Tag Archives: Maritime Strategy

U.S. Navy Releases New Maritime Strategy: Swivel to Africa

International Maritime Satire Week Warning: The following is a piece of fiction intended to elicit insight through the use of satire and written by those who do not make a living being funny – so it’s not serious and very well might not be funny. See the rest of our IntMarSatWeek offerings here. 

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Navy today unveiled its new maritime strategy, which some have already dubbed the “Swivel to Africa.”
Navy spokesman Lieutenant Meghan Jorg explained the shift, “We spent several years trying to devise a strategy to support the President’s ‘Rebalance to the Pacific.’ Frankly China’s anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities are making the Asia-Pacific region too challenging an operational environment to operate in, so we’re going to focus somewhere else.”

Sources say that rumors of a pending cut to the number of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), feared by some as unable to support the Pacific strategy, also played a role in gaining Congressional approval for changing that strategy.

In prepared remarks Jorg added, “In this age of shrinking budgets we need to focus on what we can do, not what we’d like to be able to do. We need to focus on the feel-good piece, and expanded celebrity charity visits. Vital issues like children’s smiles and elephant tusks demand our immediate attention. To address these vital security threats, we will leverage core Navy-centric force multipliers such as Seabees, civil affairs teams, and expeditionary postal clerks to achieve theater affects; none of the other services offer these capabilities.”

U.S. Navy musicians executing The Swivel in Tanzania.
U.S. Navy musicians executing The Swivel in Tanzania.

While Navy officials insist the core capabilities detailed in the previous maritime strategy, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st-Century Seapower, are still required—supported by high-end kit including aircraft carriers and ballistic missile submarines—the Swivel brings with it a new set of missions. Among those listed as crucial are candy distribution, anti-poaching operations, and anti-smuggling operations. According to Jorg, “We want to begin deploying DDG-1000s, big-deck amphibious assault ships, and Ford-class carriers to the coasts of Africa as soon as possible.”

Sources confirmed that in order to win support for the new maritime strategy from key Congressional Republicans the Navy will be required to fly combat air patrols over U.S. embassies and consulates on the continent, regardless of overflight agreements from the host nations.

That most-traditional naval African mission, counter-piracy, also received its due: “We heard that someone, somewhere, reported a possible act of piracy, or fistfight, or surly bridge-to-bridge exchange, on a ship just outside African territorial waters somewhere other than Somalia,” Jorg stated. “Did you know that 90 percent of the world’s commerce travels by sea?”

The Swivel is not without its critics, however, and several African counterparts expressed their concerns – not only for fear of enlarged American footprint. Nigeria’s Chief of Naval Staff Vice Adm. Dele Ezeoba said, “We welcome a strengthening of our already close friendship with the Americans, but this seems like overkill – I mean just yesterday we got a call about a skiff involved in oil bunkering, and when several of the individuals jumped overboard the Americans moved in submarines and started dropping sonobuoys from aircraft to find the culprits.”

A U.S. Navy carrier strike group deploys off the coast off Benin. Just in case.
A U.S. Navy carrier strike group deploys off the coast off Benin. Just in case.

Shortly after the Navy statement, the U.S. Air Force Staff confirmed that the Navy and Air Force had formed an Air-Sea Safari [acronym redacted] office for coordination. Air Force representatives also confirmed that the Swivel would justify its retirement of the A-10 fleet, and that the F-35, F-22 and new Long Range Strike Bomber (LRSB) would make perfect platforms for counter-smuggling patrols and long-range “show-of-force” missions deep within the African continent.

The Army responded to the new maritime strategy with a statement that “only credible armored land forces can pose a significant deterrent to the growing security problems in Africa. You need agile, rapidly deployable armored and artillery task forces to successfully deter ivory smuggling.” The Army has since unilaterally announced plans to base advanced expeditionary brigade combat teams—including Stryker armored vehicles and Apache attack helicopters—on Navy ships; Navy officials were unaware of any such plans.

When contacted for comment on the Army’s plans, a Marine Corps spokesman shrugged and said, “Meh, sounds a lot like a [Marine Expeditionary Unit] to me.”

Jay Boyles and Scott Cheney-Peters work in windowless offices in the Pentagon. Thank goodness their views do not reflect those of the Department of the Navy or Department of Defense.

The Future Ashore

                                                                   Blurring the flavors of force.

Since contemplating Janus a month and a half ago we’ve seen a lot of ink spilled about national security affairs. The majority of it is driven by the fiscal challenges facing the U.S. government. There’s been hyperbole, exaggeration, as well as underestimation and ignorance.  Even here at NextWar we’ve seen some hysterics (yes Hipple, we’re looking at you).  The Firm believes that the U.S.’ Sequestration and the Continuing Resolution are bad.  They demonstrate terrible leadership and hint at a government bereft of the capacity for strategic thinking.  Discussing the politics of sequestration, however, isn’t going to help us at CIMSEC fill the void.

We said there is a “hint” that the government is incapable of strategic thinking, but we only say hint.  There has been some recent writing, publishing, and thinking about the future.  Specifically, about the future of American ground forces.  Buried in all the pages of frenzy about what happens March 1st, a pair of articles were published this month by leaders in the Army and Marine Corps meant to provide a vision for the future.

“Foreign Policy” (rapidly becoming a favorite of the Service Chiefs, we wonder what that says about their editorial policies) published General Odierno’s article “The Force of Tomorrow.”  The Army’s Chief of Staff laid out his vision for the post-OIF/OEF U.S. Army.  The article shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, none of the ideas are new and the overall language is in line with both the Administration’s January 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance and the material the Joint Staff regularly puts out.  There are a couple of things that struck us, however, as we read it.  Despite the whitebread nature of the article, there was something about it that rubbed us the wrong way.  The Chief of Staff appears to be advocating for a force which sounds an awful lot like an Imperial Army.  His future Army is forward deployed all over the globe, working with our partners on their home turf.  That sounds good on the surface but makes three significant and problematic assumptions.

First it assumes that our partners want a large number of U.S. Soldiers in their country for an extended period of time.  We don’t see a lot of countries asking for that these days.  Second it assumes that we have the money in the national accounts for a land force that is both big enough to be good at large formation combined arms and small formation partnership and daily crisis response.  This requires units spread out in garrisons all over the globe like a modern day Roman Legion.  Besides the will, and the political/diplomatic problems with that kind of vision, there is no money for that.  The Chief of Staff doesn’t really even acknowledge the coming fiscal problem.  The third assumption it makes is that we need another part of the military that is globally deployed on a day-to-day basis focused on partnership, presence, and crisis response.  Just because the Defense Strategic Guidance says that the U.S. military should be doing those things, doesn’t mean that every Service should be doing every one of them in equal amounts.  It appears that money isn’t the only pie the Pentagon wants slice and serve in equal proportions, and the Chiefs want everyone eat their piece at the same time after dinner.  Here at The Firm we sometimes like pie for brunch, or Liner if we really sleep in.

This idea that the services should all be doing the same thing is ridiculous.  We need a U.S. Army that is optimized for large-formation combined-arms combat operations.  If the Army doesn’t do it, then who will?  There isn’t another service that does that.  We already have a service which is optimized for operations at roughly the battalion size and below, which historically has conducted partnership missions, crisis response, and small wars globally, and it’s call the U.S. Marine Corps.  The last twelve years of operations ashore appear to have convinced everyone that the Marine Corps is another land army, not just in terms of how we spend money, but also how we divide missions and responsibilities.

That brings us to the second article published this month.  Marine Corps Major General Kenneth McKenzie’s article “Naval Power and the Future of Assured Access” in “Armed Forces Journal.”  With General Odierno creating an obvious opening for debate, and an opportunity for the Marine Corps to reassert its historic role in our military, we had high hopes for this article.  Instead, we are treated to something written more for “The Rings” of the Pentagon than for a substantive discussion of roles and missions.  If we had a podcast of this article we would turn it into a drinking game – taking a shot for every cliché, piece of jargon, or doctrinal reference.  Each of the Marine Corps’ important acquisition programs gets a nod, the ground forces get to push back against AirSea Battle…or what they think AirSea Battle might be (since we’re not sure that anyone really knows), and we get to perpetuate the language of Jointness.  From the author of Revenge of the Melians we expected so much more.  Instead we’re treated to another staff-produced “article” that probably looks a lot better as the PowerPoint bullets where it started.  We feel sorry for the poor Major who actually wrote this article and didn’t appear to get any help from the chop chain (We do love the AFJ cover photo though).

We like the fact that the Marine Corps is talking about naval affairs.  This is a positive step and we don’t mean to belittle it.  However, we need clear thinking to move these discussions and debates forward.  If these two articles are indicative of what MGEN McKenzie called “the intellectual capital” that is being prepared for the coming Quadrennial Defense Review, we suspect that the 2014 QDR will be as useless as all the previous QDR’s.  It’s time to start talking about the strengths and weaknesses of each service, and being honest about who best fills the roles and missions required in today’s world.  Instead of playing games inside “The Rings” to increase prestige and funding, let’s talk about how to best defend our nation and our interests.

The Firm of Maynard, Cushing, & Ellis does not represent the opinions of anyone that matters.  Formed by Lieutenant Robert Maynard RN, Lieutenant William Cushing USN, and Captain Pete Ellis USMC, the firm doesn’t speak for the US Government, the Department of Defense, The Foreign Office, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the Department of Silly Walks.

Crimea River – Will the Syrian Conflict spread into the Black Sea?

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Potentially the first time anyone’s been told to stay ON someone’s lawn.

As Russia continues to conduct port visits and provide weapons to Syria amidst the violence, it does so with a preponderance of transits through the Turkish Straits.

The Montreux Convention of 1937 set forth guidelines for warship transit in the Dardanelles Straits, for which, Turkey was established as gatekeeper. Black Sea littoral nations are permitted uncontested warship transit (with a few caveats), yet Turkey is the initial authority in both restricting access to foreign warships and disputing local (riparian) warship transits during times of war.

For thousands of years, both the limits of anti-access and the role of gatekeeper have been contested by the Black Sea littoral nations (primarily Russia and the Ottomans). The authority granted by the Montreux Convetion has, for the most part, gone uncontested as global powers acknowledge the strength in stability that anti-access regulations provide to the region, but the recent conflict in Syria poses a dilemma for regional powers, primarily Turkey. Should Turkey restrict the transit of Russian warships through the Straits that are providing military support and weapons to Syria? With Russia’s only warm-water port based in Syria at Tartus, Russian diplomats would (on the surface) contest any such restriction and claim that any and all transits from the Black Sea to Syria are part of ongoing alliances and in support of established naval facility agreements.

Yet in this situation Turkey has the upper hand thanks to the Montreux Convention, specifically in Article 20:

“In time of war, Turkey being belligerent …the passage of warships shall be left entirely to the discretion of the Turkish Government.”

With the recent downing of a Turkish warplane and various conflicts on the Syrian border, a “time of war” is a reasonable description for Turkey. Any future Turkish political decisions to employ military operations in Syria should solidify Turkey as a “belligerent.” If these events were to unfold and Turkey enacted Article 20 on the Russian Navy, the question remains as to which, if any, international body would attempt to stop Turkey. Although many might assume that the U.N. is the appropriate governing body for such discussions, it is important to recognize that the Montreux Convention has gone virtually unchallenged since inception and still includes outdated references to things such as the League of Nations. This small loophole may be enough for Turkey to disregard any public or diplomatic outrage from Russia and its allies and deny Mediterranean access to the Russian Black Sea Navy.

A.J. “Squared-Away” is a husband, father, and U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer.He has deployed on patrol boats, destroyers, and aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, and aboard Iraqi oil terminals. He is currently a student at an advanced military planner course. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.