and logistics payloads on UAS/USV in support of a MD-MAGTF.

Conclusion

While the task of sea denial is not explicitly addressed as a current United States Marine Corps MET, this concept is not new and would nest well with the Naval Composite Warfare doctrine. It is a dusting off of the Marine Defense Battalion concept of the inter-war years. Despite less than optimal pre-war logistical support, the effectiveness and sacrifice of the 1st Marine Defense Battalion on Wake Island (in gaining time for U.S. offensive operations in the Pacific) and the TWC study of the problem set serve as a framework for the proposed solution. Based off the initial results of TWC simulations, a modern ground-based, multi-domain capable, inside covering force can act as an integral component of a larger JTF and may serve as an effective maritime counter to Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

LtCol Draa is a career infantry officer with 19 years of active duty service in the United States Marine Corps. He is currently stationed at Quantico Marine Corps Base with Training and Education Command (TECOM). He is a charter member of the TECOM Warfighting Club, the Commanding General’s working group that explores and evaluates future warfare concepts, applications in maneuver warfare and mission command in improving professional military education. These are presented in a personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government.

References

1. https://gallagher.house.gov/media/press-releases/gallagher-panetta-introduce-legislation-counter-chinese-aggression-south-and

2. https://cpb-us-e1.wpmucdn.com/blogs.gwu.edu/dist/1/2181/files/2019/06/Gallagher.pdf

Featured Image: Marines with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, ride aboard a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft during an amphibious raid exercise off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, April 17, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jonah Baase)

Countering China Topic Week Kicks Off on CIMSEC

By Dmitry Filipoff

This week CIMSEC will be publishing articles submitted in response to a call for articles issued in partnership with the U.S. Army’s Future Warfare Division. According to Colonel Chris Rogers, “the Future Warfare Division is looking for innovative and strategic thinking on the role of the joint force in countering a rising China, with particular emphasis on the unique challenges the Indo-Pacific region presents to multi-domain operations.”

Below is a list of articles featuring during the topic week that may be updated as prospective authors finalize additional publications.

Localized Sea Denial: Countering Chinese Aggression in the South China Sea” by LtCol Roy Draa
If Not China, Who? Competing in Africa Through Foreign Military Education” by Matthew Quintero
No Free Ride in the Pacific: The Case for Investing in Mobility” by Walker Mills”

Dmitry Filipoff is CIMSEC’s Director of Online Content. Contact him at Nextwar@cimsec.org

Featured Image: The 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division flies 19 AH-64 Apache helicopters in an organized formation around Oahu, May 1, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ryan Jenkins)

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas.