Reforming 21st Century Navy Intelligence To Answer the CNO’s Call

By Millard Bowen and David Andre

In January 2016, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) issued A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, which defined the current operational environment and laid out our Navy’s most pressing challenges within a framework of three interrelated global forces. These global forcesthe classic maritime system, the global information system, and the increased rate of technological creation and adaptationrequire the Navy’s Intelligence Community (IC) to adapt for the 21st Century.

Of the four Lines of Effort identified in the CNO’s Design, the Navy IC can directly affect three: Achieve High Velocity Learning at Every Level, Strengthen our Navy Team for the Future, and Expand and Strengthen Our Network of Partners. The fourth Line of Effort— Strengthen Naval Power at and From Sea — will derive direct advantages through Navy IC advancements in the other LOEs. Within this context, this paper identifies three challenges and proposes solutions to help the Navy IC effectively execute the CNO’s Design.

Challenge 1: Disseminate Ideas and Information Across the Intelligence Community

There is a contradiction inherent in the Navy IC’s professional development between generalization and subject matter expertise. On one hand, the Navy IC is a relatively stove-piped community, with little overlap between the disparate specialties and geographic commands that constitute the larger naval intelligence enterprise. At odds with this is a development paradigm for Intelligence Officers that prizes geographic diversity and job variety. In practice, this means that Intelligence Officers repeatedly find themselves at the bottom of the learning curve. Tour lengths and career progression permit only a modicum of regional or topical expertise before moving on to different problem sets.

The current career path for Naval Intelligence Officers. (US Navy Bureau of Personnel)

This creates an environment where the only Subject Matter Experts (SME) on a given target or region are often civilians at shore-side facilities where their expertise is directed (or constrained) to a select few leaders in the IC and greater DoD enterprise. Coupled with this situation is the current trend where most Intelligence Officer training resides at the unit level, allowing operational tempo and personality types to de-standardize the frequency, quality, and accuracy of the training.

The Navy lacks a consistent, IC-wide ability to ensure sustained familiarity with current intelligence, technology developments, and emerging challenges and threats. Aside from the baseline knowledge established in the Navy Intelligence Officer Basic Course (NIOBC), the majority of junior Intelligence Officers are defined by their assignments and therefore lack a strong grasp of the greater body of information in the IC. It is critical that Intelligence professionals provide warfighters and decision-makers context and probability; this paper contends that our current professional development does not develop this capability. In a future electromagnetic- (EM) degraded warfighting environment, relevant intelligence expertise needs to be available organically, across pay-grades and platforms. There will be no time for an Intelink hunt.

Solution: Use Modern Technology to Disseminate Practical Knowledge IC-Wide

To address these shortfalls, the Navy IC needs to use new technology to share ideas and information efficiently. The intent is not to turn generalists into SMEs, but to bridge knowledge gaps and prepare Intelligence Officers for the full array of jobs available. Using SMEs to develop the baseline knowledge of the community increases information flow and encourages innovation. To pass new information, the IC has traditionally relied on CDs and e-mails with uncertain distribution, messages with no mechanism to confirm readership, and ad-hoc training subject to the variations of trainers and the training environment.

An example of a periodic Navy audio series, the CNO’s podcast, Soundings. Click to listen to the February 15, 2017 episode on the core attribute of toughness.

The IC should augment these traditional methods with the creation of periodic video and/or audio lecture series to instruct the Navy IC on current information. Use the example of a podcast or TED Talks where an Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) or Joint Intelligence Operations Center (JIOC) SME uses audio and visual aids to provide the ground truth on myriad topics to Navy Intelligence personnel worldwide.1 Instead of being constrained by the unbalanced knowledge that intelligence professionals develop individually, leverage SME knowledge to educate the broader community—effectively turning a weakness into strength. Underpinning this effort will be a central repository where the briefs reside, readily accessible to the fleet. These products will allow Intelligence Officers and enlisted Sailors to arrive on-station familiar with ongoing threats, trends, and maritime security challenges wherever they are assigned. This will enable high velocity learning by accelerating the dissemination of expertise and leveraging specialization to enhance the knowledge of the greater intelligence community.

We propose that these products be spearheaded and developed by ONI a minimum of once a month, no more than an hour in length, and hung in a low-bandwidth form on the Secret Internet Protocol Router (SIPR) Network; SIPR has to be the medium of choice to reach the greatest audience, afloat or ashore. Audio versions of the same briefs can be posted to the web for bandwidth constrained platforms and units, and the corresponding visual aids can be included in downloadable zip-files. Additionally, distributing an annual DVD compilation of the briefs to all Navy units would enable periodic training regardless of connectivity or bandwidth.

Challenge 2: Emphasis on Bridging the Operations and Intelligence Divide

There is a wealth of evidence—albeit mainly anecdotal—pointing to a persistent need to strengthen communication and trust between Unrestricted Line (URL) Officers and Intelligence Officers. To support operations effectively, the Navy IC must develop a better understanding of at-sea expeditionary warfare operations, operational terminology and practices, and the challenges that operators face. Similarly, to effectively consume and synthesize intelligence products, warfighters and planners must understand the cyclic relationship between intelligence and operations. Knowing what the Navy IC can provide, how missions and operations feed intelligence assessments, and how to frame questions effectively will ultimately improve productivity and the quality of naval intelligence professionals and operators alike. Ironically, the IC typically understands the capabilities and limitations of foreign forces well, but we can do a better job understanding those of our own fleet.

A strong relationship between intelligence and operational professionals is vital to successful mission execution, such as this photo of planning efforts leading up to Exercise BOLD ALLIGATOR 2011. (US Navy Photo by MC1 Phil Beaufort)

Junior URL Officers typically have limited cross-community learning and familiarization due to their respective warfare qualification processes and job requirements.2 These early years are exactly when junior officers need to begin learning about other communities, so they can foster the trust that is critical in the operations and intelligence relationship. The foundation of these relationships lies in an appreciation for one another’s work and an understanding of the interrelatedness of each community. The IC must accept responsibility for educating naval warfighters on our community while educating ourselves on theirs. Increased alignment will enable operators to understand the right questions to ask, thereby allowing intelligence professionals to provide improved time-sensitive, succinct, and relevant intelligence to our fleet.

Solution: Identify and Employ Cross Community Engagement Opportunities

A primary focus of an Intelligence Officer’s first tour is the completion of their professional qualifications—a process that can take up a majority of their time. Our first proposal is placing emphasis on getting our 1830s qualified as quickly as possible and then using the remaining time in their initial tour to embark a variety of ships and submarines; the benefits are three-fold.

Foremost, it will broaden the young officers’ knowledge of our fleet including the hardware, technology, and terminology associated with conducting at-sea operations. Second, it will allow them to receive valuable training from peers working across the operational spectrum. Lastly, it will foster side-by-side communication and cohesion with URL peers. Part of this initiative might include NIOBC students completing their initial Personnel Qualification Standards (PQS) before graduation, thus speeding their Information Warfare (IW) qualification process upon entering the fleet.

The second proposal is integrating intelligence familiarization into the training pipelines for URL Officers. This familiarization would occur primarily aboard big-deck amphibs and carriers, where officers can receive in-depth tours and briefs on the routine operations and capabilities of strike group intelligence centers. The training will demonstrate the value intelligence teams provide, how to communicate with them, their limitations, and how URL Officers contribute to Indications and Warning (I&W). In the case of Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs), this could become a small portion of the Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC) already being taught.3 An alternative and complimentary approach to address existing apprehension between Operations and Intelligence is to increase the number of lateral transfer URL Officers in the 1830 accession model. A third prospect is expanding the SWO-Intel option at all accession sources so a larger number of future Intelligence Officers will have completed initial URL tours aboard surface warships, thus developing familiarization and relationships with other communities.

These suggestions alone will not break down all barriers and communication challenges between Ops and Intel. However, when coupled with frequent engagement opportunities, familiarization with new intelligence practices, and manning and accession changes, increased trust and cohesion amongst our Fleet’s cadre will flourish.

Challenge 3: Improve Awareness of International Maritime Security Organizations, Shared Lines of Effort, and Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) Developments

The CNO has charged our Navy with expanding and strengthening our network of interagency and international partners. Maritime security organizations across the world possess valuable knowledge, tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP), along with lessons learned regarding their experiences with MDA and maritime security threats. It is imperative that we expose our Intelligence Officers to these organizations, their practices, processes, and ideas. Collaboration and novel lines of communication with these agencies will help enable the global information-sharing network required for the coming decades. However, to get there, these partners must believe we understand their concerns, modi operandi, and capabilities, and they must trust their USN counterparts.

LT David Andre works with SEACAT exercise participants to share information for a common regional maritime picture and coordinate responses to maritime threats. (Government of Singapore)

Many partner navies align closely with U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) missions, an area where the U.S. Navy lacks proficiency. We can improve relationships with those navies by working together, understanding their challenges and perceived threats—even if they are atypical for our fleet. An example of this is Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU), which is the scourge of developing maritime nations the world over, but garners little attention from the USN.

We can enhance our international relationships and improve information sharing by familiarizing ourselves with maritime threats like this, enabling more effective management of lines of communication. Understanding our international partners’ concerns will make us a more effective partner, paving the way for cooperation and trust across a range of issues.

Solution: Engage with Local and Foreign Maritime Security Organizations

Identify organizations that practice the key principles of MDA and information sharing, like major CONUS and OCONUS port operations control centers, USCG and Department of Homeland Security Interagency Operations Centers, and multi-national coordination centers like those in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Lisbon, Cameroon, and Northwood.4 Send groups of mid-career Intelligence Officers on periodic familiarization trips to these destinations for engagement and collaborative discussions on current trends, threats, and lessons learned from combating maritime security threats.

The USN target audience will be Lieutenant Commanders (O-4s); the goal would be to—at least once a year—send a small group of personnel from various commands to spend 2-4 weeks touring these sites. Their mission would be to receive briefs on their hosts’ missions and capabilities, and provide reciprocal briefs on information sharing and maintaining MDA. This would potentially look like a scaled-down version of the initial familiarization training that a Foreign Area Officer (FAO) receives.

The overall goal of this initiative is to broaden our connection to the greater MDA and maritime information sharing communities, establish and maintain relationships and working lines of communication. Participation in these visits can be tailored to inform the Navy IC through end-of-mission briefs to leadership at ONI, Combatant Command (COCOM) JIOCs, and numbered fleets. Longer-term opportunities exist in the form of International Liaison Officer posts at foreign maritime security centers. These liaison billets foster greater understanding of international and regional maritime security trends and the capabilities and limitations of global partners. Similar to the SECNAVs Tours with Industry program that affords military members an opportunity to work with large civilian corporations for a year; this international exchange program will expose officers to new ideas and organizations, fostering relationships, information sharing, and improving MDA.

Conclusion

The Navy Intelligence Community has played a vital role in our Fleet’s success from Midway through the Global War on Terrorism. To continue this effort, the Navy IC must demonstrate initiative and creativity to address the challenges identified by the CNO. Usable and timely intelligence must be communicated across the fleet to decision-makers and warfighters in all phases of operation. To effect these activities, new technologies will be used, new domestic and international relationships will be required, and an increased level of coordination and trust must be fostered amongst Intelligence and Operations professionals.

Cross-community trust and engagement will enable improvements in all parts of the intelligence cycle, better preparing our Fleet for the warfighting environments of the 21st century. Navy IC-led international partnerships and information sharing will provide new levels of access to intelligence, facilities, and new technology in this era of increased globalization. These changes will not happen immediately, they will require adaptation, ingenuity and a cultural shift. This is an opportunity and challenge we are ready to accept.

LT Millard Bowen is a former Surface Warfare Officer and was most recently the N2 for COMDESRON SEVEN in Singapore. He is currently serving as the Operations Officer for NCIS’s Multiple Threat Alert Center (MTAC). He can be reached at quintus77@hotmail.com.

LT David M. Andre is a former Intelligence Specialist, and has served as an Intelligence Officer and Liaison Officer assigned to AFRICOM. He is currently serving as N2 for COMDESRON SEVEN in Singapore. He can be reached at dma.usn@gmail.com.

The views expressed above are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the official views and are not endorsed by the United States Navy, the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, or any other body of the United States Government.

Endnotes

1. An additional benefit to this approach is the Navy’s younger generation of Officers and Enlisted will likely be more receptive to multi-media training tools like these.

2. This is more common in the Surface Warfare and Submarine communities. Aviation Squadrons and Naval Special Warfare units have assigned Intelligence teams, so there is more familiarity earlier in their careers with varying degrees of success.

3. There may be opportunities for similar Intelligence familiarization training in the initial training pipelines for Naval Special Warfare, Aviators and Submariners, but future collaboration with those communities will be required to identify when and how best to integrate these topics.

4. Singapore hosts the Information Fusion Centre (IFC), Kuala Lumpur hosts the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC), Lisbon hosts the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotic (MAOC-N), Cameroon hosts the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Inter-regional Coordinating Center (ICC), Northwood, England hosts the NATO Maritime Command HQ, the NATO Shipping Centre (NSC) and the Maritime Security Center – Horn of Africa (MSCHOA).

Featured Image: Two U.S. Navy Sailors and Peruvian sailor confirm position of simulated enemy destroyer in combat information center aboard guided-missile frigate USS Rentz during wargames as part of annual UNITAS multinational maritime exercise, off coast of Colombia, September 14, 2013 (U.S. Navy/Corey Barker)

Featured Image: Two U.S. Navy Sailors and Peruvian sailor confirm position of simulated enemy destroyer in combat information center aboard guided-missile frigate USS Rentz during wargames as part of annual UNITAS multinational maritime exercise, off coast of Colombia, September 14, 2013 (U.S. Navy/Corey Barker)

Join Us at CIMSEC Forum for Authors and Readers (CFAR) 2017

On 01 May CIMSEC will host the third annual CIMSEC Forum for Authors and Readers (CFAR), an event for our readers and the public to engage our contributors on their work and topics of interest. Thanks to the generous support of CNA and the U.S. Naval Institute we are pleased to offer a professional workshop on a range of maritime security issues.

The evening will provide a chance to engage your favorite CIMSEC contributors on their work over the preceding year, hear their thoughts on how their pieces have held up, and explore predictions for the coming year. For the first time CNA will also participate in the proceedings (more on that coming soon).

Videos from last year’s event here

Event Details:
Date: May 1st.
5:00pm-6:00pm: Pre-Event Reception (Details upon RSVPing)
6:00pm-6:15pm: Welcome
6:15pm-8:00pm: Author Discussions and Q+As
Location: CNA, 3003 Washington Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201

Who will these speakers at CFAR 2016 be? All CIMSEC readers are welcome to submit nominations for articles with the only criteria that the article nominated must have appeared on the site on or after 26 February, 2016. After nominations close, CIMSEC members will vote and the top vote-getters will receive invites to speak at CFAR.

Click here for information about applying for free CIMSEC membership

CFAR 2017 Timeline
– Nominations: 24 March-03 April (Check back here Friday for more details on nominating)
– Voting: 08-14 April
– Winners Announced: 17 April
– CFAR 2017: 01 May

To RSVP to the event, fill out the form at this link

For Want of a Broadside: Why the Marines Need More Naval Fire Support

By Vince DePinto

Introduction

According to the 2016 Marine Corps Operating Concept (MOC), the greatest risk to the Marine Corps is that it becomes unbalanced in its development as a force that is at once naval, expeditionary, agile, and lethal.1 Four decades of institutional neglect of naval surface fire support (NSFS) has led to precisely that: the Corps is over-reliant on aviation and cruise missiles to provide fires in a non-permissive maritime domain. Without investment in NSFS solutions that balance capability and capacity, the Marine Corps will be constrained in its ability to maneuver at sea, leaving Marines ill-equipped to fight and win in the future operating environments the MOC predicts.

The MOC makes it clear, though, that identified problems should be accompanied with feasible solutions: Marines innovate and adapt to win. By developing innovative tactics and munitions for the existing high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) and by adapting the San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks (LPD) to support a naval gun, the Marine Corps can fulfill the MOC’s call for an agile, lethal, and expeditionary force with an ability to secure the sea control essential for the prosecution of naval campaigns.

The Problem: The Neglect of Naval Surface Fire Support

The MOC opens by stating that the Marine Corps is “not organized, trained, and equipped to meet the demands of a future operating environment characterized by complex terrain, technology proliferation…and an increasingly non-permissive maritime domain.”2 While some critics dismiss NSFS as an anachronism in the modern context, it is the increasing complexity of advanced anti-access area-denial (A2/AD) weapon systems and the subsequent proliferation of such affordable capabilities that necessitates its revival. Detractors argue that naval aviation and the Navy’s Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) complement are sufficient to service targets in support of an amphibious force. In a permissive maritime environment, this argument is likely valid. However, rival powers have identified America’s critical capabilities and are preparing to remove them accordingly; a reality the MOC identifies as a future constant.3 Nowhere is this more evident than in the Western Pacific. Over the past two decades, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has invested considerable resources into acquiring the capabilities necessary to deter, counter, and defeat adversarial power projection into regional conflicts.4 The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fields a comprehensive battle network of sensors, platforms, and weapons that form a robust, multi-domain reconnaissance-strike complex capable of effectively engaging naval vessels over 800 miles from China’s shores.5

As these threats force the surface groups’ operational areas further from the adversary, the tyranny of distance restricts Marine aviation’s ability to influence the environment. Increased range forces the platforms to dedicate more weight to fuel over munitions and limits time on target. Extended distance also prohibits the use of some platforms outright. For example, rotary-wing attack aircraft are restricted to operating within 120 nautical miles of a fuel source, and fixed wing aircraft do not fare much better. While the F-35 is a revolutionary airframe with inherent stealth characteristics, the high value air assets (HVAA) on which it depends are not so resilient. In “Short Legs Can’t Win Arms Races,” Greg Knepper and Peter Singer identify airborne refueling tankers as the weakest link in America’s kill chain.6 They argue that the removal of a single tanker could lead to a flight package aborting its mission, or the destruction of the entire complement, if (when) fuel expires.7 The design of the PLA’s fifth generation stealth aircraft, the J-20, increasingly resembles that of a long-range interceptor. Analysts assess such a design is optimized to engage America’s critical HVAA with long-range air-to-air missiles, a tactic consistent with Chinese operational and strategic thought.8

A common counter-argument is that long-range cruise missiles, such as TLAMs, will be used to neutralize threats in order to enable follow-on aviation operations. Libya is cited as a textbook example for “rolling back” an integrated air defense system, with submarines removing the threats necessary to support follow-on aviation operations. Unfortunately, the Navy may lack the capacity to support this approach in the years to come, losing the tremendous 154 TLAM payload of each of the four modified Ohio-class submarines (SSGNs) when the boats are retired by 2028.9 The Virginia-class payload modules are intended to replace the SSGN’s strike capability, but with 40 TLAMs they are arguably insufficient against the demands posed by conflict with a near-peer power.10 In a hypothetical contest with the PRC, such shortfalls are compounded by the escalating threat posed by China’s increasingly stealthy and lethal undersea fleet: a force that is expected to deploy over 70 vessels by 2030.11 While the exceptionally quiet Virginia submarines provide America with a qualitative undersea advantage, the Navy expects to have roughly 41 in service by 2029.12 This reinforces the likelihood that the undersea force will be restricted in its ability to support Marines ashore, likely prioritizing anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare missions above strike.13

Tomahawk cruise missile launched from USS Florida (SSGN-728)

If one continues to use the ‘Roll Back’ concept, then surface combatants will be forced to mitigate the TLAM shortfall. This highlights a second critical vulnerability of the force: surface combatants cannot reload their VLS at sea. Broadly speaking, Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers (CG) are equipped with a VLS that can support 122 missiles and Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers (DDG) are capable of storing 96.14 The VLS missile silos are outfitted in accordance with the threat environment. Operations in a non-permissive maritime environment will necessitate a readiness to counter a variety of threats and support a wide range of missions in addition to surface strike, such as ballistic missile defense, anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and anti-air warfare. Much like the submarine force, it is not unreasonable to think that during a crisis with a near-peer power, strike will be the lowest priority. Therefore, the number of available TLAMs will be significantly below the maximum capacities outlined above. Indeed, the protection of the Navy’s capital ships remains a priority in current doctrine, further eroding the potential of a strike-centric cruiser or destroyer in a contested battlespace.15

Moreover, new operational concepts may exacerbate the NSFS shortfall. The Navy’s answer to the proliferation of A2/AD weapon systems is known as distributed lethality (DL). The core thrust of DL is that the Navy seeks to strain an adversary’s ability to assess and act by “spreading the playing field.”16 As Admirals Rowden, Gumataotao, and Fanta state, “Distributed lethality is the condition gained by increasing the offensive power of individual components of the surface force and then employing them in dispersed offensive formations.”17 There is potential that disaggregation of surface groups will increase the geographic distance between the vessels expected to provide NSFS and the operating areas of Marines ashore.

Even then, TLAMs are not necessarily the best or most economical solution to support maneuver units. The Department of the Navy states that a TLAM’s speed is roughly 550 mph.18 If a maneuver unit was conducting operations 30 nautical miles over the horizon, this would result in over three and a half minute time of flight, hardly ideal for troops in contact. TLAMs could be vulnerable to GPS spoofing or jamming, and could be engaged by adversaries’ point defense systems. The excessive cost would restrict the requesting unit’s ability to bracket a target or call for re-attacks in such events. If one uses $607,000 as a TLAM’s unit cost, the Navy expended over $121,400,000 of cruise missiles during the operation in Libya.19 This is hardly sustainable, which leaves the Mk-45 5-inch gun as the only current alternative NSFS capability.

The Mk-45, found on most cruisers and destroyers has a range of roughly 13 nautical miles though the Navy plans to field an extended-range projectile that could reach 30 nautical miles. If the Marine Corps views the promised munition with skepticism, it would be justified. The recent cancellation of the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) manifests the sad state of NSFS affairs. The Iowa-class battleships were retired with the assurance that the Navy would acquire a vessel that would meet or exceed the battleships’ NSFS capability. The Navy intended to purchase 29 ships of what was then referred to as the DDX program, which eventually metastasized into the Zumwalt-class destroyer.20 After suffering consistent cost overruns and ultimately being truncated in favor of procuring more DDG-51s, the Zumwalt-class will yield three ships instead of the promised 29.21 The decreased ship count has led to the cancellation of the LRLAP round, the intended munition for the Zumwalt-class’s Advanced Gun System (AGS). Strangely, the AGS and the LRLAP were two of the only technologies that were not subject to development delays or cost over-runs that plagued the DDX program.22 The LRLAP was cancelled as the unit costs would not depreciate to a tolerable threshold in light of the decreased quantity of deployed guns.23

If the NSFS deficit of the fleet is not rectified, the Marine Corps will be limited in its ability to maneuver in a contested maritime environment. To paraphrase the legendary Chesty Puller, “You can’t hurt ’em if you can’t hit ’em.”

Leveraging Legacy Systems: Maritime HIMARS

NSFS publications all too often end with gold plated solutions: the revival of the Iowa-class battleships, for example, or the fielding of a NSFS specific ship class, such as the Arsenal Ship.24 Yet, the MOC charges Marines to develop solutions that are technically feasible and institutionally affordable.25 While the thought of an un-mothballed USS New Jersey delivering a full nine-gun broadside is certainly patriotic, the operational requirements demand NSFS solutions that possess more range than what the venerated 16 inch guns can deliver.26 In “Bring Your Own Fires,” John Spang argues that the high mobility artillery rocket system/multiple launch rocket system (HIMARS/MLRS) is an ideal solution to the NSFS dilemma.27 The technology and the support procedures already exist. The trucks are purchased, the Marines trained, and the munitions proven in combat. The Marines should seize the current enthusiasm for military expansion by adding HIMARS battalions to the existing two.

The HIMARS launcher carries two families of guided missiles: the guided multiple-launch rocket system (GMLRS) and the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). The GMLRS can strike targets at 48 nautical miles, while the ATACMs missile has the capability of launching a 500lb high explosive warhead 162 nautical miles.28 While the HIMARS is a road-mobile system, it has been fired at sea. In 1995, the Army successfully fired tactical ballistic missiles off the fantail of the USS Mount Vernon (LSD-39).29 This highlights not only technical feasibility, but a dramatic increase in warfighting potential. An embarked HIMARS converts any ship capable of handling the weight and the missile back blast into a NSFS platform. This dovetails almost perfectly into Admiral Fanta’s distributed lethality motto, “If it floats, it fights.”30 HIMARS systems and their rocket pods could be latched down to any vessel with a flight deck, weaponizing civilian, merchant marine vessels, or even auxiliaries such as the Expeditionary Transfer Dock or the Expeditionary Sea Base. When required to echelon ashore, the CH-53K could externally lift the launchers to support the ground scheme of maneuver, providing an additional return on investment in the form of operational tempo and initiative. It is even possible that HIMARS could be adapted for use as a NSFS module on a Littoral Combat Ship, provided the heat of the missile launch does not compromise the integrity of the aluminum hull.

The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System fires the Army’s new guided Multiple Launch Rocket System during testing at White Sands Missile Range. (U.S. Army)

The shipboard use of HIMARS aligns with PACOM commander Admiral Harris’ call for cross-domain fires.31 At the 2016 Land Power in the Pacific Symposium, Admiral Harris called on the Army to be “back in the business of killing ships,” employing modified artillery shells and HIMARS missiles to sink enemy men of war. The Department of Defense is moving forward with this concept by developing an ATACMs variant capable of engaging moving targets on both land and sea. This mission should be seized by the Marines, both due to the statutory responsibility of seizing and defending advanced naval bases, and because it fulfills the MOC’s aims of a Corps equipped to support sea control.32

The integration of the existing HIMARS system would inevitably result in tactical and operational trade-offs: the vehicles would likely be placed on flight decks, limiting aviation operations. Nevertheless, a modular, easily-distributed strike capability would force the adversary to contend with yet another ‘stick.’ HIMARS equipped with long range, surface-to-surface, and anti-ship missiles could sever an enemy’s interior lines of communication, reinforce and support surface combatants, and maintain localized pockets of sea control.33 Comparably low-cost, low signature, and highly mobile anti-ship missiles systems could leverage the complicated littoral geography of the Western Pacific, creating a ‘Murderer’s Row’ with allied and like-minded nations between enemy harbors and assessed operating areas.34,35 This would in turn exhaust the People Liberation Army’s command and control architecture, forcing the PLA to not only search a huge number of locations, but have the assets in place to target them, significantly diluting the effectiveness of the much lauded PLA missile and air forces.36

Giving the Gators Teeth

In light of the distributed lethality operational concept, the Navy is looking toward up-gunning the ‘gators.’37 Original designs of the San Antonio-class LPD called for two 8-cell Mk-41 VLS in the bow of the ship, but the cells were cut during development.38 Marine Commandant General Neller has expressed public enthusiasm for reversing this decision, stating that the addition of the VLS to the LPD would “change the game.”39 The addition of missiles would provide long-range fires to Amphibious Ready Groups or Marine Expeditionary Units, and support disaggregated, independent operations by the LPD. While the addition of 16 TLAMs would increase the LPDs’ lethal capability, it does not appreciably improve NSFS capacity, especially if the LPD is operating independently. The lack of a reload capability restricts tactical flexibility for fire support: the threshold to expend a TLAM would likely limit small, distributed units from exploiting gaps and seams as they develop. It also limits operational flexibility as the small magazine would prevent longer operations and limit time on station.

Instead of installing a VLS into the LPD, the services should investigate the possibility of installing a naval gun. Quantity has a quality all of its own: guns provide a capacity that a 16 cell VLS does not. From an economic perspective, the use of a naval gun allows the Navy to invert the acquisition model from one centered on high-cost, low capacity missile purchases to a low cost, high-capacity gun system that will would enjoy better economy of scale.40 While the initial costs in ship modification may be more expensive when compared to the VLS, the price dynamics of a gun system are more favorable than TLAMs over the long term, especially given the tactical dividend of the gun’s ability to be reloaded indefinitely at sea.

Lance Cpl. Chance Seckenger with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, rides in a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft during launch and recovery drills from the well deck of the USS Green Bay, at sea, July 9, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brian Bekkala/Released)

A potential course of action could be the Advanced Gun System Lite (AGS-L), a modified AGS that was designed to fit into the same space as the Mk-45 5-inch gun found on most surface combatants.41 The AGS-L is capable of firing the LRLAP to its 71 nautical mile range, at six rounds per minute, housing up to 240 LRLAP rounds in the magazine. 42,43 More importantly, the modification of the LPDs to support deck guns would allow the ships to capitalize on the future Hyper Velocity Projectiles (HVP) that are currently in development for strike and air defense.44 Capable of being fired from a traditional gun, HVPs launched from the AGS are capable of intercepting cruise missiles at ranges over 10 nautical miles, but are exponentially more affordable than the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles currently stocked in the VLS for defense.45,46 When Houthi rebels attacked the USS Mason with Chinese-produced C-802 anti-ship cruise missiles in October, James Holmes estimated that it cost the Navy upwards of $8 million dollars to defend the vessel against enemy projectiles valued at $500,000 piece; a cost ratio of over 8-1.47 The installation of a naval gun not only allows the LPD an increased capacity to support troops ashore, but also position the fleet to take advantage of fiscally sustainable medium-range air and missile defense capabilities in development.48

Counter-arguments to the retrofitting of the AGS-L into standing surface combatants exist. Studies would have to identify the effect of the gun on other naval systems, specifically the heat, vibration, and gases. Of most relevance is the ship’s superstructure: will the bridge’s fragility prohibit a gun entirely? While BAE promotional materials highlight the similarities of the physical dimensions between the Mk-45 and the AGS-L, careful attention would need to be paid to the extent at which the ship would have to be modified to support shell hoists, cooling, and magazine spaces. The back end logistics and life cycle maintenance would be an additional cost to consider.

While these challenges are indeed daunting, the ability for an LPD to provide NSFS to the Marines already embarked would relieve other surface combatants and their magazines to prosecute other warfighting functions. An LPD is already better suited to provide NSFS because her engines and fuel supply allow for longer on-station times compared to cruisers or destroyers. On a personal level, the LPD crew providing fires to her previously embarked Marines could yield a familiar and habitual relationship between supporting and supported units, leading to increased combat effectiveness (and plenty of opportunities to practice processes while underway).49 Combined with her reduced radar cross-section, aviation space, and command and control capability, the LPD would be in a unique position to operate independently, supporting distributed operations across the maritime domain.

Conclusion

If the MOC desires a force capable of securing sea control in order to support power projection in future operating environments, it must invest in NSFS solutions today. Imagine multiple, independently operating LPDs providing NSFS to distributed Advanced Expeditionary Bases armed to the teeth with ship-killing, low signature HIMARs detachments. The absence of capable NSFS threatens to yield a future Corps that is not only unbalanced, but possibly irrelevant. The most dangerous weapon in the world is a Marine and their rifle, a modern, usable, and cost-effective NSFS capability ensures they can get into the fight.

Captain Vincent J. DePinto, USMC is an Intelligence Officer who served two tours in the Pacific. He holds a graduate degree from the National Intelligence University and is a student in the Naval War College’s Fleet Seminar Program. He can be reached at vindepinto@gmail.com.

References

1. Department of the Navy. The Marine Corps Operating Concept: How an Expeditionary Force Operates in the 21st Century. Washington, DC. Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, 2016.

2. Ibid

3. Shugart, Thomas. Has Chine Been Practicing Preemptive Missile Strikes Against U.S. Bases?. https://warontherocks.com/2017/02/has-china-been-practicing-preemptive-missile-strikes-against-u-s-bases/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New+Campaign&utm_term=%2ASituation+Report (Accessed February 7, 2017)

4. Secretary of Defense. Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2016. Arlington, Virginia : Department of Defense , 2016.

5. Sloman, Jesse, and Bryan Clark. Advancing Beyond the Beach: Amphibious Operations in an Era of Precision Weapons. Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2016.

6. Knepper, Greg and Singer, Peter. Short Legs Can’t Win Arms Races: Range Issues And New Threats To Aerial Refueling Put U.S. Strategy At Risk. May 20, 2016. https://warontherocks.com/2015/05/short-legs-cant-win-arms-races-range-issues-new-threats-aerial-refueling/ (accessed November 29, 2016).

7. Ibid

8. Lockie, Alex. The Real Purpose behind China’s Mysterious J-20 Combat Jet. January 24, 2017. http://www.businessinsider.com/the-real-purpose-behind-chinas-mysterious-j-20-combat-jet-2017-1 (Accessed January 27, 2017)

9. Ron’ Rourke, Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, October 25, 2016.

10. Ibid

11. Majumdar, Dave. Undersea Crisis: China Will Have Nearly Twice as Many Subs as the U.S. February 26, 2016. (Accessed January 27, 2017)http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/undersea-crisis-china-will-have-nearly-twice-many-subs-the-15335

12. Ibid

13. Heginbotham, Eric. The US- China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power 1996-2017. http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR300/RR392/RAND_RR392.pdf (Accessed January 27, 2017)

14. Department of the Navy. USN Fact File. http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4200&tid=900&ct=4 (January 14, 2016) and http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4200&tid=800&ct=4 (January 9, 2017)

15. Rowden, Thomas, Peter Gumataotao, and Peter Fanta. “Distributed Lethality.” Proceedings Magazine, January 2015.

16. Ibid

17. Ibid.

18. Department of the Navy. USN Fact File. Department of the Navy. USN Fact File. http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=2200&tid=1300&ct=2  (August 14, 2014)

19. Reed, John. 2,000 Tomahawks Fired in Anger. August 4, 2011. http://defensetech.org/2011/08/04/2000-tomahawks-fired-in-anger/ Defense Tech. aspx (accessed November 10, 2016).

20. Joseph E. Santos and Andrew Stigler. “Littoral Combat Ship – A TKO for the Streetfighter,” A Case Study in Naval Force Planning, (Newport, R.I.: Naval War College, updated 2015).

21. Ibid

22. LaGrone, Sam. Navy Planning on Not Buying More LRLAP Rounds for Zumwalt Class. November 07, 2016 . https://news.usni.org/2016/11/07/navy-planning-not-buying-lrlap-rounds (accessed November 14, 2016).

23. Ibid

24. Duplessis, Brian. “Fixing Fires Afloat.” Marine Corps Gazette, 2015: 33-38.

25. Department of the Navy. The Marine Corps Operating Concept: How an Expeditionary Force Operates in the 21st Century. Washington, DC. Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, 2016.

26. Spang, John. “Bring Your Own Fires.” Marine Corps Gazette, February 2011: 70-71.

27. Ibid

28. Ibid

29. Erwin, Sandra. Marines Clamor for Long Range Artillery at Sea. January 2002. http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2002/January/Pages/Marines_Clamor6864.aspx (accessed November 10, 2016).

30. Rowden, Thomas, Peter Gumataotao, and Peter Fanta. “Distributed Lethality.” Proceedings Magazine, January 2015.

31. Osborn, Kris. Emerging DOD ‘Cross Domain Fires’ Strategy: Army Will Attack Enemy Ships. November 25, 2016. http://www.scout.com/military/warrior/story/1687351-emerging-dod-strategy-cross-domain-fires (accessed November 29, 2016).

32. Department of the Navy. The Marine Corps Operating Concept: How an Expeditionary Force Operates in the 21st Century. Washington, DC. Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, 2016.

33. Jensen, Benjamin Back to the Future: Distributed Maritime Operations. April 9, 2015. http://warontherocks.com/2015/04/distributed-maritime-operations-an-emerging-paradigm/ (accessed November 10, 2016).

34. Ibid

35. Holmes, James. Defend the First Island Chain. http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2014-04/defend-first-island-chain Proceedings Magazine, April 2014.

36. Terrence Kelly, Anthony Atler, Todd Nichols, and Lloyd Thrall. Employing Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles in the Western Pacific. 2013. http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/technical_reports/TR1300/TR1321/RAND_TR1321.pdf

37. LaGrone, Sam. Navy, Marine Corps Considering Adding Vertical Launch System to San Antonio Amphibs. October 13, 2016. https://news.usni.org/2016/10/13/vertical-launch-system-san-antonio-amphibs (accessed November 14, 2016).

38. Ibid.

39. Harper, Jon Marine Corps Eyeing Additional Amphibious Ships. January 12, 2017 http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=2394 (accessed January 27, 2017).

40. Cooper, Maxwell. “The Railgun Advantage.” Proceedings, 2011.

41. Weyer, Brent, and Al Panek. “The 155mm Advanced Gun System-Lite (AGS-L) for DDG-51 Flight III: A Summary of the BAE Systems IRAD Effort.” BAE Systems Land & Armaments. BAE Systems, May 15, 2012.

42. Ibid

43. Kulshrestha, Dr S. Guns Remain in Navy’s Future Plans. 2014. http://www.spsnavalforces.com/story.asp?mid=33&id=3 (accessed November 14, 2016).

44. Mark Gunzinger, and Bryan Clark. Winning The Salvo Competition: Rebalancing America’s Air And Missile Defenses. Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2016.

46. Ibid

46. Department of the Navy. USN Fact File. Department of the Navy. USN Fact File. http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=2200&tid=950&ct=2 (January 25, 2017)

47. Holmes, James Is the U.S. Navy a Sitting Duck? http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/10/25/is-the-u-s-navy-a-sitting-duck-yemen-houthis-china/ (January 25, 2017)

48. Mark Gunzinger, and Bryan Clark. Winning The Salvo Competition: Rebalancing America’s Air And Missile Defenses. Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2016.

49. Duplessis, Brian. “Fixing Fires Afloat.” Marine Corps Gazette, 2015: 33-38.

Featured Image: A Marine with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, runs forward while an Amphibious Assault Vehicle drives onto the sand behind him at Pyramid Rock Beach as part of the final assault during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Dietz/Released)

The Fight to Know

By Jack Whitacre

The relationship between the sea and information is ancient. In 480 BC, the Greeks learned of a secret naval invasion planned by the Persians. According to Simon Singh in The Code Book, the message was delivered steganographically on a covered tablet giving sufficient time to prepare for a defense that ultimately led to victory.1 Through information theory, the quantitative theory of coding and transmission of signals and information, we discover that information is a physical property of our reality and a resource to be guarded. In the words of Charles Seife, “Information is every bit as palpable as the weight of bullet, every bit as tangible as the heft of an artillery shell—and every bit as vulnerable as a freighter full of ammunition.”2

Today’s maritime security hinges on information. As Admiral (ret.) James Stavridis  argues, nowhere is the gap between threat (high) and defensive capability (low) as large as on the cyber front. Derived from ‘cybernetics,’ “cyber” loosely refers to information loops and everything that is connected to a computer network. The shipping industry (which feeds, fuels, and clothes our country) is growing increasingly connected to the internet and therefore more vulnerable to cyber attacks. New cyber technologies are also being used in the maritime field to solve climate and natural resource puzzles — both keys to long term human survival. Through cyber education and training, citizens and leaders can gain an edge in the digital world and invest themselves in solving some of the most pressing maritime security problems.

Oceanic Applications

Our relationship to the ocean has been transformed by cyber. As John C. Perry outlines in “Beyond the Terracentric,” the ocean can be seen as an avenue, arena, and source.3 Before the standard shipping container system was invented, ships were unloaded with back-breaking efforts of manual laborers. Today, cranes take care of the work, moving containers from the ship to the shore (and vice versa). Sometimes loading and unloading is done with humans operating joysticks, while in other places computer programs sift through the manifests and unload using algorithms. Automatic ports may be targeted by external actors looking to manipulate freight shipments for their benefit.

In 2016, The Economist and The Journal of Commerce chronicled the sagas of the Port of Long Beach, California and the Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands and their transitions towards automation. When viewing an operation with computerized manifests, automatic cranes, and even driver-less trucks moving containers, it is imperative to remember that what is connected can be compromised at every level. Such an interconnected world increases the opportunities for external targeting while raising the stakes for maritime security for the United States. Estimates show that ninety percent of the world’s goods are imported by sea.4 As a single example, each year more than $180 billion of goods (or 6.8 million containers) pass through the Port of Long Beach.5 A brief interruption in shipping made by a foreign government, company, or private individuals would likely ripple through a nation with economic effects reverberating up and down the supply chain.

On the bright side, new computer technologies may allow us to more easily monitor changes in ocean health conditions. With improved information, states and actors can ensure better protection for the ocean and fish that are crucial to industry and food supplies, especially in disputed areas. States can track each other and keep accountability through satellites and technologies like AIS (automatic identification system). New cyber capabilities like The Internet of Things (IoT) may allow us to revolutionize ocean data analysis and create new levels of environmental responsibility. Social entrepreneurship ventures like Blue Water Metrics now aim to crowdsource data collection via the world’s oceangoing shipping fleets and upload all the ocean data to a cloud database. Educating state leaders offers the best chance of maximizing the positive externalities of technological change, both in protecting natural resources and shipping assets.

Preparing Cyber Leaders

Increasing information literacy will improve competitiveness in nearly every field. Studying information theory, encryption, and coding with the same vigor as foreign languages may transform an individual’s field and personal career trajectory. In the book Dark Territory, Fred Kaplan describes how Cyber Command personnel grew from 900 to 4,000 between 2009 to 2012, and is expected to climb to 14,000 by the end of 2020.6 Established academic institutions could recognize certificate programs from organizations like Codecademy via transcript notations, which may improve educational and employment prospects.

 (March 25, 2011) – Aerographer’s Mate 3rd Class Nick Pennell, a watch stander at the Naval Oceanography and Anti-Submarine Warfare Center, looks over a Japan Self-Defense Force Mobile Operations sheet at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mikey Mulcare/Released)

Cyber education can be seen both as a patriotic duty and as an economic opportunity. As far back as 1991 the National Research Council observed that “the modern thief can steal more with a computer than with a gun.”7 By educating tomorrow’s cyber leaders, institutions, and community, organizations can empower people to defend themselves intelligently against thieves and reinvent themselves by beginning careers in the digital world.

The Polaris of Programming

Not all innovation needs to be forward looking. In the evolutionary dance between encryption and decryption, centuries passed before certain “unbreakable” codes were broken. The Fletcher School at Tufts University combines international studies and the analysis of world events with cyber studies in its course Foundations of International Cyber Security. Scholar practitioners, such as Michele Malvesti, offer unique perspectives on the past and the pipeline of the future, including the importance of supply stream, deterrence, and attribution. Graduate-level cyber curricula can unlock strategic chess moves for governmental, citizen-led, and private organizations alike. Incorporating history in computer science education, like Harvard’s course Great Ideas in Computer Science, can provide fertile intellectual context where principles can be appraised and applied in modern contexts. Scientists throughout history, like Abu Yusuf Yaqub, Blaise de Vigenere, and Charles Babbage make great role models along with programmers like Ada Lovelace and RDML (ret.) Grace Hopper.

Conclusion

When programming is seen as an essential language, computer history as a strategic advantage, and information as an environmental and security opportunity, our digital tribe will be better able to overcome uncertainty and adversaries.

An entrepreneur and former boat captain, Jack Whitacre studied international security and maritime affairs at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Contact him at James.C.Whitacre@gmail.com.

References

1. Simon Singh, “The Code Book: How to Make it, Break it, Hack it, Crack it,” 2001, p.8

2. Charles Seife, “Decoding the Universe,” p. 8

3. John C. Perry, “Beyond the Terracentric: Maritime Ruminations,” 2013, p.143

4. Rose George, “Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate,” 2013.

5. Port of Long Beach. “Facts at a Glance.” The Port of Long Beach: The Green Port. The Port of Long Beach. February 8th, 2017. http://www.polb.com/about/facts.asp

6. Fred Kaplan, “Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War,” 2006, p. 4

7. Ibid.

Featured Image: The Port of Los Angeles in Feb. 2013. (Tim Rue — Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas.

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