Tag Archives: featured

WarPlan Crimson: The NextWar Schedule

Cavalry? Fear not, boys. Whatever happens, we have got the Maxim gun and they have not.WarPlan Crimson was the War Department’s operational plan for the invasion of Canada, it is also the long-view schedule for NextWar and its Sea Control Podcast

NextWar Upcoming Topic Weeks:

Drone Tactics Week – Mar 3-8
Editor: Dave Blair (daveblair130(at)gmail.com)
The practical view of how a drone could be used outside (or furthering) their current model.

Defense Innovation Failures – Mar 24-29
Editor: Matt McLaughlin (matthew.mclaughlin.1(at)gmail.com)
Too little attention is paid to the innovative failures and dead ends. We’re going to fix that.

Private Military Contractors – Apr 14-19
Editor: Emil Maine (emil.maine(at)heritage.org)
Despite their recent pillorying, PMC’s have existed since before the condotierre and will continue to exist after America’s campaigns. We’ll discuss their utility and future.

Wargaming – May 5-10
Editor: Adam Kruppa (adam.kruppa(at)gmail.com)
From the table-top to the joint exercise, how do we mimic the world in ways that is useful (or not) for security and foreign policy?

Sacking of Rome – May 26-31
Editor: Paul Pryce (prycep(at)cya-ajc.ca)
The United States is the mightiest power on earth. We spend too much time concentrating on how the U.S. could fail, and less on how Hannibal or the Goths could succeed.

Strategic Communications – Jun 16-21
Editor: Nicolas Di Leonardo (nicolas.a.dileonardo(at)gmail.com)
You keep saying words, I do not think they means what you think they mean… to everyone else.

Sea Control Podcast Schedule:

Feb 24: CAPT Rodgers on the USS PONCE
Mar 3: CAPT Moore’s “More with Moore”
Mar 17: ASB with TX Hammes and Tim Walton
Mar 24: Anthony Arend and Maritime Law
Mar 31: Robert Sutter and Chinese Decision Making

Upcoming Projects: Sea Control may soon be broadening its perspective. The Phoenix Think Tank will soon be running a monthly “East Side of the Pond” edition of Sea Control and an Asia/Pacific version may soon follow.

Air-Sea Battle: Unnecessarily Provoking China?

A special rejoinder to CIMSEC’s Air-Sea Battle Week

All throughout Air-Sea Battle (ASB) week, CIMSEC hosted articles about the ASB Concept. Each is well worth the time to read and digest for different views about U.S. military efforts to defeat the growing challenges presented by anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities. Interestingly, several of the articles discussed the same scenario—a future U.S.-China conflict. Such a scenario seems almost natural, given U.S. concerns over whether China has the means to obstruct the U.S. military’s ability to project power in the Asia-Pacific. Unfortunately, it also neglects to take into consideration larger U.S. foreign policy objectives in the region.

By portraying ASB as a means to defeat China in a military conflict, these articles represent a view that is ultimately at odds with the U.S. “Rebalance to Asia” strategy (yes, it is a strategy!). A key focus of the U.S. rebalance from the beginning has been to ensure that U.S. efforts to reinvigorate its approach to the region do not unnecessarily provoke China. As then-National Security Advisor Tom Donilon stated in 2013, building a “constructive relationship with China” is one of the main pillars of the U.S. rebalance strategy.[1]

Unfortunately, as these articles demonstrate, ASB is frequently seen as a U.S. military effort specifically developed to defeat China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). This is despite frequent official U.S. statements to the contrary.[2] As the official document on ASB stated, the ASB concept is agnostic in both scenario and opponent.[3] Though this point cannot be stressed enough, it continues to elude many.

There are several reasons for the confusion about whether ASB is specifically meant for China. First, it is the result of the PLA’s own actions, as it has sought “to develop measures to deter or counter third-party intervention, particularly by the United States”—the very definition of an A2/AD strategy.[4] Second, the confusion over ASB is also fueled by earlier official U.S. military documents, which called upon the U.S. military to develop a way to counter A2/AD capabilities, such as those possessed by the PLA.[5] Third, nature abhors a vacuum: the lack of official public information about ASB in the beginning was made up for by the quick thinking of CSBA, a DC-think tank that proffered its own idea for the concept in 2010.[6] Despite being an unofficial recommendation, CSBA’s version of the concept still exerts influence over the conversation today.[7] Finally, U.S. domestic and foreign press has further muddied the waters, as a quick review of articles on ASB demonstrates.

However, confusion by the masses about whether ASB targets China is not the real problem. A bigger problem is what would occur should this view solidify within China’s senior civilian and military leadership. Were this to happen, it could result in unanticipated consequences that run counter to overarching U.S. objectives in the region.

First, it could hinder U.S. efforts to improve relations with China, a rising economic and military power in the region. Those within China’s leadership that hold a more hawkish view of U.S. intentions towards China in the Asia-Pacific would have additional ammunition to support their arguments. Conversely, those that favor improving relations with the United States would find it more difficult to make their case. Increasing People’s Republic of China (PRC) hostility to the United States would only complicate any U.S. effort to get PRC buy-in on issues of mutual concern, such as North Korea.

Second, it could cause the PLA to redouble its efforts to develop the very capabilities that ASB seeks to counter. Of particular concern here is ASB’s emphasis on the ability to strike a potential adversary’s command and control (C2) and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems, which most likely would be located on the adversary’s home turf.[8] When transposed to a hypothetical China scenario, talk of strikes on the Chinese mainland is likely to incite a knee-jerk response from a country that is already paranoid about U.S. efforts to contain its rise. The last thing the United States needs right now is a costly ASB-A2/AD arms race.

Unfortunately there are indications that some in China already see ASB as specifically targeting China. For example, in late November 2011, the spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense stated that ASB reflects “the kind of view that advocates confrontation and seeks one’s own security at the expense of others”—implying that the “other” in question is China.[9] Unofficial military and civilian commentaries have more forcefully portrayed it as targeting China. A 2013 publication from China’s Academy of Military Science, an organization tasked with advising China’s senior military leadership, claimed that ASB supports U.S. military efforts “directed at China.”[10]

So, is it possible to prevent or at least lessen the likelihood that the U.S. military’s development of ASB undermines larger U.S. foreign policy objectives?  While to a certain extent it may be impossible, since some in Beijing are going to believe whatever they want despite U.S. actions or statements, there are a few steps that could still be taken.

First, the United States should conduct a senior-level policy review to determine how U.S. military efforts to ensure global access are affecting the implementation of the Rebalance to Asia. This review should be done by both the executive and legislative branches. Any review should also include those responsible for U.S. foreign policy, not just U.S. military policy.

Second, the U.S. administration should review the best way to ensure U.S. military access around the globe. Should the lion’s share of efforts be on offensive capabilities, including strikes against an adversary’s critical targets? Or should any effort be more defensive in nature, seeking instead to increase the survivability of U.S. and allied forces by defeating any enemy attacks after they have been launched? The latter may be seen as less provocative in Beijing.

Third, the U.S. military should consider rebranding ASB. Despite the U.S. military’s best efforts, it may be impossible at this stage to fully delink the concept from efforts specifically tied to defeating China. Starting anew and conducting a full-scale campaign to control the message from the beginning may help to minimize any overt connection to China in the future.

Finally, in no way should the U.S. military abandon efforts to ensure its ability to project power in light of growing Chinese A2/AD capabilities. The problem is not that the U.S. military needs to project power in support of U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific.  Instead, the issue revolves around how to do so in a way that conforms to larger U.S. foreign policy objectives. Solving this conundrum will ensure that both objectives are met without canceling each other out.

Daniel Hartnett is a research scientist at CNA and a member of the Truman Project’s Defense Council. He can be followed on Twitter @dmhartnett. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of any organization with which he is affiliated. This article draws from a longer piece done for the Center for National Policy.


[1]  Office of the Press Secretary of The White House, “Remarks by Tom Donilon, National Security Advisor to the President – As Prepared for Delivery,” The Asia Society, New York, New York, March 11, 2013.

[2] See for example, the in-depth testimony by the assistant deputy Chief of Naval Operations, current chair of the Air-Sea Battle Senior Steering Group, to the House Armed Services Committee. James G. Foggo III (USN, Rear Admiral), testimony to the House Armed Services Committee,  Subcommittee for Seapower and Projection Forces, Washington, DC, 10 October 2013.

[3] Air-Sea Battle Office, “Air-Sea Battle: Service Collaboration to Address Anti-Access and area Denial Challenges (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 17 January 2012), p. 2.

[4] Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China (Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, 2013), p. 32.

[5] See, for example, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense, January 2012), pp. 4-5; Joint Chiefs of Staff, The National Military Strategy of the United States of America, 2011, (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 8 February 2011), p. 14; and Office of the Secretary of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report, (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, February 2010), p. 31.

[6] Jan van Tol, Mark Gunzinger, Andrew F. Krepinevich, and Jim Thomas, AirSea Battle: A Point of Departure (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 18 May 2010).

[7] See, for example, T.X. Hammes, “Air-Sea Battle: Lots of Heat, Little Light,” Center for International Maritime Security, 12 February 2014, http://cimsec.org/asb-lots-heat-little-light/.

[8] Air-Sea Battle Office, “Air-Sea Battle: Service Collaboration to Address Anti-Access and Area Denial Challenges (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 17 January 2012), pp. 5-7.

[9] Wang Jingguo and Hao Yalin, “Guofang bu jiu mei zai ao zhu jun da jizhe wen, chai ‘kong hai yiti zhan’ lilun” [Ministry of National Defense Answers Reporters’ Questions about U.S. Forces in Australia, Denounces the ‘Air-Sea Battle’ Theory], Xinhua, 20 November 2011, http://news.xinhuanet.com/mil/2011-11/30/c_111206902.htm.

[10] The study in question is published by the Center for National Defense Policy, a center within the PLA’s Academy of Military Science. Strategic Review 2012 (Beijing: Military Science Press, May 2013), pp. 25-26.

Strategic Communication and the Growing Australia–Indonesia Crisis

This post originally appeared at the Australia Strategic Policy Institute and was cross-posted by permission.

The United States has thus far avoided getting publicly involved in the Indonesia–Australia spying row; however, it can’t afford to do so any longer. Australia has demonstrated a naiveté in thinking that public diplomacy rows such as this can be settled using traditional ‘cocktail diplomacy’. Likewise, its apathy to public diplomacy on social media may be indicative of an inability to plan and conduct strategic communications campaigns. Indonesia is home to 50 million Facebook users, 35 million Twitter users and a projected 42% social media penetration of the population by 2017. As broadband internet access penetrates further into rural Indonesia, US–Allied strategic communications and public diplomacy are only going to grow in complexity and importance.

‘Cocktail diplomacy is dead,’ reads the simple Facebook post from retired Admiral James Stavridis after attending the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. Indeed, as information technology continues to mature and proliferate across the globe, public diplomacy via social media will be increasingly important as citizens become more aware of international politics and attempt to shape policy by exerting influence over their respective leaders. Nowhere does this statement resonate more profoundly than in the current Australia–Indonesia row.

Following the Snowden revelations, Indonesia’s highly socially networked population took to Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere to denounce the Australian spying. While Indonesia’s government tried to get ahead of the popular outrage and launched its own statements on social media, Australia maintained silence on its official Twitter/Facebook accounts, promising only to send a formal démarche within a week. This thumb in the eye of public diplomacy in favor of more traditional ‘cocktail diplomacy’ did nothing to assuage the growing outrage and resulted in Indonesia’s suspension of elements of the Lombok Treaty such as coordination of counter human-trafficking operations, leading to confusion, misunderstanding, accusations of violations of sovereignty/territorial waters, increased military patrols/redeployments and an escalating war of words both at the civilian and military levels.

The Lombok Treaty has been the modern foot in the door for US–Australia–Indonesian Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) missions. Recent changes to Australian security policy in the past years have generated apprehension in Indonesia. For example, the establishment of a permanent US Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SP MAGTF) in Darwin led Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa to rebuke it as ‘…a reaction to the rise of China’ and ‘capable of generating a vicious cycle of tension and mistrust.’ Tensions due to the ongoing spying row will only make it harder to sell both the SP MAGTF deployment to the Indonesians as a force for regional stability / security and the perception that US-Australian-Indonesian tri-lateral relationship is mutually beneficial (not conspiratorial against the Indonesians).

China has proven to be adept at generating and exploiting regional tensions—especially when western powers are involved—by presenting itself as a sympathetic Asian neighbor. The curious simultaneity of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force announcing the creation of the Air Defense Interrogation Zone (ADIZ) and Edward Snowden’s releasing of his files detailing the Australian SIGINT operations against Indonesia point towards a potential Chinese plot to undermine the Lombok Treaty.

If China chose to ingratiate itself with Indonesia, it would have a good basis to start from.  Annual Chinese trade with Indonesia (US$66bn) triples US trade (US$22bn). The minority Chinese diaspora population controls over 73% of publicly traded companies within Indonesia and are critical to brokering the PRC financing of infrastructure projects such as roads and broadband internet. By comparison, US Agency for International Development (USAID) assistance only accounts for a trifle $166m. According to a 2013 Pew Research survey, Indonesians view China as more of a partner than the United States (53%-46%). That’s surprising, given Indonesia’s history of anti-Chinese sentiment.

Nonetheless, American regional engagement has to work in this environment, and to influence the views of Indonesians in the streets it will first have to reach them. ‘Strategic Communications’ is the answer to how the United States coordinates its messaging and actions across various government agencies in the age of 21st century social media, and is defined as:

…synchronization of our words and deeds as well as deliberate efforts to communicate and engage with intended audiences via public affairs, public diplomacy, and information operations (condensed 2010 USG definition).

Given the demonstrated influence of the socially networked and internet savvy Indonesian public, as well as their economic reliance on China and Chinese industry, it’s essential that the US and Australian governments engage in a joint strategic communications social media campaign targeting the Indonesian people to change their attitudes on both the spying row as well as the basing of the SP MAGTF in Darwin. The failure to effectively communicate with the Indonesian people could result in stronger, mutually-exclusive, bilateral relationship between China and Indonesia, at the expense of western nations.

Nicolas di Leonardo is a member of the Expeditionary Warfare Division on the staff of the US Chief of Naval Operations, as well as a graduate student of the US Naval War College. The views presented here are his own and do not necessarily represent the official positions of the United States Navy or the US Naval War College. Image courtesy of Flickr user US Department of State.

Understanding Australia’s Submarine Choice

Australia is set to embark upon its most ambitious, complex, and expensive defense project in history – the design and construction of its first indigenous submarine. Understanding why Australia has decided to commit to such a project requires both knowledge of Australia’s unique geographical environment and regional strategic realities.

Dubbed the Future Submarine Project, this ambitious scheme hopes to develop the ability to design, test, and construct an Australian submarine perfectly suited for the unique conditions in which it would be required to operate. The project is estimated to cost anywhere between 16 to 36 billion Australian dollars (the final price remains a point of contention) and aims to construct the largest diesel attack submarines in the world, surpassing even the mighty U.S. Virginia-class. The 2013 Defense White Paper unequivocally stated the nation’s intent, removing all other options from the table. There remains, however, a rather heated debate within Australia as to the risks versus possible reward of the Future Submarine Project. Australia has never before attempted something of this magnitude; normally preferring to purchase advanced pieces of military hardware from those who have spent decades perfecting the trade. Such crucial facts and some strategic foresight explain this ambitious move.

Firstly, unique geography plays an enormous role in Australia’s decision making. With one of the largest maritime domains in the world, a massive 8,148,250 square kilometers, Australia’s claims stretch from the freezing waters of Antarctica through to the far warmer waters in the North, near the equator. The sheer size of the zone raises a difficult question for the nation, which while large in geographic size, is relatively small in population, with roughly only 23 million people for a nation the size of the United States.

It remains rather difficult if not impossible, to patrol and monitor the vast majority of Australian waters. Subsequently areas of importance must be selected. Furthermore military platforms are required to spend long periods of time on station patrolling this zone and covering far larger swaths of sea with limited resources. Australia requires craft that are durable, versatile, and capable of long-term deployments.

The size of the continent creates another difficult situation for any navy but especially a submarine force. Multiple sea conditions surround the Australian coastline, with the warmer Pacific Ocean in the north and the much cooler Indian Ocean in the south, far rougher conditions occur in the Indian Ocean than in the milder Pacific Ocean. These climatic changes of temperature alter the salinity of the water, (thereby affecting buoyancy), creating a strong demand for durable and versatile craft.

Now, one may ask why the significantly more demanding polar South of the nation requires such serious attention. Despite being a zone of little activity, compared to the busy Northern trade routes, Australia places high strategic importance upon patrolling the Southern route, or so-called “Australian backyard”.  Australia claims up to 40% of Antarctica (despite being ignored by most of the world’s powers, including the United States). Australia does however take this entitlement quite seriously and consequently, the southern region is patrolled and monitored. Anyone who doubts Australia’s intention to protect and guard its southern approach, need only look at a map of claimed Australian maritime borders, and note the strategically placed Macquarie and Heard Islands. These seemingly insignificant parcels of land allow for the creation of effective choke points to any approach of Australia’s claimed Antarctic region and southern trade routes. Should circumstances arise where northern trade routes become unsafe, or worse still blocked perhaps through conflict, the longer and inhospitable south would remain of vital importance. Australia relies on seaborne trade for survival, and if the above mentioned eventuality were ever to arise, the ability to place quiet attack submarines in the newly vital southern trade routes to protect shipping and monitor activity, becomes of unquestionable importance. Combined with Australian Antarctic sovereignty claims, the enforcement of the entire region becomes clearer to understand, despite the highly unpleasant arctic conditions.

Secondly, growing military capabilities within Southeast and Northern Asia place a further emphasis on the need for a highly survivable and capable submarine fleet. Australia looks beyond 2025 when questioning future military capabilities in Asia, this points to a period where many neighboring nations will have acquired formidable submarine platforms and anti-shipping capabilities. For example Indonesia is seeking to expand its small fleet of two submarines toward a more powerful twelve with the recent purchase of Russia’s quiet running Kilo-class diesel submarine. Vietnam will take possession of its first submarine fleet by the end of 2016. This is not to forget the expansive growth of Chinese A2/AD, or area denial abilities, primarily the growth of anti-shipping weaponry from the emerging power. Lastly, this also heralds the end of the aging Collins-class diesel attack submarine Australia currently employs.

While not necessarily constituting an arms race, the growth of submarine capabilities throughout Southeast Asian nations demonstrates the development of these nations as maritime powers who are self-conscious of their perceived lack of maritime defense ability. The growth of ballistic anti-ship missile technology helps to explain the sudden popularity of submarine fleets, as surface vessels lose their survivability in conflict. For smaller nations, these vessels work to create an important deterrent and if need be, the capability to wage effective warfare against a more powerful enemy.

As for Australia, while it certainly doesn’t consider the growth of neighboring military capabilities a risk to its survival, it understands how maritime abilities developed by its neighbors can help secure Southeast Asia and those ever important trade routes. However, it also realizes that the growth of military capabilities erodes Australia’s traditional military edge over its immediate possible rivals. Seemingly then, the desire to have one of the most capable and deadly submarine fleets in the region remains critically important to Australia, which considers much of Southeast Asia of vital strategic importance. Any Asian history buffs should look to the 1951 Radford Collins agreement to get a sense of the zone (large portions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans) Australia has considered under its immediate strategic concern, and perhaps what it still does.

Thirdly we come to the varied options Australia has to replace the aging Collins-class. Taking into consideration the above requirements for the future submarine, the list of possible options for replacing the Collins-class is seemingly on the short side. The SEA 1000 project was the study committed in order to ascertain Australia’s requirements for a future submarine. Three basic options were put forward: to buy a MOTS (model off-the-shelf) design and modify it for Australian conditions, evolve the current Collins-class submarine for future use, or lastly create a brand new indigenous submarine designed for Australian requirements.

The first option of buying MOTS craft, while certainly more cost effective and of lower risk than the other two options, would struggle to fulfill Australian demands, despite major and costly modifications. While most capable submarines are more than suitable for many other Southeast Asian nations, the vast majority of MOTS-designed craft would not be suited for the expansive Australian maritime border. Most MOTS craft are relatively small, with an average crew of around 30-to-50 men, resulting in less time deployed and limited range due to lack of fuel and food supply.

The Collins-class by comparison holds upward of 80 men with far larger compliments of fuel and food, allowing for greater deployment time, upward of three months. The new Future Submarine is planned to be even larger. The increased size also allows for greater armament of torpedoes and guided missiles. The Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine has often been touted as a possible alternative to an Australia design, and while there have been indications that the U.S. might be willing to sell them, the nuclear element of the craft was rejected by the Australian government. While this has been blamed on a lack of nuclear infrastructure in order to effectively manage a nuclear propelled craft, it is more likely the government remains unwilling to attempt a difficult sell of nuclear technology to a voting public distrustful of nuclear energy, and as a major signatory of the NPT (non-proliferation treaty) it would be trekking into unknown legal waters by attaining nuclear powered craft. Ultimately then, a purchase of MOTS submarines would poorly fit Australia’s needs, and would more than likely result in far greater cost in order to get them to an acceptable level, and without nuclear power, any real contender craft are removed.

The option of evolving the current Collins-class is also touted as a more cost-effective alternative to producing a brand new submarine. However the historical failings of its original design have left an unpleasant memory within the Defence Force and government, who now strive to avoid the same mistake. The Collins-class was put to tender from seven of the world’s nine diesel shipbuilding companies. Eventually the Swedish company, Kockums, put forward the Type 471 submarine, fitted with systems from an American company, Rockwell. From the onset major issues arose with the submarine build, resulting in numerous mechanical failures and setbacks. This meant cost spiraled greatly, and a following disagreement between Rockwell, Kockums, RAN, and the Australian government meant the vessels were delayed in their construction.

A lesson learned after costly upgrade programs were enacted was that too much diversification on one project could result in communication breakdowns, and the incompatible mating of components made from different suppliers resulted in unforeseen issues, especially when attempting to implant American combat systems into MOTS submarines. This helps to explain the current decision to commit to the largest and most complex defence project in Australia’s history. Again, however, there is great depth into understanding the current decision, the emergence of a nation set on expanding its abilities and standing in the world.

The RAND Corporation was hired by the Australian government to conduct a study into Australia’s submarine building and design capacity. It subsequently found that while the infrastructure was only slightly lacking, and the software capability was acceptable, a skills shortage proved to be the greatest problem, especially in regards to undersea propulsion. At no stage was the possibility of an indigenous submarine design and construct ever deemed impossible, rather, it conveyed a real sense of the possibility of Australia enhancing its ability to produce complex and highly advanced defence platforms. Plans to amend shortages were subsequently created.

The Future Submarine Project is already well underway, with the Future Submarine Project Office established in Adelaide. Tenders must be sent out for the design and development for the hull, systems and various components, and the ASC (Australian Submarine Company) is to begin construction sometime within the new few years through 2030. The ASC is well placed to fulfill the construction of the Future Submarine, with decades of work on the Collins under its belt, from construction work to maintenance of the Collins and finally to upgrading the troublesome boats.

As for a nuclear option, it remains unlikely. While nuclear powered submarines would be the best possible option for Australia, as argued here, a lack of political will is likely to hamstring any attempts. The current conservative government however, is perhaps more pragmatic and positive towards the possibility and with a new Defence White Paper due the end of 2014, there remains hope. Australia is keenly self-aware of its unique strategic position in the world, and has striven since World War II to develop capabilities that allow for a self-reliant defence ability of the massive island nation. Despite a riskier option, the rewards offers far greater justifiable benefits in development of an indigenous Australian submarine, allowing the country to reach a new level of self-reliance and confidence, and take a strategic leap forward in the world in an uncertain and ever-changing world.

Ben Collopy is a honors study at the University of Newcastle Australia. He is undertaking an in-depth look at the future of the ANZUS alliance with Australia.