Category Archives: Strategy

Chief of Naval Operations Zumwalt’s Project 60, Pt. 3

Read Part One. Read Part Two.

By Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt

PERSONNEL RETENTION AND MOTIVATION

  • FAMILY SEPARATION
  • COMPENSATION
  • HOUSING/FACILITIES
  • JOB SATISFACTION

There are several critical areas that must be dealt with directly before retention rates can be improved and shortages in experience corrected.

First, family separation must be reduced significantly. Second, pay must be raised to a level that reflects the unique problems associated with a Naval career. Third, Naval personnel support facilities must be improved. Last—and more generally—we must find new ways to restore the zest, challenge, and fun of a Naval career.

Our surveys have shown consistently that family separation is a key factor in the career decisions of most Navymen. This slide shows the average number of days spent by our ships in their home ports last year. Some of our career men in deprived ratings are at sea for more than 7 years at a stretch on schedules such as these.

ACTION TAKEN TO MINIMIZE FAMILY SEPARATION

  1. CONUS IN-PORT POLICIES
    1. 30 DAYS LEAVE FOR ALL CHANGES OF DUTY STATION
    2. LEANER WATCH SECTIONS
    3. ADDITIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE AND WATCH STANDING SUPPORT BY SHORE COMMANDS FOR TENANT SHIPS
    4. LEAVE FOR 50% OF ALL CREWS DURING POST-DEPLOYMENT PERIOD
    5. IMPROVED PIER FACILITIES TO PROVIDE UTILITIES FOR ALL POST-DEPLOYMENT SHIPS
    6. IMPROVED IN-PORT STABILITY BY 40% REDUCTION OF SCHEDULE CHANGES
  2. OVERSEAS POLICIES
    1. CONUS LEAVE FOR 5% OF DEPLOYED CREWS
    2. NAVAL-SPONSORED/COORDINATED FLIGHTS TO MED FOR DEPENDENTS

Here are some actions we have initiated—or intend to initiate—to increase the amount of time that Navymen can spend with their families. We are willing to accept the slight reduction in our CONUS training and readiness as the price of increases in time at home—“family” time.

These actions are clearly inadequate, however, unless they are coupled with real reductions in Naval commitments commensurate with reductions in force levels. Consequently, if force levels are reduced further, we will ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff to support a selective reduction of our forward deployments, to ensure a one-in-three rotation policy for deployable units. The resultant reductions in our deployed forces for Case C, based on a budget $1B lower in expenditures than the fiscal guidance, are shown here. The main effect, of course, would be to reduce further the number of attack carriers in the SEVENTH Fleet to only 2. There would be no significant decrease in our Mediterranean commitment. At a ratio of 1:3, or at the more desirable peacetime 1:4, we would retain the capability of a strategic contingency force for quick reaction.

Raising pay requires your personal support more than any other single subject. In the absence of comprehensive salary reform legislation, I solicit your support toward the enactment of legislation in each of these areas.

Sea Pay constitutes the single most important “people legislation” sponsored by the Navy, because it identifies and provides compensation for the unique, hardship aspect of a Navy career. We had sea pay before 1949. It amounted to 10% and 20% of the base pay of officers and enlisted men respectively. In 1949, payment of sea pay to officers was discontinued, and the enlisted entitlement was changed to a flat rate; for a typical second class petty officer, it is now 4.3% of base pay. Our proposal, which is also for a flat rate, increases entitlement (to 12.6% of base pay for the second class petty officer), extends it to officers, and relates increases in sea pay to years spent at sea rather than seniority. This legislation has been returned from the Bureau of the Budget with the recommendation that it be studied further. We will discuss this matter with you separately and need your support in gaining approval of this vital proposal. The other recommended legislation is concerned with specific trouble spots in retention and puts the money where the problems are.

A compensation-related problem is the poor condition of many of our housing units and training facilities. We are exploring ways to engage the Seabees and other self-help forces more actively in such construction forces. To stretch our construction dollars, we are investigating innovative financial approaches. As an example, the Navy Relief Society has agreed to extend a $2M low-interest loan to construct personnel facilities. The shortfalls in our current facilities are so acute that we are recommending changes in our MILCON, even at the price of smaller forces today.

The family separation problem is especially acute in artisan enlisted ratings for which there is a paucity of shore assignments in the Navy. Many of these petty officers have skills that are usable in other areas of government—such programs as the Job Corps and VISTA, for instance. As an interim objective, I request your support in helping to ease our severe rotation problems by the authorization of 4,000 additional billets ashore. We would try to make as many of them reimbursable as possible, that is, other government agencies would repay the Department of Defense. But even if the entire cost came from the Navy’s budget, I would regard the expenditure as well worth our while.

INITIATIVES TO INCREASE JOB SATISFACTION

  1. IMPROVED JOB ASSIGNMENT POLICIES
    1. INCREASE ATTENTION TO OFFICER JOB
    2. PROVIDE INDIVIDUAL ATTENTION TO JOB ASSIGNMENTS FOR ENLISTED
    3. CREATE MORE CHALLENGING ASSIGNMENTS FOR THE 500 TO 600 ENLISTED MEN WITH ADVANCED
  2. EARLIER RECOGNITION AND GREATER RESPONSIBILITY FOR TOP PERFORMERS
    1. DISSOLVE CONVENTIONAL CAREER “PATTERNS” FOR TOP TEN PERCENT
    2. DOUBLE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE PROMOTED EARLY
    3. SUBSTANTIALLY INCREASE COMMAND OPPORTUNITY FOR LIEUTENANTS
    4. ESTABLISH TRIAL PROGRAM TO INCREASE RESPONSIBILITY IN GRADE IN ONE DESTROYER AND FOUR AVIATION SQUADRONS
    5. EXCHANGE DUTY ASSIGNMENTS BETWEEN AVIATORS AND SURFACE OFFICERS TO BREAK DOWN TRADITIONAL ASSIGNMENT CONSTRAINTS

To restore the zest of going to sea, we have initiated a number of programs; some are outlined here. I hope that the net effect of these and related initiatives will be to dissolve conventional—and now obsolete—career patterns, encourage greater latitude and more personal attention in both officer and enlisted assignments, provide increased responsibility earlier, encourage a bolder and more innovative philosophy of command, and open new avenues of communication.

The turbulence associated with rapid force reductions has a very real bearing on retention. To achieve lowered budget targets, we have had to take personnel release and redistribution actions that degrade fleet readiness and undercut our retention efforts. In my opinion, if we drop below 575,000 in FY 72, we will jeopardize seriously our ability to “put people first.” Yet, force mixes A, B and C all could be as low as 550,000 depending on actions taken in the shore establishment. Even a figure of 575,000 would require stringent personnel actions, starting this year. Further reductions would have severe and lasting effects on the Navy’s readiness and retention.

ALTERNATIVE ACTIONS TO REDUCE MILITARY MANPOWER

SECDEF SUPPORT NEEDED IN FOLLOWING RETENTION-RELATED AREAS:

  1. SELECTIVE REDUCTION OF FORWARD DEPLOYMENTS TO INSURE ONE-IN-THREE ROTATION POLICY THIS YEAR AND ONE-IN-FOUR POLICY BY F Y 72
  2. DISSOLUTION OF FIXED COMMITMENTS, TO PERMIT GREATER NAVAL  FLEXIBILITY IN EXTENDING PEACETIME PRESENCE
  3. BILLETS IN GOVERNMENT AGENCIES FOR RATINGS WITH INADEQUATE SEA/SHORE ROTATION
  4. SPECIFIC PAY LEGISLATION
  5. FORCE STRENGTH NO LOWER THAN 575,000

These, in sum, are the areas related to retention in which we will need your personal support.

SUMMARY

This completes the detailed part of my presentation. I would like now to summarize my main points. It is from these that our proposals will originate in the immediate future; we will request your support.


THE SOVIET NAVY HAS ATTAINED SIGNIFICANT WORLDWIDE CAPABILITIES

  • IT IS CONTESTING U.S. FOR CONTROL OF THE SEAS
  • ITS FORCES ARE GROWING IN QUALITY AND QUANTITY
  • WITH ITS PRESENT MOMENTUM, FUTURE IMPROVEMENTS ARE CERTAIN

1. The Soviet Navy has attained significant worldwide capability toward controlling the seas. The Soviet forces are increasing in quantity and quality and have a momentum of development that suggests further sharp improvements in the future.


  • IF U.S. NAVAL FORCES ARE REDUCED BELOW THE END FY 70 LEVEL, SIMULTANEOUS TASKS AGAINST THE SOVIETS IN THE PACIFIC AND ATLANTIC MAY NO LONGER BE FEASIBLE

2. The Soviets have a two-ocean Navy. If our Naval forces are reduced below the level of end FY 70, we will no longer be able to oppose them simultaneously in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.


  • SEA CONTROL MISSION SHOULD HAVE PRIORITY OVER PROJECTION OF POWER ASHORE
  • PROJECTION FORCES SHOULD BE STRUCTURED TO:
    • SUPPORT NIXON DOCTRINE IN ASIA
    • PROVIDE STRATEGIC CONTINGENCY FORCE

3. The Soviet Naval threat, our commitments abroad, and the credibility of our sea-based strategic deterrent demand that the sea control mission be assigned priority of resources at the expense of projection of power This action will reduce the capability of our projection force to support the Nixon Doctrine in Asia and to serve as a strategic contingency force.


  • IF THE SOVIETS CHALLENGE THE U.S. AT SEA, OUR CHANCE OF DEFEATING THEM IS:
    • 55% WITH PRESENT FORCES
    • 30% WITH POM-72 FORCES 

4. If the Soviets challenge us at sea, either as an adjunct to conflict on land or in a war restricted to the sea, we will have, in my judgment, a 55% chance of defeating them with our present forces. The forces at the POM-72 level, even after optimization, reduce my confidence of success to about 30%. The U.S. may thus be unable to support or hold together the Free World alliance in the face of a conflict with the Soviets at sea.


  • WE ARE PROPOSING ACTIONS THAT CAN, WITHIN FISCAL CONSTRAINTS:
    • INCREASE OUR CAPABILITY FOR SEA CONTROL
    • RETAIN SOME PROJECTION FORCES TO SUPPORT NIXON DOCTRINE
    • INCREASE COMBAT EFFECTIVENESS
  • THESE ACTIONS CANNOT:
    • OFFSET FORCE REDUCTIONS
    • REVERSE THE CONSEQUENTLY ADVERSE POWER RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SOVIETS

5. We propose a number of actions designed to increase our capability for sea control while retaining some forces for projection of power ashore in support of the Nixon Doctrine—all within the fiscal restraints we face. These actions are intended to increase combat effectiveness within a given force structure and funding level, but do not offset the potential force reduction or reverse the critically adverse power relationship with the Soviets implicit in that reduction.


  • GIVEN CURRENT AND POTENTIAL FY 72 FISCAL GUIDANCE, THE NAVY:
    • MUST CUT FORCES TO MAKE FUNDS AVAILABLE FOR:
      • DEVELOPMENT OF NEW WEAPONS SYSTEMS
      • MODERNIZATION OF FORCES 

6. Under the current and potential FY 72 Fiscal Guidance, we see no alternative to accepting some further reduction in force levels, so that development of new weapons systems and modernization of forces can continue.


  • NAVY WILL PAY ATTENTION TO ALL HIGH-COST PROGRAMS; SOPHISTICATION WILL BE ADDED ONLY WHERE IT IS NEEDED TO MATCH THE SOVIET THREAT.

7. We shall pay particular attention to all high-cost programs, adding sophistication only where the threat makes it necessary. The high quality of some of the Soviet systems, particularly in submarines, missiles and air defense, sets some limits to that objective.


  • U.S. SHOULD ENCOURAGE APPROPRIATE ALLIES TO BUILD UP THEIR SEA CONTROL FORCES
  • U.S. MUST REALIZE THAT THE COMMITMENT OF EVEN OUR CLOSEST ALLIES WILL DEPEND ON THEIR COMPARATIVE ASSESSMENT OF U.S. AND SOVIET NAVAL POWER

8. We must engage the understanding and commitment of appropriate allies to build up their own sea control forces. This objective should be coordinated closely with our capabilities. In pursuing this course, we must realize that the commitment of even our closest friends will depend on their assessment of our naval power, compared with the Soviets.


  • FUNDING ASSISTANCE IS REQUIRED FOR ULMS IOC IN LATE 1970’s

9. We shall require assistance in funding an acceleration in ULMS, if directed to achieve an IOC in the late 1970’s.


  • DEVELOPING PLAN OF ACTION TO INCREASE 6th FLEET DEFENSIVE CAPABILITIES

10. We are examining the situation in the Mediterranean, to develop a plan of action that will increase the defensive capabilities of the SIXTH Fleet in the event of hostilities, to permit it to carry out its offensive mission. 


  • CENTRALIZED CONTROL OF EW & COMMAND & CONTROL AREAS

11. We are establishing an office with the necessary authority and responsibility to centralize direction of electronic warfare and command and control. 


  • SURVEILLANCE IMPROVEMENTS WILL PROVIDE LARGE RETURNS IN COMBAT CAPABILITY AT LOW COST

12. We anticipate large returns in combat capability at low cost by taking strong actions to improve our capabilities for satellite and underseas surveillance.


  • THE PERSONNEL SITUATION REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ATTENTION:
    • TO REDUCE COSTS NOT RELATED TO COMBAT STRENGTH
    • TO INCREASE READINESS
    • TO REEMPHASIZE PURPOSE
  • NAVY
    • IS GIVING THIS AREA THE CLOSEST ATTENTION
    • WILL SACRIFICE FORCE LEVELS NOW IN EXCHANGE FOR LONG-TERM GAINS IN PERSONNEL READINESS

13. The most urgent action within the Navy, to reduce costs that are not related directly to combat strength, to increase readiness, and to reemphasize purpose lies in the personnel field. We are giving this area the closest attention. Some proposals have gone forward to you; others are in process. We are prepared to make some sacrifices in immediate force level in exchange for potential gains in personnel readiness. Your support in this key and vital matter is essential.

We are not presenting specific matters for your approval today. However, the actions we are taking or plan to take to set the new direction, will be introduced into the budget process. As these, and related, papers go forward we will request your support in each instance.

Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt served as the nineteenth Chief of Naval Operations of the U.S. Navy, from 1970-1974. 

Featured Image: Stuttgart, West Germany, May, 1970: Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., on a worldwide tour of U.S. installations before taking over as Chief of Naval Operations, ponders a question during a press conference in Stuttgart. (Lloyd Borguss/Stars and Stripes)

Chief of Naval Operations Zumwalt’s Project 60, Part 2

Read Part One here

By Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt

OVERSEAS  PRESENCE

I spoke earlier of the importance we ascribe to the dual-mission carrier in supporting the Nixon Doctrine. It will give more flexibility. When we face opposition at sea, the carriers, now operating both strike and ASW aircraft, can be used to protect the sea  lines of communications. When the seas are a sanctuary, as they have been off Vietnam, all the carriers can operate in an air attack role.

These forces can be employed as an advanced force that is capable of rapid commitment, possesses self-contained means of defense, and is easily withdrawn when a task is completed or other forces are deployed.

In this way, Naval projection forces are unique. They can operate as a mobile strategic contingency force—a ready, cutting edge. For instance, if it had been possible to turn over all the air strike effort in Vietnam to land-based air after the first 12 months, we could have pulled out the carriers. It would then have been feasible to reinforce the SIXTH Fleet, which, by showing greater capability from time to time over the past few years, might have proved helpful diplomatically. And we could have created a desirable presence in the Red Sea or Indian Ocean. In another war, at lower force levels, this ability of our projection forces to provide a retrievable strategic reserve after land-based forces are established might well be crucial.

All of a nation’s maritime capabilities bear on its influence around the world and its ability to establish a peacetime presence at a point of choice. We need not look hard to see how the Soviets have translated their naval presence into diplomatic leverage. Their strength in the Arab world today is not entirely attributable to the buildup of their Mediterranean fleet, but it was surely an important factor. The Soviets have, in a sense, successfully turned NATO’s southern flank.

Another area in which the Soviet Navy has supported political influence in peacetime is the Indian Ocean. Somali is a classic case. This chart, correlating Soviet ship visits with internal events, shows how the Soviets have carried on a coordinated economic and diplomatic effort, supported by their merchant fleet and backed by their naval presence. It has been a subtle, piecemeal incursion.

First the Somalis were placed in debt to the Soviets. Next, that indebtedness was used to shackle Somali oil imports exclusively to the Soviet Union. Then, the Soviet-trained army executed a military coup. Finally, the campaign has developed into border harassment of our friends in Ethiopia.

ALTERNATIVE COMBINATIONS OF SEA CONTROL AND PROJECTION FORCES

These, then, are some of the complex considerations that have engaged our thoughts in the past two months as we face important program decisions that determine our course for the future. In our reevaluation of the direction to follow, force options are constrained by an imminent decline in the defense budget and by predictions of a smaller percentage of the national budget for defense in the years ahead. We must find the best combination of the capabilities that we need most. In what has already been said, I have expressed our deep concern that our options are already constricted beyond the point at which we can cope with the threat.

This is an illustrative force, emphasizing projection forces that we could provide in FY-1972 with a budget $1B lower in expenditures than the fiscal guidance. We are not advocating this budget level, and I shall remind you later of my confidence level in maintaining control of the sea with the best Navy we can design with this budget. Here we have categorized our forces by the broad missions they serve, though there is substantial overlap. One example is our dual-mission carrier, which fits, appropriately, in both the projection and sea control groups. Another consists of the cruiser and destroyer, which often project power ashore. The forces are designated here by the missions that will be affected most by marginal force changes.

This Case A force mix has been designed to provide: first, a moderate level of escort protection for our carrier forces and replenishment groups, and, second, minimal protection for amphibious forces. It assumes that we can operate freely at sea, that the Soviets allow us our sea lines of communication. I consider this an unacceptable risk.

Case B emphasizes sea control forces within the same FY 72 budget constraints. Here we do not have enough carriers for the strike mission requirements described previously for the NATO and Asia situations. There has also been a reduction in our ability to provide an attack and amphibious cutting edge as well as contingency force suitable to the Nixon Doctrine.

These examples show that our choice, within these budget constraints, must be one of relative emphasis between sea control and projection forces. In Case C, both are reduced, but with less effect on sea control forces. As with any compromise, neither type of force meets the need adequately. We are faced with the difficult alternatives set forth for you earlier. These alternatives, in our judgment, make it mandatory for the national security that there be no reduction of Naval forces beyond the present levels. I want to remind you now of my view that, while we have a somewhat-better-than-even chance of defeating the Soviets with these FY 70 forces, the forces we can provide in a reduced budget—even at the POM level—lower my confidence of success to about 30 percent.

Prospective budget levels and the implications of the current and growing Soviet threat at sea require us to turn our force structure toward the sea control mission and to reduce accordingly the forces that support other missions. In partial compensation, we must take new actions to encourage the build-up of sea control forces by Japan and by NATO countries that have the requisite maritime skill and potential.

OTHER TYPES OF CHANGE

There are other types of change to which we are giving our attention.

In structuring our Navy for the 1970’s, we shall seek a balance between maintaining present force levels and modernizing for the future. As an extreme example, if we wanted to maintain our present forces at the expense of modernization within a budget of POM minus $1B in expenditures, we would have to eliminate every major procurement. This, of course, is out of the question for two reasons:

  • The rapidly improving technical quality of the Soviet Navy, and
  • The necessity for a balance—between our present capability against the present Soviet threat, and our future capability against a Soviet threat that not only is growing in quality but shows no sign of significant reduction in numbers.

To be able to concentrate our smaller forces rapidly in a single ocean against a sophisticated power and to meet strategic contingencies as well, the Navy—we are convinced— must have more nuclear-powered ships.

The Navy is committed to several complex and expensive systems, i.e., the SSN-688’s, S-3A’s, F-14’s, DD-963’s, DLGN’s, CVAN’s, and LHA’s. These large programs account for a major part of the budget. Each, however, fits into the pattern of naval capabilities I have set forth. Though each program will be reviewed against the threat and budget environment, I believe that we can and should complete most of these major projects that are now underway. Abrupt changes in direction of procurement are costly and disruptive, and the threat is rising so sharply that we cannot risk a hiatus in the introduction of new, more capable systems.

Some have said that naval missions can be carried out by forces that are much less sophisticated. Some trade-offs, it is true, should be possible, but I am impressed with the need for sophistication in the sea control mission, to counter the high quality submarines being produced by the Soviets. We need sophisticated carrier task forces for defense against Soviet anti-ship missiles launched from either submarines, aircraft, or surface ships. As for our employment of projection forces against third countries: we note that the Soviets have, so far, supplied our opponents with highly sophisticated defensive systems. We shall give this subject close attention and justify in detail all programs of high cost.


  • STUDY 6TH FLT DEFENSE
  • CV CONCEPT
  • MARINE AIR SQUADRONS IN CVWS
  • AIR CAPABLE SHIP-LAMPS
  • PG’S AND PGH TO MEDITERRANEAN
  • DECOYS AND DECEPTION DEVICES
  • CAPTOR
  • SSN’S AS TASK GROUP ESCORTS
  • INTERIM SSM
  • SSN WITH SUBSURFACE-TO-SURFACE MISSILE
  • HARPOON
  • NUCLEAR SAM AND SUBROC PROCUREMENT
  • SECURE COMMUNICATIONS
  • REVIEW OF ANTI-SHIP MISSILE DEFENSE
  • POINT DEFENSE
  • BETTER SURVEILLANCE
  • TRAINING SUBS
  • SPARE PARTS
  • CHANGES IN R&D
  • ALLIED SEA CONTROL FORCES
  • SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT
  • CNO EXECUTIVE PANEL

Let me report to you now on some actions we have taken—or are proposing—to increase current capability, speed modernization, and offset the actual and potential reduction in our forces.

As a matter of urgency in view of MidEast developments, we are examining ways to enhance the security of the SIXTH Fleet in the Mediterranean. We need a plan of action that will reduce the risk in the event of a confrontation with the Soviet Union.

A FORRESTAL-class CVA is being prepared for operation next spring as a dual-mission CV.

The Marine Corps will provide aircraft squadrons to operate in carrier attack air wings to make up, in peacetime, for the reduction we are taking in Naval aircraft.

We shall enhance surface ship capability for the sea control mission, in face of the Soviet anti-ship missile, by making surface ships air-capable. A Program Coordinator has been designated for the broad program. This is what we have begun:

  • An LPD, with six helicopters, will test tactics and procedures for a new breed of sea control escort.
  • An interim LAMPS program will place existing helicopters on DLG’s and a DLGN.
  • To prepare for the longer-range LAMPS program and test the feasibility of an interim capability, we shall test an existing helicopter in a DE-1052 class ship.
  • We are speeding development of sensors for helicopters employed in the air-capable surface ship.
  • The regular LAMPS program for our new DE’s will be accelerated. We may need your help on this proposal. Congress is balking at even the present, modest program.

Before the end of the year, we shall deploy two patrol gunboats (PGs) to the Mediterranean to test their capability in trailing the Soviet missile ships that trail our carriers and other major combatants. This is another action of an interim nature, designed to take some of the initiative from the Soviets, to make them react—as we now must— and to make their operations difficult.

We shall deploy one hydrofoil gunboat (PGH) to the Mediterranean to test its suitability in the trailing role. The results of this evaluation will help in the development of a gunboat that is designed particularly for the mission.

We are increasing ASW R&D for decoys and deception devices and procuring additional torpedo countermeasures equipment to protect our ships.

The Captor mine development program is being accelerated, to give us additional capability against the Soviet submarine. Captor is a deep-moored sensing device that detects a submarine target and fires a MK-46 torpedo at it. It will be useful in our blockade and barrier tasks and may be effective in protecting CVA operating areas against submarine intrusions.

The employment of SSN’s as surface task group escorts will be tested. A program to develop an improved submerged communications capability is being undertaken in support of this concept.

A proposal to develop an interim surface-to-surface missile by 1971, using off-the-shelf equipment—either a drone or a modular standard missile—is being readied. This weapons capability will give our ships a reach comparable to that of the Soviets and cut their advantage in that respect. With the carrier force level reduced, our ships cannot always count on air support, and this action will increase our flexibility in the employment of all our forces.

The Chief of Naval Material is conducting a conceptual design study of an advanced SSN with a subsurface-to-surface missile.

For the long term, a proposal will be made to accelerate delivery of the Harpoon missile system, which can be launched from either aircraft or ships against surface targets. This is the first formal program step toward achieving a requisite capability for both these purposes.

We are reviewing the desirability of removing nuclear surface-to-air missiles from our surface ships and terminating the procurement of SUBROC weapons. The prospective trade-off is an increase in our conventional capability.

The procurement of secure communications equipment is being accelerated, to give our ships and aircraft greater freedom of action. This measure, like others, will afford us the greater unit effectiveness that our smaller forces must have.

Defense against the entire spectrum of threats posed by the Soviet anti-ship missile to our task groups and convoys is under study. We are not convinced that our resources for defense are being used efficiently or effectively, and we are going to establish an office with authority and responsibility for centralized direction. We are looking at active and passive electronic warfare, command and control, communications, air and surface weapons, and new sensor areas, so as to match our response most effectively to the threat. As this matter is sorted out, we shall report to you with specific proposals.

We have begun to speed installation of the Basic Point Defense Weapons System and to develop the close-in Vulcan Phalanx gun system. We will thus increase our active defense against current Soviet missiles at low cost, while we seek solutions to the longer- range threat.

A smaller Navy must have better information and intelligence. We are establishing a group to look into the near- and long-term possibilities of better surveillance—both in satellites and underseas—including more effective use of the information already available from multiple sources. I expect a report within a month. In this area, our present view is that strong support from you and funding at relatively low levels could make a significant change in our favor in the power relation at sea.

If required by budget reductions, we are planning to decommission 35 conventional submarines, which now provide about 70 percent of our target services. We propose to retain 10 of these submarines at very austere manning levels and to reclassify them as ATSSs or target submarines. By taking similar action with an additional 7 conventional submarines of the active fleet, we are able to trade-off operating costs and have 17 target submarines with no additional requirement for funds. We thereby, of course, accept some loss of initial wartime combat capability.

To improve spare parts support, and thus material readiness, we are studying the desirability of reprogramming FY 71 funds to rebuild the spares inventory. Last year, an average of 6 percent of our ships were not ready for combat because of spares deficiencies.

We are modifying our investment in research and development. In FY-1972, the changes in emphasis will amount to about $90M for ASW and about $150M overall.

In pursuing the question of encouraging our allies to build-up their sea control forces, I have asked Admiral Colbert of the Naval War College to examine the need and possibilities. When his survey is complete—within two months—I shall recommend specific measures.

On the systems management side, we are emphasizing the Project Coordinator/Manager concept to deal with options that cut across all the complex disciplines of naval warfare. This concept—as exercised in the past—proved not effective enough; we are investigating ways of providing authority to go with the responsibility. We have already taken steps to ensure that successful project managers stay with their programs and receive promotion recognition.

You will note that these actions look to the present and to the future. They represent an initial program against the primary threat to our control of the seas. Though improved efficiencies in our use of forces may result, I refer you to my earlier remarks, pointing out that any of the potential reductions in our forces leaves the Soviets with the advantage at sea. The prospect that the momentum the Soviets have generated will lead to significant new developments is our primary concern. We must invest heavily in the future, even if we must pay for it by reducing current force levels.

To provide a better sense of direction for research and development, and promote force and strategic planning, I have created a special group, to be known as the CNO Executive Panel. The panel will work directly for me in developing a long-term concept for the Navy and in reviewing our current programs to make sure that they are consistent with that concept.

We are also reviewing the Navy’s support structure and identifying special budget problems, so as to eliminate all expenditures that do not contribute to Naval readiness.

You are familiar with the problems we are encountering in scaling down our base and support facilities. Our current survey seeks to reduce overhead while providing a hedge against any future requirement for buildup. This analysis is nearing completion, and we shall come to you soon with a proposal for major savings in the consolidation and closure of facilities.

Similar work, now in progress, will lead to changes in the Navy’s general support activities—base operations, training, logistics, command, medical, and individual support. These activities account for 35 percent of the FY 72 POM Annex Navy budget, a substantial increase from the 29 percent of FY 64. We are looking at the factors that have caused this increase. We are also establishing procedures to consider support and force implications simultaneously, providing a degree of effectiveness that has not been possible till now. In the meantime, our planning assumes that general support for each force category will be changed approximately in proportion to the changes in force level.

The Navy has a special problem in a serious expenditure hump in FY 71 that could induce even deeper cuts in force level. For example, a delay of several months in required decisions on inactivations of ships and reductions in civilian employment would cost the Navy on the order of $75M. Our FY 71 budget is already tight, and trade-offs for the $75M will be hard to find. Rumors are rife in the fleet; the uncertainty has created serious morale problems, with attendant effects on personnel retention. We need your help and shall continue to work closely with you on this.

We face a similar problem in out-year level funding. Inflation—at current or reduced rates—amounts to a cut in defense resources. For example, a 5% inflation effectively cuts $1B from the Navy budget and reduces the size of the Navy that can be supported.

The change of direction that I have described will not improve our exercise of power at sea unless we are able to manage our personnel better. We must set a clear purpose within the Navy. We must make naval service more attractive. I think measures to achieve these goals offer the greatest single potential payoff in increased combat readiness. Nothing less than an all-volunteer force will be acceptable.

Read Part 3. 

Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt served as the nineteenth Chief of Naval Operations of the U.S. Navy, from 1970 to 1974. 

Featured Image: The U.S. Navy Aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) underway in the Tonkin Gulf in November 1972. The Big E, with assigned Carrier Air Wing 14 (CVW-14), was deployed to Vietnam from 12 September 1972 to 12 June 1973. Alongside steam the guided missile cruisers USS Long Beach (CGN-9), USS Truxtun (DLGN-35) and USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25) (from top to bottom). (Wikimedia Commons)

Chief of Naval Operations Zumwalt’s Project 60, Part 1

Project SIXTY was Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt’s plan of action for his term as Chief of Naval Operations, lasting from July 1, 1970 to June 29, 1974. In it Admiral Zumwalt describes a resurgent naval threat from a peer competitor, the need to rebalance the mission focus between sea control and power projection, and how to optimize the fleet in the context of budgetary pressures. 

Project SIXTY will be republished here on CIMSEC in three parts. This republication is drawn from the U.S. Naval War College’s Newport Papers, specifically “U.S. Naval Strategy in the 1970s, Selected Documents” edited by John B. Hattendorf. 


Memorandum For All Flag Officers (And Marine General Officers, Dated SEP 16, 1970

Subj: Project SIXTY

1.  In July I told you that I would make an assessment of the Navy’s capabilities and problems for a presentation to the Secretary of Defense in early September. With the benefit of your insights and assistance, this task, Project SIXTY, has been completed. Secretary Chafee and I made the presentation on 10 September to Secretaries Laird and Packard and follow-on discussions with them are scheduled.

2. I consider that the substance of this presentation sets forth the direction in which we want the Navy to move in the next few years. The decisions that we make, and implement, at the command levels of the Navy should be consistent with these concepts. Further, I am passing this paper to the CNO Executive Panel, and its Programs Analysis Group, as the primary guideline for their deliberations in advising me on actions we should take and on the suitability of current programs. The Panel will consider the Project SIXTY paper as a dynamic statement of the direction that the Navy is to move and will adapt new concepts and ideas to keep the guidelines current and in-step with the threat and our best thoughts. 

3. I am forwarding the Project Sixty Presentation to you, under cover of this letter, to guide your actions as well to keep you fully aware of my thinking and to encourage your support as we move ahead. 

 

 


My purpose today is to report to you on our naval strengths and weaknesses and the actions we are taking, or will propose, to achieve the highest feasible combat readiness. The report reflects our survey of the Navy to date and sets forth the change of direction which we think necessary. It is impossible to discuss these changes outside the context  of potential budget reductions. We will indicate the effect of such reductions; they would curtail our capabilities critically, regardless of our actions. However, we hope to emphasize the theme of the changes that we feel must be undertaken, whether we can maintain our present expenditures or not.

The Navy’s capabilities fall naturally into four categories:


NAVAL CAPABILITIES

  • ASSURED SECOND STRIKE
  • CONTROL OF SEA LINES AND AREAS
  • PROJECTION OF POWER ASHORE
  • OVERSEAS PRESENCE IN PEACETIME

  • Assured Second Strike Potential,
  • Sea Control by our attack submarines, dual-mission carriers, escorts, and patrol aircraft,
  • Projection of power ashore by our dual-mission carriers and the amphibious force, and
  • Overseas presence in peacetime

We want to see where each of these capabilities fits into the possible conflict situations that we may face in the decade ahead. What, in short, does the country require of its sea forces?


SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN SOVIET THREAT OF LATE ’60s

  • NUCLEAR PARITY
  • EMERGENCE OF STRONG, WORLDWIDE DEPLOYED SOVIET NAVY

We are looking at this matter at a time when two factors have developed, of the highest importance to the power relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union:

  • Nuclear parity, and
  • The emergence of a strong, worldwide-deployed Soviet Navy

ASSURED SECOND STRIKE POTENTIAL

The initial Navy capability is the contribution it can make to an assured Second Strike potential.

Strategic deterrence must come first. Soviet achievement of nuclear parity, deployment of SS-9’s, and potential deployment of MIRVs have all raised the value of our sea-based strategic forces, and we are close upon the point when more of our deterrent forces will have to be based more securely. We are confident that the Navy can design and build a secure, effective ULMS (Underwater Long Range Missile System). If the national decision is to rely more heavily on sea basing— that is, to have ULMS operating before 1980—we must soon decide to accelerate.

SEA CONTROL AND PROJECTION

The other major naval missions at sea involve our sea control and projection forces.

The recent changes in relative strategic power between the Soviets and ourselves also have important implications for these conventional forces.


SEA CONTROL AND PROJECTION

NUCLEAR-CONVENTIONAL  RELATIONSHIPS

  • SEA CONTROL GUARANTEES INVULNERABILITY OF SEA BASED MISSILES
  • NUCLEAR PARITY INCREASES LIKELIHOOD OF CONVENTIONAL CONFLICT

On the one hand, the credibility of our ability to control the sea is essential to the credibility of our strategic sea-based deterrent. On the other hand, now that we have lost our superiority and are reducing our conventional forces, the Soviets are more likely to use military force to achieve their political objectives. The importance of the portion of our conventional force that is capable of overseas presence has thus been increased.


SEA CONTROL AND PROJECTION

  • NIXON DOCTRINE
  • NEW SOVIET NAVAL CAPABILITY

From the naval standpoint, these relationships are influenced further by the Nixon Doctrine and by the large, modern Soviet Navy that emerged in the 1960s.

The continuing withdrawal of the United States from foreign bases and—in Asia—the change in the forms of armed support we plan to make available to our allies, place additional responsibilities on our sea control and projection forces. Both will employ the dual mission carrier—the new CV concept. The Sea Control forces will see to it that sealift supplies get through to our allies. Projection forces will maintain a ready deterrent to avoid any misunderstanding of our intent and provide support promptly if needed. The Nixon Doctrine has effectively raised the threshold at which we would commit land forces overseas. We have moved closer to a situation in which Soviet or CHICOM involvement is the primary circumstance that might force us to intervene. We therefore face conventional war that will not include the sanctuary of full use of our sea lines of communication. The Soviets have conceded us this luxury in the past, in part because of our nuclear superiority, in part because of their belief that we could defeat them at sea in conventional war.

But now the Soviet Navy has evolved impressively in both size and spectrum of capabilities. Its technical and industrial base operates at high levels of design, development, and production. The Soviet Navy has been constructing and deploying submarines and surface ships at an ominously high rate. The quantity and technical quality of these ships has been rising sharply.

What does this new Soviet naval capability mean to us?

In strategic terms, the Soviet Navy is a worldwide force whose routine deployments reach into the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean, and Caribbean, as well as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Today the Soviet naval presence in the Mediterranean is as great as ours; 10 years ago it was negligible. We devote fewer than 800 ship days a year to limited parts of the Indian Ocean; the Soviets’ reach over that area has gone from zero ship days to 2400 in the past 3 years. Their submarine activity is four times as intense as ours and covers all the sea lanes of the world.

As you know, the Soviets have more attack submarines than we do. And they are building at a rate of 10–14 a year; we are building three. The Soviets are reducing the advantage we had in quality by building new, quieter classes of submarines. These new submarines have unique features that are so good we may copy them. In just two years, the Soviets have produced at least 6 new designs in submarines. Their new attack submarines are 3½ to 5½ knots faster than ours. Beyond this, they are giving priority to the Yankee-class ballistic missile submarines, building them at a rate of 6 to 8 a year.


SEA CONTROL AND PROJECTION

  • SOVIET SUBMARINES
  • 10–14 NEW SSNs PER YEAR
  • QUIETER
  • NEW DESIGNS (FASTER)
  • PRIORITY TO YANKEE CLASS SSBNs (6–8/YEAR)

These factors give the Soviets several advantages:

SOVIET ADVANTAGES

  • INCREASED OUT OF AREA PATROLS
  • DECREASED U.S. ACOUSTIC ADVANTAGE
  • SPEED

  • With greater numbers of submarines, routine out of area deployments can be increased without alerting our intelligence. Their readiness to fight is kept at a high level.
  • Quieter submarines decrease the acoustic advantage on which our submarine barriers and underseas surveillance systems depend to detect Soviet submarine transits.
  • Their speed advantage permits the Soviet submarines to use leap-frog tactics and brute speed in attack or evasion underseas.

YEARLY CONSTRUCTION OF NUCLEAR SUBMARINES 

NOW BUILDING CAPACITY Avg. time to build 1 Sub.
USSR 14–20 35 21 MOS.
U.S. 3 6* 27 MOS.

*WHEN POSEIDON IS COMPLETE, U.S. CAPACITY WILL BE 10–12 A YEAR.


And, highly important, the Soviets, with their large capacity and high building rate, can exploit technical improvements more rapidly than we can. They have a potential production level of 35 nuclear submarines a year without facility expansion.


GROWTH IN SOVIET MISSILE-LAUNCH PLATFORMS 

1960 1970
MAJOR MISSILE WARSHIPS 6 49
MISSILE PATROL BOATS 6 158
CRUISE MISSILE SUBMARINES 0 62
RECONNAISSANCE AND MISSILE AIRCRAFT 215 454
TOTAL 227 723

The Soviets have concentrated on weapons for use at sea. This chart shows the buildup in missile-launching vehicles in their naval inventory.

Their surface fleet continues to grow in size and quality relative to ours.


US VS USSR GENERAL PURPOSE NAVAL SHIP CONSTRUCTION 1966–1970 

US USSR USSR/US IN %
MAJOR COMBATANTS 11 17 155
MINOR COMBATANTS 47 182 387
AMPHIBIOUS SHIPS 14 6 43
ATTACK  SUBMARINES 26 43 165

They are building more ships than we are; amphibious ships are the only category in which we have been outbuilding them.

And the Soviets are enhancing the effectiveness of these forces with a high quality capability for electronics warfare and communications. This includes active and passive countermeasures directed at our systems, intercept equipment covering all of our emitters, and excellent facilities for communications jamming, deception, and intelligence. These assets are drawn together by a highly secure, worldwide communications system.

The Soviet Navy I have touched on here can be deployed in all the oceans. To maintain our own position, our Navy must be based on the two-ocean concept. We cannot concentrate forces in one ocean unless we are prepared to accept in war the loss of control of the other oceans—and thus the destruction of the Free World Alliance.

As an example of this limitation, in the first naval capability to be examined—that of support of war on land—we have looked at alternative ways to provide lift across the Atlantic. The lift mission cannot be performed by air alone. For a NATO war in the mid-1970’s, JCS plans call for moving seven million tons of military dry cargo and five million tons of military POL in the first six months. Of this total only 6% could be moved by air. This is consistent with our experience in Southeast Asia, where 96% has moved in ships.


SEALIFT IS ESSENTIAL

  • IN A NATO WAR IN THE MID 1970’S, AIRLIFT WILL BE ABLE TO HANDLE ONLY 6% OF MILITARY CARGOES REQUIRED
  • IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, ONLY 4% HAS MOVED BY AIR

Heavy reliance on sealift is an integral part of the U.S. role as a sea power. It emphasizes the absolute need to be able to control the seas if the nation is to exist. This slide shows why the sea control role must be a main concern of the U.S. Navy. Seaborne trade is several times more important to the U.S. than to the Soviets. Oceans lie between us and our allies; most of the Soviet alliances are with contiguous nations.


SEABORNE TRADE

(MILLIONS OF LONG TONS) 

1958 1965
U.S. 274 395
USSR 26 90

ALLIANCES

WITH CONTIGUOUS NATIONS WITH NON-CONTIGUOUS NATIONS
U.S. 2 43
USSR 7 4

POTENTIAL  ENEMIES

U.S.: NO CONTIGUOUS ENEMIES

USSR: CHINA AND NATO


Support of war-on-land requires not only the ability to lift forces across the seas but also the ability to project power ashore.

At reduced force levels, we should be concerned about the threat to sea projection forces during the early days of a NATO war. The situation on each flank is different.


NATO WAR

MEDITERRANEAN THREAT FACTORS

  • CONTINUOUS OPERATIONS OF SOVIET SHIPS
  • SOVIET ACCESS TO PORTS
  • SOVIET USE OF AIRFIELDS

A combination of factors has given rise to a serious threat in the relatively restricted sea area of the Mediterranean. There are three such factors:

1. Continuous operation of Soviet ships in the Mediterranean,
2. Soviet access to ports that were closed to them less than a decade ago, and
3. Soviet use of airfields in the UAR and Libya. 

Because we lack adequate surveillance capabilities, we cannot keep full-time track of Soviet submarines in the Mediterranean. For their part, the Soviets’ surface ships trail our carriers, ready for a first-strike attack in the event of conflict.

Yet, the Soviet naval presence in the Mediterranean demands militarily that we maintain our SIXTH Fleet at generally current force levels. Politically, the whole ambience of NATO requires us to assume that those forces—or augmented forces—will be in place and subject to early and very heavy attack at the outbreak of hostilities.

On the northern flank, however, political circumstances do not require our permanent or prior presence. Hence, before moving in to support forces on land, we would probably operate from mid-ocean to erode the Soviets’ submarine force, sweep up their surface ships and, as Allied land-based air operations took effect, slow down the rate of sorties from enemy air bases.

These considerations also raise the question of the importance of the naval air strike responsibility in NATO. NATO plans call for using all our carriers in this role. Because of air base shortages in Europe and competitive SAC requirements for tankers, I consider that mission of central value in holding the line on the NATO flanks until planned Air Force reinforcements can be deployed from CONUS. Though some feasible measures will reduce the naval problem, the essential deficiency is in forces.

I should add that strategic warning does not lessen the Soviet naval threat, but it might give us time to move our forces from the Pacific. Strategic warning might also permit the Air Force to make deployments, though bases would be a limiting factor.

Support of the land battle in a NATO war would thus require naval carrier strike forces. Therefore, most of our sea control forces would be engaged in protecting these projection forces. There would be little left to provide more than random security to the sea lines of communications. We would then be ceding to the Soviets this linchpin of rapid reinforcement upon which NATO depends to stabilize the conflict on land and reduce the likelihood of escalation.

Within likely budgets, this heavy commitment in one ocean would, in our judgment, require the movement of naval forces from the Pacific, abandonment of the Pacific  area west of Hawaii, and cession of control of those waters—including all of Japan, for instance—to the Soviet Far East Fleet. We can also lose sea control in the Atlantic as a result of events in the Pacific. The Soviets can give direct or proxy support to a North Korean attack on South Korea. The logical first response to that situation, as in South Vietnam, would be strikes by our carrier aircraft. Our analysis of the threat in the Sea of Japan at the time the EC-121 was shot down indicates a requirement for at least four carriers, with large protecting forces. Again, within likely budgets, our forces will be inadequate for sea control in the Pacific in the face of Soviet involvement—or threat of involvement—at sea, unless we move the bulk of our naval forces to the area. But that would cost us control of the Atlantic and the sea lines that support NATO.

These considerations present us with a number of hard alternatives in the face of budget reductions, if the Navy is to be in a position to make the necessary contribution to the nation’s security.


ALTERNATIVES

  • COMMIT ALL NAVAL FORCES TO SEA CONTROL
  • CONCENTRATE FORCES IN ONE OCEAN
  • INCREASE FORCES TO A LEVEL COMMENSURATE WITH TWO-OCEAN NEEDS

  • One course would be to commit all or nearly all the forces available, including the carriers, to the sea control mission. If so, the NATO air strike responsibility would have to be significantly reduced or even eliminated. In Asia, the cutting edge provided by attack carriers in a situation such as Korea would be reduced drastically if the Soviets chose to become involved at sea. At our lower force levels, we simply could not risk the irretrievable loss of sea control by hazarding our few carriers in land battles close to Eurasia.
  • Another course would be augmentation of forces from one ocean to the other in time of crisis or conflict, as an integral part of our strategic planning. If so, we would have to accept the risk or actual fact of Soviet control of the other seas and the implications of that result for the Free World Alliance.
  • The only real solution is maintenance of forces at the FY-1970 level or, for greater assurance, an increase of forces. This alternative will retain the naval option to provide the President with a mobile strategic contingency force whenever required and ensures greater confidence in our capability to support the deployment of Army and Air Force units.

Let me speak now of other naval capabilities that are required and that will fit into the force implications just discussed in the war-on-land case.

In addition to possibly contesting for control of sea lanes incident to a war on land, the Soviets’ naval strength enables them to start a war restricted to the sea. Such a conflict could be directed at Free World merchant shipping, at our naval forces, or at some combination of the two, the choice depending on the Soviets’ objective. The Soviets might also wage such a war by proxy.

If we were not already engaged in conflict, we could commit maximum available forces immediately to the sea control mission. There would be no conflicting requirements for projection of power ashore, though our ability to provide a strategic contingency force for another crisis would be reduced. This slide shows the results of a recent study of such a war at sea, including a high intensity war and a guerrilla war at sea. The study assumed present force levels projected ahead. In this study, our losses are heavy. They would be heavier at the lower levels we are now planning on.

How our allies—we—and the Soviets estimate the outcome of such a conflict could have a significant influence on responses to other situations. The Soviets surely gave this matter prominence in their decisions during the Cuban missile crisis. In our judgment, their naval course since that time originated then. Whether any President will ever again be willing to impose a blockade will depend on his assessment—and ours— of the risks if war at sea were to result. His decision will also depend on whether we proceed now to provide him with credible tools. To expect our allies to help us counter a Soviet initiative at sea will depend primarily on their view of our ability to pursue such a conflict successfully.

Read Part 2.

Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt served as the nineteenth Chief of Naval Operations of the U.S. Navy, from 1970-1974. 

Featured Image: Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt. Jr., USN, Chief of Naval Operations (left), and Rear Admiral Robert S. Salzer, USN, Commander Naval Forces Vietnam, discuss their recent visit to Nam Can Naval Base, Republic of Vietnam, as they fly to their next stop, May 1971. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

The Role of Public Affairs in U.S. Seapower, Pt. 1

By LCDR Arlo Abrahamson, USN

Introduction

The technological innovations of the twenty-first century are transforming mass communications on a global scale. Organizations are competing in a hyper-competitive and increasingly diverse information environment that demands continuous communication engagement to affirm truth and facts while deterring adversary misinformation.1 This global transformation in mass communication practices is also changing how the world’s militaries are devising their strategic messaging and these changes will have a significant impact on the U.S. Navy’s mission. Public affairs is a command function with responsibilities for commanders at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels that require astute vision, collaboration, and synchronization of messaging and information dissemination.2 The underlying question remains, “How can the Navy’s public affairs program successfully support the U.S. maritime strategy for twenty-first century seapower?”

To achieve success, the Navy must enable public affairs to function as a tool of credibility versus persuasion and spin, it must embody the principles of transparency, and it must better synchronize public affairs with other elements of U.S. information power such as information operations and public diplomacy. The modalities of maritime strategy and the information environment must be examined to provide sufficient context for a discussion about the aforementioned challenges of the Navy’s public affairs program. 

External Influences of Maritime Strategy

The Navy’s Cooperative Strategy for Twenty-First Century Seapower and the Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority affirm the core tenets of projecting forward naval presence and enhancing maritime partnerships.3 Due to the external nature of these operations combined with a frequent focus in support of U.S. diplomacy, a successful maritime strategy will require sustained and comprehensive communication strategies that are supported at all levels of command. Edward Luttwak notes the unique capability of seapower as a tool for strategic communication given how naval presence and security partnerships convey important political messaging.4 In his critique of the U.S. maritime strategy, Geoffrey Till notes that the “variation and complexity” of such an initiative centered on generating support domestically and internationally to sustain forward presence and security partnerships will require the Navy to “devote significant effort to their strategic communication plan.”5 Admiral John Kirby, the former Pentagon press secretary and spokesperson for the Department of State, argues “the Navy is historically one of the least understood branches, and yet one of the most capital-intensive.”6 As a result, Kirby posits that “any strategy which defines the way the Navy will fight and win” will fail if not supported by domestic stakeholders along with allies and partners, considering how long the U.S. maritime strategy actually takes to render results. 

This challenge compounds the importance of commanders understanding the functionality of public affairs within the context of the information environment, to promote transparency, and ensure messaging is synchronized with other elements of information power in support of the maritime strategy.

The Changing Information Environment

The Joint Publication 3-13 Information Operations describes the information environment as “the aggregate of individuals, organizations, and systems that collect, process, disseminate, or act on information.”8 Kirby further characterizes the public domain of the information environment as an evolving space where allies, partners, and adversaries are contending for narratives in real-time on new media platforms such as Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and a growing portfolio of interconnected online venues.9 With the diffusion of actors and contributors to the modern information environment, and the speed at which information travels, this compounds the notion that tactical actions can have strategic consequences.10 Consequently, operational and tactical commanders must be aware that their units increasingly operate in an atmosphere that is exposed to the public domain via technological innovations of the information environment, and every ship, unit, and headquarters is critical to communication success through their credible and transparent actions.

Optimizing Public Affairs to Support U.S. Maritime Strategy 

The function and utilization of military public affairs within the complex information environment is often misunderstood by commanders and organizations alike, which undercuts the enduring value of the discipline to support initiatives such as the maritime strategy. There are well-intentioned commanders who favor more of a shaping or salesmanship function of public affairs operations, a role more attuned to the hybrid public relations-information operations construct of U.S. adversaries.11 Moreover, Kirby argues that commanders often view the information environment as “one they can own and shape at will, one of kinetics,” – which underestimates the complexities and dynamics of an environment that requires comprehensive and persistent communication strategies.12 Kirby further posits that while “rapid reaction and cyber agility” are necessary to counter adversary information, these qualities alone are insufficient:

“Our approach must be bolstered by an unfailing commitment to truthful context and imagery, aggressive transparency and a willingness to overwhelm fake news and media manipulation over time.”13

While Kirby does not discount the need to shape the information environment, he notes that commanders should utilize their public affairs capability as a long-term strategic communication initiative that achieves desired effects with sustained engagement.14 Jeff Davis, a career Navy public affairs officer and former Pentagon spokesperson, argues that the information power of the Department of Defense is harnessed by providing persistent strategic messaging that is “credible, sober, and factual” and grounded in matching deeds with words.15 When this action-communication sequence does not align, it can affect the Navy’s organizational credibility and degrade public trust in the Navy’s forward presence mission. For example, in 2017 the U.S. Third Fleet promulgated a news release announcing the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group departed Singapore and would “sail North” leading media outlets to assume the aircraft carrier was expeditiously headed to waters in Northeast Asia as a show of force to North Korean provocations occurring at the time.16 The news release declined to note the strike group would make an intermediate routing for an exercise near Indonesia and Australia, inadvertently provoking allegations of U.S. misinformation among international media stakeholders and umbrage from key U.S. allies in South Korea and Japan who perceived a deeds-words mismatch in their commitment to their respective alliances.17 

Beyond being credible and accurate, public communication must also be persistent to effectively support the maritime strategy. Collin Koh, a maritime security researcher at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, notes the information environment demands continuous public communications of U.S. naval presence to demonstrate resolve to allies and partners and deter adversaries from filling in information voids.18 Koh and Dzirhan Mahadzir, a naval analyst, characterize this persistent communication engagement as “normalizing the narrative.”19    

Accordingly, Koh and Mahadzir contend that persistent narratives of operations can help deescalate the news cycle over time and thus lower the perception of provocative actions resulting from freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea if the action-communication is routine and clear in its message.20 It can also be a detriment to commanders when communication is not executed consistently. Lynn Kuok, a security analyst and Yale international fellow, believes the U.S. should routinely release clear details about operations in the South China Sea, i.e. where the operation took place, what the operation did, and what right(s) the U.S. was asserting—simultaneous to or very soon after the conduct of such operations.21 The impact, security analysts note, is to ensure that U.S. forward naval presence can generate favorable strategic outcomes that strengthen the U.S. maritime strategy by publicly affirming navigation rights under international law while deterring China’s public overtures aimed at transforming norms and asserting new customary laws through its shaping of regional and international public opinion.22

Transparency as a Secret Weapon

An emerging concern for external stakeholders of DoD and the Navy is a perceived tilt toward less transparency and openness.23 These concerns are generating contention among journalists, citizens, and analysts of the Navy’s maritime strategy alike with veteran observers such as Thomas Ricks, a former defense reporter for The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, arguing its negative effects on U.S. national security.24 Ricks points out that commanders tend to operate in a low risk posture as they perceive transparency and openness offer few tangible incentives, particularly at the operational and tactical levels where public affairs release authority is often narrower.25 This growing perception among commanders of a zero-defect environment with public communications limits the potential of U.S. information power.26 Moreover, Davis notes that transparency in public communication provides the U.S. military with an asymmetrical advantage in credibility: 

“A transparent, accountable military is our secret weapon. It is what has given us such high levels of trust, both at home and internationally. But that trust is now at risk.”27

Minimizing transparency and engagement with the media, veteran naval reporter Chris Cavas argues, degrades the maritime strategy by limiting the Navy’s ability to use information to “deter adversaries and portray expertise, readiness, and commitment.”28 The Navy recently issued a series of guidance cautioning commanders to limit discussions on capabilities to protect operational security.29 While the guidance does not prohibit commanders from engaging with the media, Cavas contends these overtures are creating a “chilling effect” on the frequency of press engagements and embarkations domestically and overseas among critical allies and partner-nation constituencies.30 As a result, there is a growing cohort of public stakeholders, many who directly impact the sustainability of the maritime strategy, who believe the pendulum of security versus openness in the Navy has swung too far toward secrecy. Representative Mike Gallagher, a member of the House Seapower and Projection of Forces Subcommittee, notes the risk of tepid public communication in the context of sustaining longer term, capital driven initiatives such as the U.S. maritime strategy:

“Despite the old adage that ‘loose lips sink ships,’ non-existent strategic communications can sink entire navies. If the bias is towards silence to prevent adversaries from finding out about unique capabilities or potential weaknesses, guess what, there will never be a public constituency for acquiring or mitigating them. And, oh by the way, our adversaries probably have a decent idea of what we’re up to anyways.”31

These critiques present a difficult, yet necessary balancing consideration for the Navy’s leadership that will require increased attention and risk-benefit analysis. However, Admiral James Stavridis (ret.) posits that commanders still have many opportunities to foster transparency with the media and public within the Navy’s current guidance.32 Limiting press engagement, Stavridis argues, strips commanders of an important tool to enhance their mission and ensure that tactical and operational successes lead to strategic value.33


In Part 2, we will explore how to synchronize information power to enable maritime strategy, along with several counter-arguments and perspectives.


Lt Commander Arlo Abrahamson is a recent graduate of the Naval War College and a career Navy public affairs officer. He has served globally supporting strategic communication, security cooperation, and public diplomacy initiatives for the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State. These views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U. S. Government or the Department of Defense.

Endnotes

1 John Kirby,  “The Information Environment Today,” lecture filmed May 2016 at the Naval War College, Newport R.I., video, 30:58, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYyoRo5_Alw

2 Secretary of the Navy, Department of the Navy Public Affairs Policy and Regulations, SECNAV Instruction 5720.44C, 1-1 through 1-12, February 12, 2012, https://www.navy.mil/ah_online/opsec/docs/policy/secnavinst-5720_44c_pao.pdf.

3  U.S. Navy, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, 2015,1-2,  https://www.navy.mil/local/maritime/150227-CS21R-Final.pdf

4 Edward Luttwak, “Political Uses of Seapower,” Studies in International Affairs, (The Johns Hopkins University Press), (1974), 1-3.

5 Geoffrey Till, “The New Maritime Strategy: Another View from the Outside,” The Naval War College Review, vol. 68, no. 4, (April 2015): 10.

https://digitalcommons.usnwc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1265&context=nwc-review.

6 John Kirby, Rear Admiral (ret), email correspondence with the author, April 16, 2019.

7 John Kirby, Rear Admiral (ret), email correspondence with the author, April 16, 2019.

8 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-13, Information Operations, (Washington DC: GPO, November 2012), 27.

9 John Kirby, “The Information Environment Today,” lecture filmed May 2016 at the Naval War College, Newport R.I., video, 30:58, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYyoRo5_Alw.

10 Ibid.

11 Michael Parkinson Shannon Bowen, Kenneth Plowman, Robert Pritchard, John Schmeltzer, Mark Swiatek, “Military PAOs and the Media: Conflicting Systems of Ethics,” Institute for Public Relations Research Paper, (March 10, 2012): 3-4, https://instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/Military-PAOs-The-Media.pdf.

12 John Kirby, Rear Admiral (ret), email correspondence with author, April 15, 2019.

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.

15 Jeff Davis, Captain (ret), email correspondence with author, April 10, 2019.

16 Ryan Pickrell, “The Aircraft Carrier Carl Vinson to Korea Saga, What Happened,” The National Interest, April 20, 2017, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-aircraft-carrier-carl-vinson-korea-saga-what-happened-20278.

17 Ibid.

18 Collin Koh, Rajaratnam School of International Studies, email correspondence with author, April 15, 2019.

19 Collin Koh, Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Dzirhan Mahadzir, Maritime Institute of Malaysia and U.S. Naval Institute contributor, email correspondence to author, April 15, 2019 and April 2, 2019.

20 Ibid.

21 Lynn Kouk, Yale International Fellow and Security Analyst, email correspondence with author, May 2, 2019.

22 Ibid.

23 Adam Smith, “The Pentagon is getting more Secretive, and its hurting Nation Security,” Defense One, Oct 28, 2018, https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2018/10/pentagons-getting-more-secretive-and-its-hurting-national-security/152345/.

24 Thomas Ricks, email correspondence with author, April 12, 2019. 

25 Ibid.

26 James Stavridis, “It’s been over 300 days since a Pentagon Press Briefing: That should concern all Americans including the Military,” Time Magazine, April 16, 2019, http://time.com/5571643/pentagon-press-briefings/.

27 Jeff Davis, Captain (ret), email correspondence with author, April 10, 2019.

28 Chris Cavas, “Does the U.S. Navy have a Strategy Beyond Hope,” Defense News, January 4, 2018, https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/surface-navy-association/2018/01/04/does-the-us-navy-have-a-strategy-beyond-hope/.

29 Justin Doubleday, “CNO Directs Navy to Curb Warfighting Discussion on Capabilities,” Inside Defense, March 2, 2017, https://insidedefense.com/share/185155.

30 Chris Cavas, “Does the U.S. Navy have a Strategy Beyond Hope,” Defense News, January 4, 2018, https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/surface-navy-association/2018/01/04/does-the-us-navy-have-a-strategy-beyond-hope/.

31 David Larter, “Lawmakers Chide Navy, DoD, on step back from Transparency,” Defense News, January 10, 2018, https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/surface-navy-association/2018/01/10/lawmakers-chide-us-navy-on-step-back-from-transparency/.

32 James Stavridis, “Admiral Stavridis on the Importance of Engagement with the Press,” U.S. Naval Institute Online, April 30, 2019, https://blog.usni.org/posts/2019/04/30/admiral-stavridis-on-the-importance-of-engagement-with-the-press.

33 Ibid.

Featured Image: VALPARAISO, Chile (Aug. 24, 2014) Capt. Robert A. Hall Jr., commanding officer of the future amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), addresses the media during a press conference on the flight shortly after the ship moored in Valparaiso, Chile, for a scheduled port visit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vladimir Ramos/Released)