Tag Archives: US Coast Guard

MFP 6: The Fleet of the Future

What will your Navy/Coast Guard look like in 5/10/25/50 years, and how is it different from today?

This is the sixth in our series of posts from our Maritime Futures Project.  For more information on the contributors, click hereNote: The opinions and views expressed in these posts are those of the authors alone and are presented in their personal capacity.  They do not necessarily represent the views of their parent institution U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, any other agency, or any other foreign government.

LT Drew Hamblen, USN:
In 25 years we will not use aircraft carriers.  Manned jets will also be obsolete.  Helicopters will be manned for logistical flights only.  Pods of “gamer-like” unmanned aerial system (UAS) operators will rotate out for round-the-clock patrol and surveillance.

Bryan McGrath, Director, Delex Consulting, Studies and Analysis:

New additions to the hanger bay.
New additions to the hanger bay.

I will take on only the 50-year horizon, and I will start by saying that YES, the aircraft carrier will still be in existence.  Not just because they last for decades, but because of their continuing utility.  At some point in the next two or three decades, we will collectively make the switch to a predominately unmanned carrier air wing.  This will then lead to the construction of a totally new aircraft carrier, one built from the keel up to project unmanned power.  In essence an assembly line whose product is combat power, this vessel would launch (primarily) unmanned platforms on missions, recover them, harness them to an assembly line in which the aircraft receives required maintenance, fuel, new mission planning and new armament—and is then redeployed almost immediately.  Diagnostics would pull aircraft off the line at pre-programmed locations for maintenance that would remove them from the immediate flight cycle.  These aircraft would essentially be a wing, a bomb, fuel, and a computer.  Manned aircraft would fill C2/ABCCC (airborne battlefield) type missions, to include flight following/control of unmanned aircraft of all types.  More combat power will be submerged.  The U.S. mastery of the undersea domain will continue and increase.  Hybrid warships will operate both on and beneath the ocean’s surface.

CDR Chris Rawley, USNR:
I’m bullish on unmanned systems, which will become increasingly pervasive in the U.S. Navy over the next few decades.  Within 10 years, virtually every surface platform from patrol boats to CVNs (aircraft carriers) will carry one or more unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  UAVs in the inventory will likely become more numerous than manned aircraft in the next half-century.  Over a decade of combat has demonstrated that unmanned aircraft are capable of conducting a great many of the missions that have traditionally been performed by manned aircraft, especially scouting and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).  Strike will be the next mission-area to benefit from long-endurance UAVs, then airborne electronic attack (AEA), and eventually air-to-air combat.  The impediments to these changes are more cultural than technical.

The outcome of two programs, in particular, will be critical determinants of whether unmanned surface vessels (USVs) and unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) are introduced into the fleet to the same extent as unmanned air systems.  On the surface side, SAIC’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) is an interesting concept, which if successful, will reverse some of the asymmetry associated with the proliferation of quiet diesel submarines.  On the undersea side, the Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Innovative Naval Prototype (LDUUV INP) will demonstrate whether the physical limitations inherent in unmanned submersible propulsion and endurance can be overcome to produce a useful and flexible combat capability.

Unmanned systems are not a panacea and will never replace the dedicated, capable Sailors that make our navy the most powerful in the world.  These systems and their associated concepts are untested, and it remains to be seen if they can take over, or at least complement, the roles of manned platforms.  Even so, unmanned naval systems will reduce the risk to our Sailors in many mission areas, and if acquired smartly, will realize savings in defense.

LT Scott Cheney-Peters, USNR:
0-5 Years:  Pretty much the same fleet.  More drones and hybrid-electric drives.  It will be interesting to see what direction the U.S. Navy goes with upcoming design selections on new amphibious ships, and even more so with what capabilities they – and the next batch of destroyers – must have.  Most likely the nation’s economic crunch will place the emphasis on modernized versions of what we already know works, but hopefully not at the expense of finding ways to facilitate cheaper upgrades in the future (for example through modularized components).

5-10 Years:  Early afloat experimentations with directed energy/electric weapon systems (DEEWS), especially for ships’ self-defense.  More ships reach the fleet with drone use integrated into their designs.

10-25 Years:  DEEWS starts to be incorporated into ship design.  Drones increasingly play a greater role, not only performing ISR, but many other forward missions.  If battery capacity and non-traditional energy-generation development trends continue, a lot more widely dispersed, self-sustaining drones that can loiter for months or years deploy on and below the waves.    Specialized Arctic drones and Arctic modifications for manned vessels are developed for operations in the opening and warming, but still harsh, far north due to climate change.

 

Are you in my network?
      Are you in my network?

25-50 Years:  Drones start to factor into presence requirements in ship numbers at the beginning of this time frame as manned vessels (surface or subsurface) become primarily motherships/command and control (C2) network nodes.  Additive manufacturing (3D printers) capabilities are integrated into a number of vessels that serve as mobile production facilities.  These might either be larger manned auxiliaries or dispersed aboard the motherships to facilitate drone production.

The large networks of naval drones increase the Navy’s MDA capabilities to an almost unimaginable level during this time, but the missions of maritime interdiction (boarding) operations, ballistic missile defense, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, and of course, showing the flag (good news for waterfront bars worldwide), remain the domain of manned vessels – but they are empowered by their naval drone and mobile production facility capabilities.

In the latter part of this timeframe and beyond, key nodes of unmmaned drone production facilities are located at naval bases and maritime hotspots around the globe and aboard mobile and themselves unmanned and automated.  Some of these may be based on, or tethered to portions of the sea bed that can be exploited using new mining techniques to support the production activities (as well as those aboard vessels with the facilities).  Most manned naval aviation will be over by the end of this timeframe.

One key variable will be whether the militarization of space occurs.  If it does, there will be more emphasis placed on the subsurface drones and undersea production facilities outlined above, as well as a greater push for acceptance of increasing levels of drone autonomy.  In the event of satellite communication disruptions, the network-node motherships can disperse new relay drones to regain control of their network of drones.  For those drone unable to relink to the network the level of autonomy automatically increases upon loss of the connection, allowing the dispersed platforms to continue to carry out their missions.

Rex Buddenberg, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School:
Reread my answer to question 4 – the best clues to a 50-year-ahead question may be found by looking back an equal amount of time.  A lot of the ‘maritime domain awareness’ data exists already.  I’ve seen the yammer about sensors over the years too.  But the extant data is tucked away in some stovepipe.  The big change is that this awareness will increase through integration of information systems.

Sebastian Bruns, Fellow, Institute for Security, University of Kiel, Germany:
“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” (Attributed to, among many other people, Yogi Berra)

The Optimist

2018:  The last of the four new Baden-Württemberg-class frigates is delivered on time and on budget.  Plans for three more frigates are in the making.  The versatile K-131 (MKS 180) corvette is being put into service since 2015.  Eight instead of the planned six vessels are procured.  A marked rise in maritime awareness throughout Germany has led to an increased budget and the establishment of a coordinating position in the Office of the German Federal Chancellor (head of government).  The new, lean German Navy is strongly integrated in international operations and mandates.  It plays a crucial role in regional stabilization operations and actively and visibly supports NATO missions.

2023:  The first of the new Joint Support Ships is already in service, the second is on the building ways.  Plans for the replacement of the F-123 and F-124 frigates are on schedule and on budget.  Seapower has been officially recognized as a key tool for German foreign policy by way of a Quadrennial Defense and Security Strategy.  The new, lean German Navy is strongly integrated in international operations and mandates.  It plays a crucial role in regional stabilization operations and actively and visibly supports NATO missions.

2028:  The Joint Support Ships and Germany’s strong leadership role in NATO’s Pooling & Sharing Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) project have allowed Germany to play a wider role in international expeditionary operations.  Although the threat level for Germany and German maritime units has steadily increased over the past 15 years, no warship has been lost to enemy action.  The new, lean German Navy is strongly integrated in international operations and mandates.  It plays a crucial role in regional stabilization operations and actively and visibly supports NATO missions.

2063:  The German Navy has been fully integrated into a larger North-Central-European Maritime Force.  It plays a crucial role in regional stabilization operations and actively and visibly supports NATO missions.  The effects of climate change have long been added to the toolbox of naval forces.

The Pessimist

Bye Bye Baden
Bye Bye Baden

2018:  The F-125 frigates will be delayed by years.  Budget cuts and the sudden demise of the German shipbuilding industry have led to a dramatic loss of building capacity. Politics demand a very isolationist approach to international politics, and the last of the four Baden-Württembergs is subsequently cancelled.  After more than a decade of development, plans for a corvette of the K-131 (MKS-180) class are scrapped.  Only one unit of the planned eight ships has been delivered.  Facing increasingly scarce resources and questionable political priorities, Germany continues to support a Common European Security and Defense policy, or what is left of it.

2023:  Not a single Joint Support Ship has been delivered after inter-service rivalry and broader political trends have torpedoed the whole program.  Facing a dramatic loss of reputation after years of dragging its feet in dealing with the Euro crisis, Germany has lost all of its influence within NATO.  The F-124 and F-125 are pulled out of ballistic missile defense (BMD) roles in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.  The effects of climate change wreak havoc on many countries and regions of the world.

2028:  The German Navy increasingly returns to being a coastal force, integrated with what remains of an ambitious project to organize a German Coast Guard much like the U.S. model.  The North and Baltic Sea with occasional visits to European allied nations are the major operational tasking.  Germany has pulled out of NATO SNMG-1 (-2).  International maneuvers and exercises largely by-pass Germany.

2063:  In the interest of not ending up writing fictional absurdity, I will choose not to answer this question.  My major fears have all been mentioned in the other three pessimist predictions.

Felix Seidler, seidlers-sicherheitspolitik.net, Germany:
In 5 and 10 years, our navy will not look different from today.  However, the known unknown is the impact of the Euro Crisis.  Ever-more pressure on our federal budget could lead to the cancellation of projects like the Joint Support Ship or the de-commissioning of several surface vessels.  In terms of operations, nothing will change.  Germany will continue to contribute to maritime UN, NATO, and EU missions as it does now, because it is the most palatable way for Germans to show themselves as an active ally.  Contributing ground troops to missions is highly unpopular over here; hence, sending ships is more comfortable for our decision makers.

How our navy looks in 25 years (2037) and in 50 years (2062) depends on the success or failure of European integration.  If the EU handles its economic crisis and, thereafter, pursues a track to deeper integration, our armed forces will gradually integrate further with those of other European countries.  The more European integration in politics, the more integration follows among European armed forces.  However, the huge question mark is the political will among European governments to pool sovereignty on such a level.  At this time it is highly unlikely.

If European integration fails and Europe turns back to the nation state, Germany is likely to give up all blue water ambitions and focus on coastal defense in the North Sea and the Baltic.  In 2060 Germany is projected to be only the 10th largest economy in the world with a population of around 65-70 million (1/3 older than 60).  Thus, due to its demographic and economic decline, Germany is likely to pursue a much-less ambitious foreign and national security policy, and may even be reluctant to use force abroad.  In this scenario, the German Navy may spend most of the time in its shipyards.

CDR Chuck Hill, USCG (Ret.):
Unfortunately the U.S. Coast Guard will not look different enough, if the relatively low level of capital investment continue.  Ships being planned now will not be built for 5-10 years.  The last of the Offshore Patrol Cutters, expected to replace our medium endurance cutters, will not be fully operational until approximately 2029, and all will likely still be in the fleet in 50 years.  The oldest of them will only be 44 years old, younger than ships we are replacing now.

I do believe we will see less distinction between search aircraft and rescue aircraft.  Other systems are likely to replace the pure search functions of our fixed wing aircraft, while rescue aircraft will gain greater speed and range as they employ newer technology.  Hopefully in 25 years we will see a new generation of rescue aircraft that have sufficient range and speed to eliminate the separate requirement for long-range search aircraft.

There will also, hopefully, be more information-sharing with other agencies, including comprehensive vessel tracking.

LTJG Matt Hipple, USN:
I can’t imagine.  Drones and missiles versus potential laser-based kill systems and airborne reflectors for over-the-horizon (OTH) interception or deflection.  Ships of increased size due to fuel and power draws for laser systems, if they work, coupled with a mass of smaller automated ships.  Autonomy all depends on what our level of acceptance is for the independence of the machine versus the level of risk we’ll accept from interference, interception, and hijacking.  Of course, perhaps it’ll merely be a pile of rusting LCSs hiding in Singapore.

YN2(SW) Michael George, USN:
I see the U.S. Navy as a little more contracted from what it is today.  With other country’s navies growing, they will want to control their own waters surrounding their country and not as easily permit the United States to do so.  This will impact the size of our fleet overall.

LCDR Mark Munson, USN:
If I’m being cynical, I’m not really sure that the future U.S. Navy won’t just be an incrementally better version of today’s fleet (probably smaller due to fixed/smaller budgets and cost growth, and without any major changes in strategy calling for a drastically different kind of fleet).  The current focus on Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) will hopefully bear fruit in a fleet that is stealthier, capable of striking from greater range, and has a better ability to detect threats and manage that command and control/threat data within an afloat task force.

LT Jake Bebber, USN:
The signs are clearly pointing to a smaller U.S. Navy, despite the growth in worldwide maritime commitments.  We are already at our smallest point in the last hundred years and show no signs of reaching our goal of a 313-ship Navy anytime soon.  The Navy faces a choice on force structure:  we can attempt to mitigate our smaller size by improving the quality of our limited number of platforms (which are becoming ever more expensive), or we can rethink how we fulfill our maritime mission by producing more platforms with more limited capabilities.  A smaller force demands that we will not have a presence in many areas of the world, and our influence there will wane.  We have to accept that.  Or we can rethink our platforms’ design and mission to mitigate costs and allow the U.S. to maintain a maritime presence in regions critical to national security.  We will have to accept the commensurate risk associated with platforms with more limited (and less costly) capabilities.

Anonymous, USN:
The U.S. Navy will be smaller and weaker at the rate that budgets and policies are going.  Just the other day I openly questioned whether or not we’ll be able to call America’s Navy the finest Navy in the world in 10, 25, or 50 years.

MFP 3: Impediments and Expedients for Mission Accomplishment

If you are a current Sailor or member of the Coast Guard, what are some of the biggest impediments to getting your job done? What promised development or technology would most aid you in the accomplishment of your assignment?

This is the third in our series of posts from our Maritime Futures Project.  Note: The opinions and views expressed in these posts are those of the authors alone and are presented in their personal capacity.  They do not necessarily represent the views of their parent institution U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, any other agency, or any other foreign government.

CDR Chuck Hill, USCG (Ret.):

Impediments:  The U.S. has the largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world.  Its area exceeds that of the total land area of the U.S. and most of it is in the Pacific.  However, most U.S. Coast Guard assets are in the Eastern U.S. where most of the population (and political clout) resides.

ExpedientsImproved Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) has the potential to assist in search and rescue (SAR), fisheries enforcement, drug interdiction, coast defense, and protections of ports.  The Coast Guard cannot afford a comprehensive MDA system solely for its own purposes, but if it can share information with DOD agencies also interested in monitoring the maritime approaches to the U.S., including perhaps cruise missile defense, it could make the employment of assets much more efficient.

MDA through AIS
                                                            Maritime Domain Awareness through AIS

LTJG Matt Hipple, USN:
Impediments:  The answer is simple.  The real impediment is people, time, and flexibility.  We have fewer people, which leaves us fewer man-hours and perspectives to get work done.  Having fewer people means we have less time… less time for schools, fewer people to run the schools, and less time for training.  The training regimen itself has been increased, by more required schools for alcohol awareness, marine species safety, and the like, having little-to-no bearing on the actual work of the sailor.  This non-essential training, considered more important and tracked more diligently than regular warfighting training, further drains the pool of man-hours for an already diminished grouping of sailors that, having less time to train or go to school, or spots open in school for them to go, are also less ready than they could be.

Added to that death-spiral between people and time, the Navy is increasingly removing the room for flexibility.  While an entire article could be written on the cost-effects of our inflexibility, the fact I can’t, for example, install fire-proof hoses that exceed the necessary requirements without special fleet approval, requiring regular renewing, is itself evidence enough.

NKO
 NKO: Aid or hindrance?

LCDR Joe Baggett, USN:
ImpedimentsLack of interoperability (Common data networks).  Maritime forces are now and will continue to be employed in confidence-building among nations through collective security efforts in a common global system that links threats and mutual interests in an open, multi-polar world.  This requires an unprecedented level of integration among our maritime forces, enhanced cooperation with the other instruments of national power, and the capabilities of our international partners.  No single nation has the resources required to provide safety and security throughout the entire maritime domain.

LT Drew Hamblen, USN:
Impediments:  The amount of required training extraneous to job proficiency (for example, General Military Training (GMT) requirements on Navy Knowledge Online) is cumbersome and only getting lengthier.

The number of passwords required for our systems is unmanageable and results in personnel writing them down, potentially compromising information assurance, or spending inordinate amounts of time on the phone with NMCI.

NMCI storage (and data storage capacity in general) is severely limited and outages are too frequent.

LT Scott Cheney-Peters, USNR:
Impediments:  Others here already address most of what I view as the major impediments to mission accomplishment in the sea services on a day-to-day basis.  At a general level these include a dearth of manning (whether afloat, in aviation squadrons, or ashore) and burdensome administrative requirements.

Expedients:  Short of increasing manning (not likely), or reducing requirements (possible, and some real efforts have been undertaken, but truly it’s never-ending struggle), there are two areas of focus that could help alleviate the effects.  The first is better collaborative tools and sharing of lessons learned. There’s a lot of ‘reinventing the wheel’ that goes on in the fleet, for instance completely different versions of mandatory instructions that only need to be 5% different.  This sort of thing can be reduced through better collaborative tools – especially at the squadron or fleet level.

The second is better integration of data streams.  Akin to the low levels of communications interoperability, sailors must deal with a multitude of data streams that often require manual integration in the form of data entry.  This wastes time and effort.  For example, having to manually search online databases for further information about a ship transmitting AIS data to determine its point of origin or destination.

Luckily disaggregated data steams have not escaped notice, especially those from a ship’s organic sensors, resulting in general trends to develop all-encompassing combat system suites rather than stand-

Look it up, or hook it up?
                            Look it up, or hook it up?

alone weapon and sensor systems.  AIS, for example, is today better integrated into navigation displays, and it seems logical it will be integrated into future combat systems suite upgrades.  The trend for aggregated data is also progressing in remote-site monitoring, enabled by better sensors throughout things such as a ship’s engineering plant, helping displace some manually integrated data streams generated by the old Mark I Eyeball.  But data streams for administrative tasks – true data entry between different IT and web-based programs, or just plain old excel spreadsheets – still have a long way to go.  IT certificates and tokens can reduce some of the most redundant data-entry requirements (e.g. “type in your name, rank, and date of birth”), but there’s still a long way to go.  And, with increasing reliance on inter-accessible and integrated data comes the need for better cyber defenses, whether ashore or afloat.

Rex Buddenberg, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School:
Impediments: From a programmatic point of view we keep fixating on platforms (i.e. new
cutters, Deepwater, Navy FYDP shipbuilding, and LCS) rather than making
the platforms work together.  We need to focus on integration.

YN2(SW) Michael George, USN:
Impediments: As a Yeoman dealing with primarily administrative functions, I am usually able to perform my job duties and responsibilities with simply a computer, printer, and some pens, so there’s not much need for improvement on the hardware side.  However, the current setup of processing personnel administrative information uses collateral-duty Command Pass Coordinators (CPCs) and an online system (TOPS) that correspond with ashore Personnel Support Detachments (PSDs) for all matters of pay and personnel support.  This is a good idea in theory to help reduce shipboard manning, but it’s handled poorly, as it grants junior Sailors at PSDs across the fleet the power to supersede orders simply because the person giving the order is not a CPC.  It also causes people like myself in the Yeoman rate (and worse, many ENs, LSs, CMs, and more) to spend an inordinate amount of time on collateral duties, handling personnel paperwork that members used to be able to go directly to their PSD or a true shipboard expert to handle.

LT Jake Bebber, USN:
Impediments: The biggest impediment to maritime cryptology is not a piece of equipment … it is the lack of leadership in the cryptologic spaces.  We need to refocus our cryptologic space-leaders – the LPOs, the Division Chiefs, and the JOs – and reorient them to emphasize the quality and quantity of cryptologic reporting.  This can be done by simply “getting back to the basics” of maritime cryptology and practicing sound fundamentals.  Too often, we are complacent because the advanced equipment we use can appear to do the work for us.  But the most important piece of equipment in a cryptologic space is what’s between the ears, not the new computers or gear.  Our cryptologic leaders – especially Chiefs – need to be present in the spaces, ensuring quality and teaching fundamentals.  The JOs need to be there as well, learning from their Chiefs, LPOs and subject matter experts instead of standing watches on the bridge or combat.  Too much time is being spent by JOs and Chiefs doing things not related to the cryptologic mission, outside the cryptologic space.

An Alternate Naval Typology

 

Frigate...
                                                                             Frigate…

This was inspired by a question raised by Dr. Robert Farley here and here.

Within a navy the terms ‘frigate’ and ‘destroyer’ may have specific meanings, but there is no international standard.  Governments often choose to call a ship a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, or corvette for political reasons, so the terms have lost much of their meaning.  With the Germans building 7,200-ton F125-class ‘frigates’ and the Iranians calling their 1,500-ton Jamaran-class ‘destroyers,’ the naval typology system has lost its ability to inform. 

Cruisers have all but disappeared.  The term has certainly lost its relevance as a step between destroyer and battleship.  In the few cases they do exist, with the sole exception of the Russian “Peter the Great,” they are  functionally virtually indistinguishable from ships called destroyers, and even from some ships called frigates.

All these classes actually form a continuum of capabilities, influenced most strongly by their displacement.  All fight primarily with gun, torpedo, or missile.  All these ships are cruisers in the classic sense of a ship capable of sustained independent operations.  They are all cruisers in the way Julian Corbett used the term, in that they are the ships that exercise sea control by enforcing blockades and protecting friendly commerce while denying it to the enemy.  Additionally these are the ships that most commonly do boardings and fight piracy. 

When the term cruiser first appeared it was a generic term that referred to a range of ship types with their own names.  Frigates, sloops, and brigs might all have been referred to as cruisers.  I’d like to propose a  a return to something closer to the original meaning, to use cruiser as a generic term for surface warships that are not amphibs or aircraft carriers.  I will suggest a further breakdown based on displacement with this example to show how this might be more informative:

Micro-Cruisers   1,000-<2,000 tons
Mini-Cruisers      2,000-<4,000 tons
Light Cruisers     4,000-<8,000 tons
Heavy Cruisers   8,000-<16,000 tons
Battle Cruisers    16,000 tons or more

 

...vs Destroyer.
                                              …vs Destroyer.

For illustrative purposes, below is a comparison of five fleets.  I have included ships of the U.S. and Russian Coast Guard, because they are also capable of doing some cruiser-type work, but added a notation.  The numbers may be suspect.  My sources may not be up to date, but I believe the comparison is generally valid. 

                                           US                        Russia                China     UK     France
Battle Cruisers             —                          1                             —             —          —
Heavy Cruisers            84                       4                            —              —          —
Light Cruisers               3  (CG)              13                          42           17        13
Mini-Cruisers               38  (10 CG)      19  (12 CG)       14             —         11
Micro-Cruiser              27 (CG)             34 (12 CG)        17             4           9
                                            —-                       —-                         —-            —-       —-
TOTAL                           152  (40 CG)   71 (24 CG)         73           21       33

There is no reason this typology could not be used in parallel with existing national or alliance systems that retain the destroyer, frigate, and corvette terms.  The numbers above are based on the following:

US
Battle Cruisers            —
Heavy Cruisers          84
– 22 CG
–  62 Burke
Light Cruisers               3
– 3 Bertholf (CG)
Mini-Cruisers               38
– 28 FFG/LCS              
– 9 Hamilton (CG)
– 1 Alex Haley (CG)
Micro-Cruisers             27
– 13 Bear (CG)
– 14 Reliance (CG)
TOTAL                            152

Russia
Battle Cruisers                 1
– 1 Kirov
Heavy Cruisers                4
– 1 Kara
– 3 Slava
Light Cruisers                 13
– 1 Kashin
– 8 Udaloy
– 4 Sovremennyy
Mini-Cruisers                  19
– 3 Krivak (Navy)
– 6 Krivak (CG)
– 2 Neustrashimyy
– 2 Steregushchy
– 6 Ivan Susanin (CG)
Micro-Cruisers               34
– 2 Gepard
– 20 Grisha (Navy)
– 12 Grisha (CG)
TOTAL                               71

China
Battle Cruisers                 —
Heavy Cruisers                —
Light Cruisers                  42
– 2 Type 052 Luhu
– 4 Soveremenny
– 3 Type 51 B/C
– 9 Type 052 B/C/D
– 17 Type 054
– 9 type 051 Luda
Mini-Cruisers                   14
– 14 Jianghu
Micro-Cruisers                17
– 17 Jianghu
TOTAL                               73

UK
Battle Cruisers                __
Heavy Cruisers               __
Light Cruisers                 17
– 17 Type 45 and Type 23
Mini-Cruisers                   __
Micro-Cruisers                 4
– 4 River-class                __
TOTAL                               21

France
Battle Cruisers                 —
Heavy Cruisers                —
Light Cruisers                  13
– 2 Horizon
– 2 Cassard
– 1 Tourville
– 1 Aquitaine
– 7 Georges Leygues
Mini-Cruisers                    11
– 5 La Fayette
– 6 Floreal
Micro-Cruisers                   9
– 9 D’Estienne d’Orves
TOTAL                                 33

Chuck Hill is a retired Commander in the U.S. Coast Guard. He writes at Chuck Hill’s CG Blog, with the objective of looking, over the longer term, at the budgets, policies, tactics, roles, missions, and their physical expression – the platforms – that allow the Coast Guard to do its job.

What is International Maritime Security?

Navies are expensive.  In the case of the U.S. Navy, they’re really expensive.  A quick review of the SIPRI world defense spending database shows over 40 coastal nations whose entire defense budget would not buy a single Arleigh Burke-class destroyer at 2011-2012 prices.

“Perhaps we could try car-sharing?”

Many of us who read and contribute to this forum are professionals in Maritime Security.  As such, we tend to take for granted the importance of Navies and the positive role that Navies play in the international system.  We have been conditioned to believe that Navies are worth the cost.  But looking at the disparity in naval spending among maritime nations, it seems that not all nations share the same view of the relative dollar value of maritime security[i].  In an era of sharply declining defense budgets, and a maritime strategy that, while it places warfighting first, places heavy emphasis on the cooperative and international nature of maritime power, it’s worth asking whether navies are, in fact, cooperating in pursuit of a common goal.  If so, what is that goal?  The question, as suggested by the title of this forum, is: What exactly is “international maritime security?”

Security itself is a dependent concept.  It’s not enough to say that a country is secure.  It must be secure from something or someone.  A reasonable working definition of maritime security might be “freedom from the risk of serious incursions against a nation’s sovereignty launched from the maritime domain, and from the risk of successful attack against a nation’s maritime interests.”  In the absence of a specified threat, how much “security” a nation needs to defend against those incursions or attacks is speculative, at best.  That makes the problem of defining international security more challenging—in order to be international, both the interests and the threat must be held in common by two or more nations.  And, while an interest and threat held in common by just two nations might be international in the strictest sense of the word, the connotation of “international security” is of interests held widely throughout the international community.

Some naval missions seem to be inherently international and cooperative.  Securing sea lines of communication is a great example.  In the introduction to the U.S. maritime strategy, the authors gravely proclaim that, “Our Nation’s interests are best served by fostering a peaceful global system comprised of interdependent networks of trade, finance, information, law, people, and governance.  We prosper because of this system of exchange among nations, yet recognize it is vulnerable to a range of disruptions that can produce cascading and harmful effects far from their sources.”  Sure, maintaining the security of this global system serves our own interests, but we are quick to point out that in doing so, we are helping the interests of others, too.

Although we in the U.S. Navy are proud of our role keeping the oceans safe for commerce, many other nations might reasonably ask, “safe from what?”  Piracy is certainly one example, but does it justify the cost of a Navy?  The global economic cost of maritime piracy has been estimated at $7 billion – $12 billion annually.  Somali piracy in particular was more recently estimated at $7 billion annually.  In contrast, the U.S. Navy budget alone is about $160 billion per year.  With numbers like that, it’s difficult to make the economic case that Navies are a good answer to piracy, even when the human cost of piracy is factored in.  About 3,800 seafarers were attacked and 35 killed by pirates in 2011.  Sticking to water-related hazards, this pales in comparison to the 9,000 bathroom fatalities in the U.S. alone in 1999.

One answer to this critique has been to assert that other nations are free to define their maritime security narrowly because the U.S. defines maritime security broadly.  According to this argument, the U.S. as a global maritime power must maintain open sea lanes all around the world; other nations, especially those whose trade ties are mostly regional, can hitch a free ride on our security at a fraction of the cost.  Such a critique has an intuitive appeal, but it can’t be proved, since to do so would require a definitive measurement of the economic and human costs of the absence of U.S. efforts.  Nevertheless, some version of the free rider argument is at the heart of many calls for increased defense burden sharing, and the desire to have other nations pick up at least a portion of the tab for “low-end” missions that are perceived to benefit all nations, rather than serving strictly U.S. interests.

The Prisoner Fisherman’s Dilemma

The parable of the tragedy of the commons offers an interesting perspective on free-riding, burden sharing, and international maritime security.  Writing in 1968 in the journal Science, biologist Garrett Hardin suggested that when there is a public resource—a commons—which is limited and diminished by use, but can be used by individuals without marginal usage cost, each individual will tend to increase their use (grazing herds in his example) until the resource itself is exhausted.  According to this view, which has great traction in economic circles, each person expects to derive greater benefit from increasing their own use rather than showing restraint, since they expect their neighbors to likewise show no such restraint.  If the commons are going to be depleted anyway, why not get mine?  It is in such a situation that free riding becomes both possible and problematic.  When a wealthy neighbor takes the time and money to fence off parts of the pasture and let it recover, everyone benefits; however the wealthy neighbor alone bears the cost, not only of the restoration efforts, but also of the outrage from their fellow cattlemen that they violated the concept of the commons by fencing it off.    The wealthy neighbor does have some recourse: to begin with, because he is caring for the resource itself, rather than just his own herd, he has a legitimate moral claim against his fellow cattlemen; depending on his own pain threshold, he may try to make good on that claim by withholding his public service (whether in the fenced off area or more widely) until his neighbors begin to pay their share.  Pursuing that course, however, comes with a risk—if he’s not willing to bear the pain of seeing the commons fall into disrepair, his neighbors may effectively call his bluff and he will go back to caring for the public good out of his own pocket.  To many, this seems an apt metaphor for the predicament of the U.S. in security affairs.

The oceans are often described as a “maritime commons;” is there a corresponding “tragedy of the maritime commons?”  Yes and no.  One of the key aspects of Hardin’s metaphor is that the resource itself is limited and diminished by use.  Global commerce has no limiting feature, and while the sea lanes may become more crowded, they are no less available if more trade takes to the seas.  Since the resource itself is not diminished or threatened by use, U.S. efforts to secure the sea lanes are not really efforts to secure the commons, but to protect U.S. interests in the form of trade.  While other nations may benefit from this, we would do it whether they benefited or not.  In such a case, the international aspect of our maritime security interest is purely coincidental.  We may be happy or unhappy with the level of help from other nations, but we have no leverage to encourage them to give more or less.

Fisheries protection, on the other hand, is an example of an international maritime security interest where the tragedy of the commons has been very real and very costly.  According to a study funded jointly by the UK government and the Pew Charitable trusts, illegal fishing costs between $10 and $23 billion annually.  These figures, comparable to piracy in scope, often have an immediate impact on the lives of local populations, and at least one study has suggested that fishery depletion from illegal fishing is a contributing cause of maritime piracy.

Missions like fisheries protection aren’t terribly sexy.  In the U.S., we have normally assigned these missions to NOAA or Coast Guard personnel.  For many other nations, however, this is a central Navy mission.

Seeking common ground in international maritime security is good practice, not only from an economic perspective, but also because it increases our understanding of regional partners and problems, potentially affording the opportunity to stop an emerging crisis before it ever develops.  But our definition of international maritime security must go further than, “other navies do the same things we do, and help foot the bill.”  If the USN is to meaningfully pursue international maritime security we must seek out areas where we truly share common interests, common threats, and common resources.

CDR Doyle Hodges is a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy. He has commanded a rescue and salvage ship in the Pacific and a destroyer in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Middle East.  He is the Chairman of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Seamanship and Navigation Department. 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, the U.S. Navy, or the U.S. Naval Academy.


[i] For more accurate comparison of the relative value each country places on security, it is more useful to compare defense expenditure as a percentage of GDP, as found here than total outlay.  While the CIA does not break out naval expenditures separately, total defense spending serves as a useful, though not perfect, proxy.