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Virtual Training: Preparing Future Naval Officers for 21st Century Warfare

By Joseph Bunyard

Introduction

“[We must] embrace the urgency of the moment: our maritime supremacy is being challenged.” —CNO NAVPLAN 2021

The fundamental character of war is changing.1 Distributed networks, next generation threats, and artificial intelligence will change “the face of conflict” by compressing and accelerating the Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) loop, streamlining the closure of kill chains.2 American security depends on the Navy’s ability to control the seas and project power ashore.3 Preparing future naval officers for 21st century warfare must begin at the US Naval Academy (USNA), where Virtual Training Environments (VTEs) could provide education and training opportunities once exclusive to the Fleet.4

21st century warfare requires data producers and smart data consumers. Although the Department of Defense recognizes the need for an “AI ready force,” the 2018 National Defense Strategy claims that professional military education “has stagnated at the expense of lethality and ingenuity.”5 To address this charge, the Navy’s 2020 Education for Seapower Strategy calls for the creation of a “continuum of learning” through the Naval University System.6 While the Naval Postgraduate School conducts innovative technical research—and the Naval War College endows senior leaders with a strategic outlook on the future of warfare—the US Naval Academy does not feature AI, unmanned systems, tactics, or strategy in its core curriculum.7

Figure 1 – Aviation Officer Career Progression. Above: aviation officers require 2.5 years of training before deployment. 8

New technology often means new qualification requirements for junior officers. Added training extends the length of time before an officer is ready to deploy, a worrying trend at which Type Commanders are taking aim (see Figure 1).9 VTEs could offer Midshipmen exposure to the naval applications of disruptive technologies, the chance to accomplish existing Fleet training prior to commissioning, and Artificial Intelligence (AI)/ Machine Learning (ML) tools that they could take to the Fleet. To realize these objectives, the Naval Academy must leverage three types of VTEs—low-cost, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS), and Fleet-integrated—to expand training opportunities and reinforce its core curriculum.

E-learning in the COVID-19 era provides the Naval Academy a chance to update its operating system (OS). Instead of using new media, such as Zoom, to present the same PowerPoints Midshipmen would receive in-person, USNA should update its curriculum to take advantage of VTEs with proven training and educational outcomes. Incorporating new media into existing curricula requires an OS update that expands USNA’s “leadership laboratory” into a 21st century warfare laboratory, where smart data producers and consumers are forged. 10

Integrating Low-Cost Virtual Training Environments (VTEs)

“To maintain naval power in an era of great power competition and technological change, the Navy and Marine Corps need to strengthen and expand their educational efforts.”—Education for Seapower Strategy 2020

The Navy and Marine Corps increasingly rely on VTEs to “expand watch team proficiency and combat readiness” across the Fleet.11 Unlike traditional simulators, virtual reality trainers are highly mobile and often rely on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. The Chief of Naval Air Training’s Project Avenger simulator, for example, uses gaming computers and virtual reality headsets to qualify students for solo flights in half of the traditional number of flight hours.12 The Marine Corps’ tactical decision kits use similar technology to train infantry battalions on weapon systems and tactics.13 Mixed reality glasses, which overlay a user’s vision with digital information, help crews across the Fleet complete complex maintenance.14

Expanding access to existing virtual reality trainers at the Naval Academy could enable Midshipmen to complete portions of Naval Introductory Flight Evaluation (NIFE), The Basic School (TBS), and Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC) syllabi prior to commissioning. “Future multi-domain combat will be so complex and long-ranged that the military will rely heavily on simulations to train for it.”15 More access to VTE trainers means more familiarization with the technology and interfaces that junior officers are increasingly likely to encounter in the Fleet.

Figure 2 – A Project Avenger Simulator. U.S. Navy photo. 16

Accessing the Navy Continuous Training Environment (NCTE)

“Winning in contested seas also means fielding and equipping teams that are masters of all-domain fleet operations.” —CNO NAVPLAN 2021

VTEs allow users to conceptualize next generation threats. While the Naval Academy provides Midshipmen the technical foundation to understand Anti-Access/ Area-Denial (A2/AD) bubbles and contested communications zones, it offers few means for Midshipmen to visualize these abstract threats in an operational context.17 NAVAIR’s Joint Simulation Environment (JSE) and INDOPACCOM’s Pacific Multi-Domain Training and Experimentation Capability simulate next generation threats for operations analysis and platform research design testing and evaluation (RDT&E).18 The Navy Continuous Training Environment (NCTE) enables cross-platform integration of these platforms, and many more, which allows warfighters around the world to take part in scalable multi-domain battle problems.19

Figure 3 – NAVAIR’s JSE 20

To meet the Fleet’s growing need for diversified data, the Navy should leverage the informed and available, yet inexperienced, potential of the Academy’s more than 4,000 Midshipmen. Providing the Naval Academy with NCTE access could generate data for the Fleet and the operational context of classroom lessons for Midshipmen. Data is the new oil; improving predictive AI/ML models, concepts of operation, and training interfaces requires mass amounts of quality data from a range of problem-solving approaches.21 Installing an NCTE node in Hopper Hall’s new Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs) would not only allow Midshipmen to observe Fleet training events but also to perform their own operations analysis on platforms, capabilities, and strategies developed during their capstone research.22

Leveraging Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) VTEs

“Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning have increased the importance of achieving decision superiority in combat.” —CNO NAVPLAN 2021

For the cost of a video game, the Naval Academy could use the same software as defense industry leaders to improve the decision-making ability of Midshipmen, reinforce classroom concepts, and introduce next generation threats and platforms. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) uses popular videogames like Command: Modern Operations ($79.99 on Steam) to search for “asymmetrical conditions” within “hyper-realistic theater-wide combat simulators” that could be exploited in real-world scenarios.23 Many titles offer open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that allow users to change the decision-making logic of AI opponents and load custom platforms and capabilities into the game, such as squadrons of future unmanned systems.24 Modern concepts of operation—like Expeditionary Advanced Basing Operations and Joint All-Domain Command Control—often undergo “virtual sea trials” in such simulations.25

Figure 4 – Simulated Theater-Level Conflict in the South China Sea

The user-friendly, scalable, and unclassified nature of wargame simulators like Command: Modern Operations make them suitable for inter-academy use. Allies such as the United Kingdom already use commercial titles to host “Fight Clubs” among military and civilian personnel across all roles and ranks of their armed forces.26 By leveraging its cadre of foreign exchange officers and multilateral relationships, the Naval Academy could form an international “fight club” in the style of the growing “e-sports” industry. Competing with and against international Midshipmen and officers would allow Naval Academy Midshipmen to forge relationships with allies and learn from their approaches to tactics, strategies, and decision-making across a variety of simulated scenarios.

COTS Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning (ML) VTEs

“Adopting AI capabilities at speed and scale is essential to maintain military advantage.”—2020 Department of Defense AI Education Strategy

Virtual machines provide users with access to advanced AI and ML tools, as well as the computing power necessary to use them at scale, anywhere there is an internet connection.27 Maintaining the Navy’s military advantage requires an “AI ready force” of smart data producers and consumers.28 Applying AI to operations and processes across the Fleet will likely make open-source ML software the Excel of the future, requiring both smart data producers and consumers. Not every officer is an Excel “wizard,” but most understand how it works, the problems it can solve, and the type of data it needs to function. In order to build an “AI ready force” across all roles and ranks, the Naval Academy should join the growing field of leading research universities incorporating introductory AI and ML courses in their core curricula.29

Just as seamanship and navigation are the cornerstone of maritime competence, AI-literacy will be the core of digital competence. Incorporating AI and ML into the Naval Academy’s core curriculum would create smart data producers and consumers, accelerating the Fleet’s exposure to AI through the bottom up approach envisioned in the Department of Defense AI Education Strategy.30 According to a 2019 study by IBM, “model interoperability,” understanding how a model arrives at a given decision is the single factor that most influences users’ trust in AI.31 Naval Academy graduates literate in AI and ML could better lead enlisted sailors as increasingly complex systems join the Fleet.

Towards a 21st Century Warfare Laboratory

“Transforming our learning model for the 21st century will enable us to adapt and achieve decisive advantage in complex, rapidly changing operating environments.” —2020 Triservice Maritime Strategy 32

The Naval Academy must return to the warfighting mentality of its past.33 In 2007, the Naval Academy not only removed its only tactics and strategy course from the Midshipmen core curriculum, it stopped offering it altogether.34 Until recently, this decision signaled the end of a rich history of wargaming at USNA, which included Academy-wide games held at varying levels of classification.35 VTEs offer the Naval Academy an opportunity to reprioritize warfighting by providing the “ready, relevant learning” future naval officers will need to conduct 21st century warfare.36

New concepts of operation require learning and experimentation that 21st century warfare-literate junior officers could accelerate. The Navy and Marine Corps continue to outline ambitious plans that leverage AI, unmanned platforms, and next generation networks in new concepts of operation. Consequently, the Navy aims to equip sailors with “a high degree of confidence and skill operating alongside” unmanned platforms and AI by “the end of this decade.”37 Creating a true “learning continuum” to prepare the Fleet for the future of warfare must start at the US Naval Academy, where the COVID-19 distance-learning environment offers an opportunity for the Naval Academy to update its operating system using VTEs.

Ensign Bunyard is a 2020 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. Upon completing his Master’s in Information Technology Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, he will report to Pensacola for training as a student naval aviator.

Endnotes

1. Grady, John, and Sam Sam Lagrone. “CJCS Milley: Character of War in Midst of Fundamental Change.” USNI News, December 4, 2020. https://news.usni.org/2020/12/04/cjcs-milley-character-of-war-in-midst-of-fundamental-change.
2. Kitchener, Roy, Brad Cooper, Paul Schlise, Thibaut Delloue, and Kyle Cregge. “What Got Us Here Won’t Get Us There.” U.S. Naval Institute, January 9, 2021. https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2021/january/what-got-us-here-wont-get-us-there.
3. Gilday, Mike M. CNO NAVPLAN 2021. Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Accessed February 2, 2021. https://media.defense.gov/2021/Jan/11/2002562551/-1/-1/1/CNO%20NAVPLAN%202021%20-%20FINAL.PDF., 4.
4. Wilson, Clay. Network Centric Warfare: Background and Oversight Issues for Congress. CRS Report for Congress § (2005).
5. Mattis, Jim. “Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.” Department of Defense Media. Office of the Secretary of Defense, n.d. Accessed February 2, 2021., 8.
6. Gilday, 4.
7. “USNA Core Curriculum.” The U.S. Naval Academy. Accessed February 2, 2021. https://www.usna.edu/Academics/Majors-and-Courses/Course-Requirements-Core.php.
8. Morris, Terry. “Promotion Boards Brief.” Navy Personnel Command. Accessed February 2, 2021. https://slideplayer.com/slide/11144308/.
9. Shelbourne, Mallory. “Navy Harnessing New Technology to Restructure Aviation Training.” USNI News, September 14, 2020. https://news.usni.org/2020/09/14/navy-harnessing-new-technology-to-restructure-aviation-training.
10. Miller, Christopher A. “The Influence of Midshipmen on Leadership of Morale at the United States Naval Academy.” Naval Post Graduate School Thesis. Naval Post Graduate School. Accessed February 2, 2021. https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a462636.pdf.
11. Kitchener, Roy.
12. Freedburg, Sydney J. “Project Avenger: VR, Big Data Sharpen Navy Pilot Training.” Breaking Defense. Above the Law, December 4, 2020. https://breakingdefense.com/2020/12/project-avenger-vr-big-data-sharpen-navy-pilot-training/
13. Berger, David. “Tactical Decision Kit Distribution and Implementation.” MARADMIN. US Marine Corps. Accessed February 2, 2021. https://www.marines.mil/News/Messages/Messages-Display/Article/1176937/tactical-decision-kit-distribution-and-implementation/.
14. Fretty, Peter. “Augmented Reality Helps US Navy See Clearer.” Industry Week. Accessed February 2, 2021. https://www.industryweek.com/technology-and-iiot/article/21142049/us-navy-sees-augmented-reality.
15. Freedburg, Sydney J. “Navy, Marines Plan Big Wargames For Big Wars: Virtual Is Vital.” Breaking Defense. Above the Law, December 3, 2020. https://breakingdefense.com/2020/12/navy-marines-plan-big-wargames-for-big-wars-virtual-is-vital/.
16. Shelbourne, Mallory.
17. Gonzales, Matt. “Marine Corps to Build Innovative Wargaming Center.” United States Marine Corps Flagship, August 25, 2020. https://www.marines.mil/News/News-Display/Article/2323771/marine-corps-to-build-innovative-wargaming-center/.
18. Davidson, Philip S. “Statement of Admiral Philip S. Davidson, US Navy Commander, US Indo-Pacific Command Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on US Info-Pacific Command Posture 12 February 2019.” Senate Armed Services Committee, February 12, 2019. https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Davidson_02-12-19.pdf.
19. “Joint Simulation Environment.” NAVAIR. Naval Air Warfare Center. Accessed February 2, 2021. https://www.navair.navy.mil/nawctsd/sites/g/files/jejdrs596/files/2018-11/2018-jse.pdf. Also, Squire, Peter. “Augmented Reality Efforts.” Office of Naval Research. Accessed February 2, 2021., 13.
20. “Joint Simulation Environment.”
21. Graham, Karen. “AI Systems Are ‘Only as Good as the Data We Put into Them’.” Digital Journal: A Global Digital Media Network, September 5, 2018. http://www.digitaljournal.com/tech-and-science/technology/a-i-systems-are-only-as-good-as-the-data-we-put-into-them/article/531246. Also, Nilekani, Nandan. “Data to the People.” Foreign Affairs. Council on Foreign Relations, July 29, 2020. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/asia/2018-08-13/data-people.
22. Tortora, Paul. “Center for Cyber Security Studies – 2018-2019 Stewardship Report.” Cyber Studies, March 14, 2020. http://1970.usnaclasses.com/Classprojects/Center%20for%20Cyber%20Studies.html.
23. Atherton, Kelsey. “DARPA Wants Wargame AI To Never Fight Fair.” Breaking Defense. Above the Law, August 18, 2020. https://breakingdefense.com/2020/08/darpa-wants-wargame-ai-to-never-fight-fair/. Also, “Command: Modern Operations.” Steam Info. Accessed February 2, 2021. https://steamdb.info/app/1076160/.
24. Atherton, Kelsey.
25. Atherton, Kelsey.
26. Brynen, Rex. “UK Fight Club.” PAX Sims, June 11, 2020. https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2020/06/11/uk-fight-club/.
27. “Data Science Virtual Machines.” Microsoft Azure. Accessed February 7, 2021. https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/virtual-machines/data-science-virtual-machines/.
28. “2020 Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Education Strategy.” The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, September 2020. https://www.ai.mil/docs/2020_DoD_AI_Training_and_Education_Strategy_and_Infographic_10_27_20.pdf.
29. “2020 Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Education Strategy.”
30. “2020 Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Education Strategy.”
31. Ashoori, Maryam, Weisz, Justin.” “In AI We Trust? Factors that Influence Trustworthiness of AI-Infused Decision-Making Processes.” IBM. December 5, 2019. https://arxiv.org/pdf/1912.02675.pdf., 2.
32. “Advantage at Sea: Prevailing with All-Domain Naval Power.” Office of the Secretary of the Navy. December 2020. https://media.defense.gov/2020/Dec/16/2002553074/-1/-1/0/TRISERVICESTRATEGY.PDF., 22.
33. McKinney, Michael. “Warfighting First? Not so Much.” U.S. Naval Institute. May 2019. https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2019/may/warfighting-first-not-so-much
34. “Initial Report of the Dean’s Cyber Warfare Ad Hoc Committee.” The US Naval Academy. August 21, 2009. https://www.usna.edu/Users/cs/needham/CyberSecurityInitiative/USNACyberInitiativeInitialReport_USNA-CS-TR-2011-02.pdf#search=ns310., 76.
“Core Curriculum Review.” USNA Division of Seamanship and Navigation. March 2, 2005. https://www.usna.edu/Academics/_files/documents/sapr/ProDev_Core.pdf., slide 13.
35. “Wargaming at the Naval Academy.” Shipmate. The United States Naval Academy Alumni Foundation. February 2021., 25-26.
36. “Ready, Relevant Learning.” Naval Education and Training Command. Accessed March 19, https://www.netc.navy.mil/RRL/.

37. Gilday, 11.

Feature photo: A U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman conducts a simulated T-6B Texan II flight on a newly installed virtual reality trainer device at the U.S. Naval Academy during Aviation Selection Night at Dahlgren Hall. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Rick Healey/Released)

China’s Maritime Militia and Fishing Fleets: A Primer for Operational Staffs and Tactical Leaders, Pt. 2

This article originally featured in the Military Review and is republished with permission. It will be republished in two parts. Read it in its original form here. Read Part One here.

By Shuxian Luo and Jonathan G. Panter

The surge of propaganda notwithstanding, several issues confront Beijing before the maritime militia can effectively function as the third arm in collaboration with the PLAN and CCG. First, the wide dispersion of the maritime militia at sea makes it harder to control than land-based forces.39 Second, it is unclear through what institutionalized cross-system integrator(s) maritime militia forces coordinate with the CCG or with the PLA’s theater command system that operates active-duty forces.40 PLA commanders and officers have openly discussed the problems of who commands the militia forces, under what circumstances, and with what authorization; who is authorized to review and approve the maritime militia’s participation in what types of maritime rights protection operations; and who is responsible for militia expenditures. Due to these uncertainties, some PLA commanders have urged further standardizing the maritime militia’s command, control, and collaboration structure.41

Budgetary shortfalls complicate the training, administration, deployment, and control of the maritime militia. As of 2010, only about 2 to 3 percent of China’s national defense budget was used to fund militia training and equipment, with additional funding coming from local governments.42 Local funding has proven inadequate to compensate for gaps in central government outlays. A guideline issued by Hainan in 2014 stated that the provincial and county/city/prefecture governments each would be responsible for 50 percent of the province’s maritime militia expenditure. For that year, the provincial government earmarked 28 million renminbi (RMB, or Chinese yuan) for the maritime militia, a minuscule quantity given the huge costs of recruitment, administration, training, and deployment (1 RMB is equal to about 0.15 USD).43 According to a 2014 estimate, one week of training for a fifty-ton fishing boat costs over 100,000 RMB for crew lodging and compensation for lost income.44 To spread out the financial burden, common practice now holds that “whoever uses the militia pays the bill.”45

Even so, funding remains a key hurdle. In 2017, the commander of the Ningbo Military Subdistrict (MSD) under the Zhejiang Province Military Subdistrict complained in the PLA’s professional magazine National Defense about a lack of formal channels to guarantee funds. When the maritime militia was assigned to a task, he pointed out, funding took the form of “the county paying a bit, the city compensating a bit, and the province subsidizing a bit.” This meant that “the more tasks you perform, the more you pay.”46 Given the fiscal strains, local authorities have forcefully lobbied Beijing for more money. The localities also see the outpouring of central government resources as an opportunity to benefit their local fishing economies. Hainan, for example, used Beijing’s subsidies to upgrade local fishing boats and increase modernized steel-hulled trawlers under the banner of “sovereignty rights via fishing.”47 In fiscal year 2017, the province received 18.01 billion RMB in transfer payments from Beijing to account for “the province’s expenditure on maritime administration.”48

Figure 2. Maritime Militia in the Core Newspapers and People’s Liberation Army Journals since 2000 (CNKI Search by Theme) (Figure by Shuxian Luo) [Click to Expand]
The marketization of China’s fishery sector in the reform era has compounded the organizational problems arising from this unstandardized funding model. Since Chinese fishermen are now profit driven rather than de facto employees of the state, the government has both less formal authority and less economic leverage over them.49 In the 2000s, coastal provincial military districts widely reported problems in tracking and controlling registered militia fishing ships.50 According to a 2015 article by the director of the political department of the Sansha MSD under the Hainan Provincial Military District, surveys conducted in Hainan localities showed that 42 percent of fishermen prioritized material benefits over their participation in the maritime militia. Some fishermen admitted that they would quit militia activity without adequate compensation or justified their absence from maritime rights protection operations because fishing was more important.51

In a 2018 interview with one of this article’s authors, sources with firsthand knowledge of Hainan’s fishing community noted that each fishing ship participating in maritime rights protection activity received a daily compensation of 500 RMB, a sum “too petty compared to the profits that could be made from a day just fishing at sea, and even more so when compared to the huge profits from giant clam poaching.”52 These financial pressures reportedly created substantial difficulty for China in mobilizing the militia during the 2014 HD-981 clash.53 Some fishermen even manipulated maritime militia policies to evade regulations and conceal illegal attempts to fish for endangered or protected marine species in contested waters.54 Notably, such activities were completely at odds with Chinese government strategy; Beijing had explicitly prohibited illegal fishing to avoid “causing trouble for China’s diplomacy and damaging China’s international image.”55

U.S. Navy sailors and U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Law Enforcement Detachment Team personnel approach a Chinese fishing vessel on a rigid-hull inflatable boat 29 November 2016 during an Oceania Maritime Security Initiative mission with Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102) in the Pacific Ocean. (Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Bryan Jackson, U.S. Navy)

Given the unclear command and coordination arrangements, funding problems, and weak control exerted on Chinese fishermen, it is difficult to assess the extent to which Chinese authorities control fishermen operating in the South China Sea. Some fishermen have collaborated with the CCG and/or the PLA in gray-zone operations, indicating that the maritime militia does exploit the plausible deniability afforded by their dual identity as military personnel and civilian mariners. However, given the evidence in authoritative Chinese-language sources, it is unrealistic to portray the maritime militia as a coherent body with adequate professional training or as one that has systemically conducted deceptive missions in close collaboration with the PLAN and CCG. Rather, the coordination seems to be, as various sources in China, the United States, Japan, and Singapore similarly characterize it, “loose and diffuse” at best. Achieving high levels of coordination and interoperability will likely “take a long time.”56

PLA officers and strategists worry that the maritime militia’s status as “both civilians and soldiers” could carry more risks than advantages during encounters with foreign vessels. A scholar at the PLA’s National Defense University asks, “If the militia uses force in maritime rights protection operation, should this be considered as law enforcement behavior or military behavior, or behavior other than war?”57 The director of the political department of the Sansha MSD cautions that the militia’s inadequate “political awareness” and professionalism make its members “unfit for the complex situation surrounding the South China Sea rights and interests struggle.”58 This makes it imperative, he argues, to “make the militia consciously comply with political and organizational disciplines, regulate their rights protection behavior, and avoid causing conflict, escalation, or diplomatic spats.”59

Beyond the South China Sea, the U.S. Department of Defense believes that the maritime militia played a role in a large intrusion in 2016 in waters near the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea whose sovereignty is contested among China, Japan, and Taiwan.60 However, some members of the Japanese defense and foreign policy community, while voicing the concern that China might use fishing vessels in a future Senkaku contingency, noted that the maritime militia has been far less visible in the East China Sea than in the South China Sea.61 For instance, in one prominent international crisis between Beijing and Tokyo—a 2010 collision between a Chinese fishing trawler and two Japan Coast Guard vessels—the evidence later showed that a drunk Chinese fishing captain bore responsibility for the accident, rather than China’s maritime militia.62

China’s deep suspicion of U.S. involvement in its home waters and China’s use of a wide set of coercive instruments to assert its claims there stand in contrast to its activities in distant waters. China’s policy agenda in Latin America and Africa, which fall within what Andrew Nathan and Andrew Scobell call “the Fourth Ring” of Chinese security, entails six strategic goals: energy; commodities, markets, and investments; arms sales; China’s economic access abroad; diplomatic support for China’s position on Taiwan and Tibet; and support for China on multilateral diplomatic issues such as human rights. Regions subsumed under this ring are “too large, too far away, too politically complex, and still too much dominated by the traditional colonial and neocolonial powers to come easily under the sway of a remote Asian power.”63

In these far-flung regions, China has emerged as a major distant-water fishing nation. Its fishing fleet is the world’s largest, operating a total of over 4,600 DWF vessels, according to a recent CSIS account.64 China’s tenth Five-Year Plan (2001–2005) introduced DWF as a component of the “going out” strategy, which encourages Chinese enterprises to search for new markets, resource accesses, and investments around the world.65 After China articulated in 2012 its aspiration to become a “maritime great power” and introduced the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, the DWF industry became a vital component of this strategy. The Chinese government sees DWF as a means to enhance China’s food security at home and connections abroad with key economies along the Belt and Road Initiative corridors.66

Most recently, the Chinese fleet’s engagement in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing activities in regions such as West Africa and Latin America has posed a challenge to global and regional fisheries governance.67 The fleet’s unsustainable fishing practices have caused tensions with Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru.68 Nevertheless, interpreting Chinese DWF activities and associated conflicts through a military lens risks securitizing what is largely a conflict of economic interests.69 As China increasingly pays attention to international reactions to the illegal fishing activities of its DWF fleet and has recently acknowledged this problem, tackling illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing activities in these distant waters represents a potential area that China sees as cooperation rather than confrontation, with coastal states and the United States better serving its global interests and repairing its international image as a “responsible fishing country.”70

Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Operations and Tactics

The strength of the maritime militia is its deniability, which allows its vessels to harass and intimidate foreign civilian craft and warships while leaving the PRC room to deescalate by denying its affiliation with these activities.71 Meanwhile, when Chinese fishing vessels—even operating solely as civilian economic actors—operate unchallenged, their presence in contested areas helps solidify PRC maritime claims. Challenging these vessels is dangerous. Weaker states, aware of Chinese fishing vessels’ possible government affiliation, might hesitate to engage with them in a way that could provoke a PRC response. Even stronger states, like the United States or Japan, might hesitate before confronting fishing boats because of the challenge of positively identifying these vessels as government affiliated.

By “defending” China’s maritime claims from foreign interference, the PRC leverages its maritime militia in support of policies that form the core of a grand strategy of “rejuvenation” and also comprise the basis for the CCP’s domestic legitimacy. At the same time, as previously suggested, the maritime militia is among the least-funded, least-organized, and often least-professional of the forces that could be employed for these purposes. The same factors that make the maritime militia a deniable force (its civilian crews and dual-use technology) also raise the risk of accidents and escalations. This is a toxic mix: due to the maritime militia’s deniability and the core interests at stake, the PRC has a high incentive to employ it, but the more frequent its operations, the greater the likelihood of interactions with U.S. vessels that could spin out of control.

The remainder of this section draws on the aforementioned findings of this article to offer the authors’ own assessments of the maritime militia’s current strengths and limitations as a military instrument, as well as future projections.

Funding. Funding is inconsistent across units and vessels, and across provinces, which rely on different budgetary channels and have different incentives to secure subsidies. Even where funding has been secured in some localities, budget constraints in others suggest that equipment standardization is a long way off. Strained budgets also restrict training opportunities, leading to inconsistency in professionalism across the force. This raises the risk of accidents and escalations.

Command and control. Strategic, operational, and tactical command and control is inconsistent across provinces and individual vessels. The command problem is structural, arising from bureaucratic competition and multiple lines of authority. The control problem is financial, as marketization has eroded individual units’ incentives to participate in militia activities that draw away from their fishing opportunities. Command and control shortcomings inhibit combat power but contribute to the militia’s core strength: its deniability.

Combat power. Fishing boats are inherently weak forces for traditional military operations. Due to their size, they are limited by sea state and lack the propulsion plants required for high-speed maneuver. Topside gear and nets, when deployed, also limit their maneuverability. Finally, fishing vessels are soft targets for naval firepower. Fishing vessels’ “weaknesses,” however, do provide some asymmetric advantages.

First, because they are cheap, fishing vessels will always outnumber warships. Deployed in high numbers using swarm tactics, small craft can pose an asymmetric threat to warships, as U.S. Navy experience with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) forces has shown.72 But the Chinese maritime militia consists of fishing boats, not high-speed assault and pleasure craft like the IRGCN employs. Slow speeds reduce the ability to maneuver and increase the duration of exposure to layered defense (although the vessels’ deniability could reduce the risk that they will be fired upon). Instead of a kinetic threat, Chinese fishing vessels present more of a disruptive one. Deployed in even limited numbers, fishing boats can inhibit, if not prohibit altogether, a warship’s ability to conduct towed array and flight operations (both essential for antisubmarine warfare, a critical capability given China’s growing anti-access/area denial forces in the South China Sea).

Second, fishing vessels pose a huge identification problem. As small craft, they generate minimal radar return even in clear weather and mild sea states. In addition, Chinese fishing vessels frequently do not broadcast their position in Automatic Identification System and use only commercial radar and communications technology, making them hard to identify by their electronic emissions. The identification problem is compounded in congested environments like the South China Sea, which is cluttered with commercial traffic.

For these reasons, in combat operations, the maritime militia’s primary role would likely be reconnaissance support, although some vessels have also received training in minelaying.73 One of the PLA’s major force modernization objectives has been development of an “informatized reconnaissance-strike capability” modeled on the U.S. military, although command and control problems continue to impede joint force operations.74 When providing support to the PLAN in this way, it is important to note that maritime militia vessels would qualify as combatants under international law, despite their lack of military technology.75

Figure 3. Force Capabilities, Deniability, and Risk of Escalation (Figure by Jonathan G. Panter) [Click to Expand]
The basic capabilities required for militia vessels to provide reconnaissance support have been widely fielded. Before joining the militia, fishing vessels are required to install equipment permitting communication with the People’s Armed Forces Department, whose purpose is to assist with the reconnaissance function.76 This includes satellite communication terminals and shortwave radio, which enable beyond line-of-sight communications.77 But without advanced sensors and the training required to use them, militia vessels will be restricted to visually identifying opposing forces. The addition of electronic-intelligence equipment would be a game changer. In that case, the appropriate gray-zone analog for China’s maritime militia vessels might be IRGCN intelligence dhows, not swarming assault craft.

Projections. Given the PRC’s continued economic growth (and increasing government revenue) and the priority placed on military modernization, a successful resolution of militia funding problems would contribute most to recurring costs like training rather than one-time costs such as equipment, much of which has already been subsidized and acquired (see figure 3). However, new technology purchases beyond civilian dual-use equipment would also be possible. Additional training would foster professionalism in ship handling, equipment use, and coordination. Technology and professionalism would enhance the combat power of individual units and those operating jointly, but at the cost of deniability, the militia’s core capability as a gray-zone force. Sophisticated maneuvers, visible advanced gear, or electromagnetic emissions can help U.S. and partner forces identify a “fishing vessel” as Chinese government sponsored.

Enhancing combat power would also raise the risk of escalatory incidents. For U.S. commanders making force protection decisions, the chances of misperception could increase when weapons or sophisticated technology are present on units of unknown intentions. On the other hand, these units’ increased professionalism could dampen the risk of escalation, as they might be less prone to ship-handling errors or suspicious maneuvering. Finally, while improved command and control would reduce vessels’ deniability, its effect on escalation risks is indeterminate. Individual Chinese captains might be more restricted in their decision-making, leaving less room for error. However, they might also have less latitude to deescalate depending on the priorities of higher command.

Conclusion

In the past decade, American perspectives on China have shifted. Optimism has given way to suspicion, the desire for cooperation to rivalry. This shift appears in political science articles, partisan politics, and public opinion polls.78 Hardly an issue of a military professional journal can avoid the phrase “the return of great power competition.” In a related shift, these publications now dedicate substantial attention to China’s instruments of national power that fall on the periphery of traditional military capabilities.

This is a welcome turn. As E. H. Carr pointed out, the security realm has never been neatly separable from other state activities.79 But this new, broadened focus can also fuel alarmism and facilitate escalation. Defense and military professionals must walk a fine line between prudent skepticism of China and uninformed suspicions. This article has sought to assist those efforts with a primer on one PRC policy instrument that bridges the divide between the economic, informational, and military realms. Based on our findings, we close with two broad implications for U.S. policy.

First, in the South China Sea, pending resolution of the maritime militia’s funding and organizational problems, the greatest threat to U.S. forces remains that of accidents and escalations.80 Accurately identifying maritime militia vessels, ideally beyond line-of-sight, is an important way to reduce this risk by providing commanders and staffs with increased decision-space. The sheer number of militia-affiliated vessels, their minimal electronic emissions and radar cross-sections, and the congestion of the South China Sea means that identification efforts to undermine the maritime militia’s deniability at scale require a bold approach. Solving the problem will be nearly impossible without the assistance of regional allies and partners.

Second, in regions outside of East Asia, U.S. policy makers must resist interpreting China’s DWF fleet as a traditional security instrument. These vessels are legally noncombatants, and in practical terms, their military utility is nonexistent. The more important question is whether DWF vessels, even those engaged in civilian activities, represent an effort to acclimate U.S. and partner forces to the presence of Chinese vessels (government-affiliated or not) in the Americas. The goal might be to make Chinese overfishing an accepted (if bothersome) part of the pattern of life, an activity that resource-constrained coastal nations in Latin America ignore. Ultimately, the damage wrought to local economies by illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing activities can undermine regional prosperity. Without a wholescale effort to build local nations’ maritime law enforcement capacity, this trend will pose a far greater threat to nontraditional security realms—primarily ecological and economic—in the region, and to U.S. interests there, than any military role the Chinese DWF vessels could fill.

Shuxian Luo is a PhD candidate in international relations at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University. Her research examines China’s crisis behavior and decision-making processes, maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, and U.S. relations with Asia. She holds a BA in English from Peking University, an MA in China studies from SAIS, and an MA in political science from Columbia University.

Jonathan G. Panter is a PhD candidate in political science at Columbia University. His research examines the origin of naval command-and-control practices. He previously served as a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy, deploying twice in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. He holds a BA in government from Cornell University and an MPhil and MA in political science from Columbia University.

The authors thank Ian Sundstrom and Anand Jantzen for their comments on earlier drafts of this article.

Notes

39. Erickson and Kennedy, “China’s Maritime Militia,” 10.

40. Clemens and Weber, “Rights Protection versus Warfighting,” 206.

41. Wang Zhiping and Wang Yongjian, “Minbing canjia haishang weiquan de jidian sikao” [Some thoughts on militia’s participation in maritime rights protection struggle], National Defense, no. 6 (2013): 54–55; see, for example, Xu Haifeng, “Shiying xinxingshi, quanmian guifan haishang minbing jianshe” [Adapt to the new situation, comprehensively standardize maritime militia construction], National Defense, no. 2 (2014): 65–66.

42. Blasko, The Chinese Army Today, 29.

43. Wang Cheng and Chen Daofan, “Hainansheng chutai jiaqiang haishang minbing jianshe de yijian” [Hainan announced guideline on strengthening the building of maritime militia], National Defense, no. 3 (2014).

44. Liao Gangbin, Wang Pai, and Xiong Rui, “Haishang minbing fendui jianshe cunzai de wenti yu duice” [Problems and solutions in constructing maritime militia units], National Defense, no. 8 (2014): 14–15.

45. Xu, “Adapt to the New Situation, Comprehensively Standardize Maritime Militia Construction”; Kou Zhenyun and Feng Shi, “Jiaiang haishang minbing jianshe siyao ‘Siyao’” [“Four musts” in strengthening maritime militia construction], National Defense, no. 5 (2016): 42; Erickson and Kennedy, “China’s Maritime Militia,” 12.

46. Qin Jinghao, “Minbing canjia haishang weiquan douzheng xingdong wenti yanjiu” [Study on the issues in militia’s participation in maritime rights protection operations], National Defense, no. 4 (2017): 81.

47. Audrye Wong, “More than Peripheral: How Provinces Influence China’s Foreign Policy,” China Quarterly235 (September 2018): 749–51; Hongzhou Zhang and Sam Bateman, “Fishing Militia, the Securitization of Fishery and the South China Sea Dispute,” Contemporary Southeast Asia 39, no. 2 (2017): 295–99.

48. “Hainansheng 2017 nian yusuan zhixing qingkuang he 2018 nian yusuan cao’an de baogao” [Report on Hainan Province’s implementation of FY 2017 budget and the proposed FY 2018 budget], Department of Finance, Hainan Province, 26 January 2018, accessed 20 November 2020, http://mof.hainan.gov.cn/czt/zwxx/czyjs/201803/t20180301_2562925.html.

49. Bruce Swanson, Eighth Voyage of the Dragon: A History of China’s Quest for Seapower(Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1982), 216–21.

50. Dong Shiwu, Liu Xiantuan, and Wang Quanwen, “Zhujiu haishang houbei jinlv – haishang minbing jianshe xilie diaocha zhi er (xunlian pian)” [Build strong maritime reserve forces-investigation on maritime militia construction II (the training episode)], China Militia, no. 9 (2003): 34; Zhang Qihong, “Jiaqiang haishang minbing jianshe ying bawo de zhuyao huanjie” [The primary dimensions that should be controlled when strengthening maritime militia construction], National Defense, no. 10 (2003): 30–31; Zhang Jian Deng Weiyu and Zhao Jicheng, “40 sou yubian yuechuan bei maidiao zhihou” [After 40 pre-registered fishing vessels were sold], China Militia, no. 10 (2006): 26–27.

51. Yang Jianbo, “Jintie nanhai quanyi douzheng shiji, zuohao haishang minbing zhengzhi gongzuo” [Closely base on the reality in South China Sea rights and interests struggle, improve maritime militia’s political work], Journal of Political Work, no. 3 (2015): 44–45.

52. Author’s interview, Singapore, August 2018.

53. Ibid.

54. Wong, “More than Peripheral,” 751; author’s interview, Beijing, July 2017; author’s interview, Singapore, August 2018.

55. Xia Zhangying, Nansha qundao yuyeshi [A history of fisheries in the Nansha Islands] (Bejing: Haiyang chubanshe, 2011), 209–13.

56. Author’s interview, Haikou, July 2017; author’s interview, Washington, DC, June 2018; author’s interview, Tokyo, August 2018; author’s interview, Singapore, August 2018.

57. Yang Sehgnli and Geng Yueting, “Dui jiaqiang di qiangdu haishang weiquan guofang dongyuan de zhanlue sikao” [Strategic thoughts on strengthening national defense mobilization for low-intensity maritime rights protection activity], National Defense, no. 1 (2017): 30.

58. Yang, “Closely base on the reality in South China Sea rights and interests struggle.”

59. Ibid.

60. S. Department of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2020, 71.

61. Author’s interviews, Tokyo, August 2018; Katsuya Yamamoto, “The East China Sea: Future Trends, Scenarios, and Responses,” in Erickson and Martinson, China’s Maritime Gray Zone Operations, 325.

62. Michael Green et al., Countering Coercion in Maritime Asia: The Theory and Practice of Gray Zone Deterrence(Washington, DC: Center for Strategic & International Studies, 2017), 72.

63. Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell, China’s Search for Security(New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 171–72.

64. Whitley Saumweber and Ty Loft, “Distant-Water Fishing along China’s Maritime Silk Road,” Stephenson Ocean Security Project, 31 July 2020, accessed 17 November 2020, https://ocean.csis.org/commentary/distant-water-fishing-along-china-s-maritime-silk-road/. In 2017, China set a goal to cap the number of distant-water fishing (DWF) vessels at three thousand by 2020, which might not materialize as the central and provincial governments continue to provide substantial subsidies to upgrade and modernize the ships; Sally Yozell and Amanda Shaver, Shining a Light: The Need for Transparency across Distant Water Fishing(Washington, DC: Stimson Center, 1 November 2019), 24, accessed 17 November 2020, https://www.stimson.org/wp-content/files/file-attachments/Stimson%20Distant%20Water%20Fishing%20Report.pdf. According to the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), in a research report based on automatic identification system (AIS) signatures of unregistered vessels and accounting for overseas-registered vessels of Chinese origin, “China’s DWF fleet is 5–8 times larger than previous estimates. We identified a total of 16,966 Chinese DWF vessels. These include 12,490 vessels observed outside internationally recognised Chinese waters between 2017 and 2018”; see Miren Gutiérrez et al., China’s Distant-Water Fishing Fleet: Scale, Impact, and Governance (London: Overseas Development Institute, June 2020), accessed 17 November 2020, https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/resource-documents/chinesedistantwaterfishing_web_1.pdf.

65. Tabitha Grace Mallory, “China, Global Governance, and the Making of a Distant Water Fishing Nation” (PhD diss., Johns Hopkins University, 2013), 183.

66. “‘Shisanwu’ quanguo yuanyang yuye fazhan guihua” [Planning for DWF industrial development during the thirteenth five-year plan], Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of the PRC, 21 December 2017, accessed 20 November 2020, http://www.moa.gov.cn/gk/ghjh_1/201712/t20171227_6128624.htm; Yozell and Shaver, Shining a Light, 23.

67. Mallory, “China, Global Governance, and the Making of a Distant Water Fishing Nation,” 192–93, 259–62, 298–99.

68. Natalia A. Ramos Miranda, “Chile Keeps Eye on Chinese Fishing Fleet along South American Coast,” Reuters, 8 October 2020, accessed 17 November 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-chile-fishing-china/chile-keeps-eye-on-chinese-fishing-fleet-along-south-american-coast-idUSKBN26T3IL; Lisa Mckinnon Munde, “The Great Fishing Competition,” War on the Rocks, 27 August 2020, accessed 17 November 2020, https://warontherocks.com/2020/08/the-great-fishing-competition/; Ankit Panda, “Argentina Coast Guard Sinks Chinese Fishing Boat,” The Diplomat(website), 16 March 2016, accessed 17 November 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2016/03/argentina-coast-guard-sinks-chinese-fishing-boat/.

69. Munde, “The Great Fishing Competition.”

70. Tabitha Mallory, “Fishing for Sustainability: China’s New Metered Approach to Global Fishing,” Policy Forum, 19 December 2017, accessed 17 November 2020, https://www.policyforum.net/fishing-for-sustainability/; ”Nongye nongcu bu banggongting guanyu jinyibu jiaqiang yuanyang yuye anquan guanli de tongzhi” [Notice of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs on further strengthening security regulation on distant water fishing], Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of the PRC, 21 March 2019, accessed 20 November 2020, http://www.moa.gov.cn/gk/tzgg_1/tfw/201903/t20190321_6177052.htm.

71. Kennedy and Erickson, China Maritime Report No. 1, 4.

72. Fariborz Haghshenass, Iran’s Asymmetric Naval Warfare, Policy Focus87 (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2008), accessed 17 November 2020, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PolicyFocus87.pdf.

73. Andrew S. Erickson, William S. Murray, and Lyle J. Goldstein, Chinese Mine Warfare: A PLA Navy “Assassin’s Mace” Capability(Newport, RI: China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S. Naval War College, June 2009), accessed 17 November 2020, https://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/cmsi-red-books/7/.

74. Scobell et al., China’s Grand Strategy, 86–90.

75. James Kraska and Michael Monti, “The Law of Naval Warfare and China’s Maritime Militia,” International Law Studies91 (2015): 450–67; for a summary version, see James Kraska, “China’s Maritime Militia Vessels May Be Military Objectives During Armed Conflict,” The Diplomat (website), 7 July 2020, accessed 17 November 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/07/chinas-maritime-militia-vessels-may-be-military-objectives-during-armed-conflict/.

76. Kennedy and Erickson, China Maritime Report No. 1, 9–10.

77. Mark A. Stokes, “China’s Maritime Militia and Reconnaissance-Strike Operations,” in Erickson and Martinson, China’s Maritime Gray Zone Operations,

78. David Shambaugh, “U.S.-China Rivalry in Southeast Asia: Power Shift or Competitive Coexistence?,” International Security42, no. 4 (Spring 2018): 85–127; Peter Beinart, “Democrats Are Allowing Trump to Frame the Debate on China,” The Atlantic (website), 26 July 2020, accessed 17 November 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/democrats-are-allowing-trump-frame-debate-china/614614/; Colum Lynch, “Biden Camp Tries to Walk Fine Line on China,” Foreign Policy (website), 11 June 2020, accessed 17 November 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/06/11/biden-presidential-election-china-trump-asian-americans/; Kat Devlin, Laura Silver, and Christine Huang, “U.S. Views of China Increasingly Negative Amid Coronavirus Outbreak,” Pew Research Center, 21 April 2020, accessed 17 November 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/04/21/u-s-views-of-china-increasingly-negative-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/; Dina Smeltz and Craig Kafura, “Do Republicans and Democrats Want a Cold War with China,” The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 13 October 2020, accessed 17 November 2020, https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/publication/lcc/do-republicans-and-democrats-want-cold-war-china.

79. H. Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939, ed. Michael Cox (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2016), 105–10.

80. S. Department of Defense, “U.S. Department of Defense Hosts First Crisis Communications Working Group With the People’s Republic of China People’s Liberation Army,” press release, 29 October 2020, accessed 17 November 2020, https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2398907/us-department-of-defense-hosts-first-crisis-communications-working-group-with-t/. In a welcome turn, U.S. and Chinese defense professionals established a “Crisis Communications Working Group” in October 2020.

Featured Image: Chinese fishing boats heading out to sea from Zhoushan in Zhejiang province. (Photo via China Foto Press)

If You Build It, They Will Lose: Competing with China Requires New Information Warfare Tools

Naval Intelligence Topic Week

By Andrew P. Thompson

The Modern Fight

Written into the most recent National Security Strategy is the principle that Great Power competition will continue to play a major role in the shaping of our strategic priorities.1 As the Navy continues adapting to operations below the level of armed conflict, how we implement combat capability must adjust. China’s modernization of its Navy, enhanced with its desired use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), should catalyze change in our own development efforts. Its modernization initiative directly supports its system destruction warfare principle, which operationalizes a system of systems approach to combat. Confronting this style of warfare requires a new mindset, and the Information Warfare apparatus, of which Naval Intelligence is an integral part, must align itself appropriately to support this change. While the last century’s wars heavily favored attrition-centric warfare, 21st century Great Power competition requires the use of warfare that is decision-centric. The Information Warfare Community (IWC) support required for such an approach must capitalize on the use of new technologies, developed from industry, to aid commanders. Doing so will allow the IWC to provide decision-makers with the best advantages as fast as possible and the method to accomplish such a feat will determine both the IWC’s and Naval Intelligence’s legacy in this modern fight.

By the end of 2020, China is assessed to have 360 battle force ready ships compared to the U.S. Navy with 297.2 Projecting forward to 2025, China will have 400 battle force ships and 425 by 2030.3 In addition to the sheer size of its projected ship count, China is currently making strides to modernize its programs associated with anti-ship ballistic missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, submarines, aircraft, unmanned aircraft, and command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) tools.4 One supporting element in modernizing these programs is the Chinese utilization of AI. According to the Congressional Research Service, “the Chinese aim to use AI for exploiting large troves of intelligence, generating a common operating picture, and accelerating battlefield decision-making.”5 As opposed to the bureaucratic red tape that exists in much of the U.S. defense acquisitions process, few such barriers exist in China’s between its commercial, academic, military, and government entities. Therefore, the Chinese government can directly shape AI development to meet its desired need in whatever capacity it wants. To support this effort, the Chinese government founded a Military-Civil Fusion Development Commission in 2017 in order to rapidly transfer AI technology, from whatever source, directly to the military.6 In doing so, China is incrementally utilizing AI to enhance its conventional force modernization programs at a more rapid pace than one impeded by self-imposed bureaucracy.

AI Benefits/Issues

The advantages of AI technology apply no matter which nation develops it, allowing combat systems to react at gigahertz speed. With such a dramatic shift in the time scale of combat, the pace of combat itself accelerates.7 Additionally, military AI use can provide an augmentation option for long-term tasks that exceed human endurance. For example, intelligence gathering across vast areas for long durations becomes more manageable for human analysts when using AI.

In addition to the above advantages, AI directly confronts, and has the potential to make sense of, the tremendous amount of data for analysts to process. While the U.S. military operates over 11,000 drones, with each one recording “more than three NFL seasons worth” of high-definition footage each day, there are simply not enough people to adequately glean all possible actionable intelligence from such media.8 Similarly overwhelming are the 1.7 megabytes of information that the average human generates every second.9 Therefore, AI-powered intelligence systems may offer a way to sift through the resulting data repositories in order to better understand behavior patterns. Further, after a desired set of iterations, AI algorithms may feed further analysis that refines earlier conclusions, and ultimately provide an even better understanding of complex information for decision-making advantage.10 While promising, skepticism is necessary. Dr. Arati Prabhakar, a former DARPA Director, noted, “When we look at what’s happening with AI, we see something that is very powerful, but we also see a technology that is still quite fundamentally limited…the problem is that when it’s wrong, it’s wrong in ways that no human would ever be wrong.”11 Such skeptical risk, however, does not outweigh the possible benefits of AI’s development and use.

While the advantages of AI technology are clear, our adversary’s approach to how this development takes place merits discussion. The Chinese AI development framework can be corrupt and favor sub-par research institutions, resulting in potential overinvestment, producing unneeded and wasteful surpluses.12 Conversely, whatever advantage the U.S. retains in AI technology research due to China’s own domestic malfeasance can quickly diminish by way of industrial espionage. Despite agreeing to the U.S.-China Cyber Agreement, in which both sides agreed that “neither country’s government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property,” it was reported to Congress that “from 2011-2018, more than 90 percent of the Justice Department’s cases alleging economic espionage by or to benefit a state involve China, and more than two-thirds of the Department’s theft of trade secrets cases have had a nexus to China.”13 Such actions, while not germane exclusively to AI development, clearly show an aggressive approach to technological progress with little regard for agreed-upon rules. When applied to AI research, such aggressiveness may result in less safe outcomes due to China’s tolerance for risk at the expense of speed. This may eventually result in the U.S. possessing more capable applications in the long-term.14 However, such optimism does not exempt the U.S. from adjusting to the modern concept of warfare for which China is rapidly developing AI in the first place.

System of Systems/System Destruction Warfare

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) no longer sees war as a contest of annihilation between opposing forces. Rather, it sees war as a clash between opposing operational systems.15 Thus, China sees the victor in a war as the side who renders the other side’s systems ineffective, the ultimate goal of system destruction warfare. This model demands a joint force that utilizes numerous types of units from multiple services to continuously conduct operations across the battlefield.16 The past predicated that dominance in one or more physical domains was sufficient for warfighting success. As an example, 20th century thought suggested that air dominance was necessary to achieve land or sea dominance. Systems confrontation, on the other hand, predicates that warfare success requires dominance in all domains: land, sea, air, cyber, electromagnetic, and space.17 However, for such dominance to occur, the first domain necessitating control is the information one, as it is the nucleus that ensures everything else within the overall system correctly functions.18

To account for this dynamic force posturing in all domains, the PLA requires multidimensional and multifunctional operational systems. Such system permutations enable enough flexibility to adjust to newly developed technology.19 Correspondingly, a degree of malleability is built into the architecture of the PLA’s system categories of entities, structures, and elements. Entities include the weapon platform itself. Structures include the matrix style interlink that allows for coordinated functioning. Elements include the system’s command and control, protection, and maneuver capabilities. When intertwined, the resulting web of each system’s entities, structures, and elements provides redundancies that ensure the overall system is greater than the sum of its disparate parts.20 That said, each part is elastic enough that taking one part away from the web will not result in a total loss, while adding a part is equally non-destructive.

With these systems, the PLA seeks to strike four types of targets: 1) targets that interrupt the flow of information within an enemy’s system, such as key data links to a system’s command and control, 2) targets that degrade essential elements of an enemy’s system, such as a system’s firepower capability, 3) targets that interrupt the operational architecture of a system, such as the physical nodes of the essential elements (i.e. the firepower network), and 4) targets that interrupt the tempo of an enemy’s systems architecture, such as a system’s “reconnaissance-control-attack-evaluation” process that is inherent to all operational systems.21 Thus, the PLA seeks to operationalize its destructive warfare model by targeting what it perceives as the most vulnerable parts of its adversary’s infrastructure. By building flexibility into the design of units within its own system of systems (entities, structure, and elements) used to conduct this targeting, China’s system destruction warfare model accounts for loss while simultaneously adapting to new developments. Such an approach makes for a leaner, smarter, and dynamic force.

Decision-Centric Warfare/Our Response

In the current environment, Carrier Strike Groups are the Navy’s common force packages that deliver multi-mission units.22 These groups are vulnerable due to their size and aggregation, providing the perfect units for the PLA to target with its system destruction warfare model. Other services’ main force packages, such as the Army’s Brigade Combat Teams and the Marines’ Expeditionary Units, are also reflective of a vulnerable force borne out of the attrition-centric warfare model.23 While this legacy mindset worked in the 20th century, Great Power competition in the 21st century provides the requisite scenario to impose multiple dilemmas on an enemy to prevent it from achieving objectives. This decision-centric warfare approach, where making decisions faster than the adversary is paramount, is the cornerstone ingredient of the required methodology to confront China’s destructive warfare model.24 Having the Navy’s current force package, the Carrier Strike Group, utilize AI and autonomous systems is the means by which this new approach can be operationalized.

In addition to the benefits of AI discussed earlier, autonomous systems afford forces the ability to conduct more distributed operations by way of disaggregating capabilities of more traditional multi-mission platforms into a larger number of less flexible and less expensive systems.25 Use of these autonomous systems, on an as-available basis, is the hallmark standard of the decision-centric model. Thus, command and control of autonomous forces is based on communications availability, rather than a hardened command and control network. Decision-centric warfare assumes, and accounts for, contested and/or denied communications, as a commander will only possess control of forces that he/she actually can communicate with.26

From a decision-centric warfare model perspective, the current force’s Mission Command actually undermines its ability to make the necessary quickest decisions. It does so because the current command and control of forces is dependent on working communications, or extensively troubleshooting them, all of the time. To enable commanders to address this shortfall, the adoption of a new command and control structure that combines human command and AI-enabled machine control is necessary. Such a structure would combine a human’s flexibility and creativity with a machine’s speed and scale.27 Over time, as discussed earlier, human commanders could adjust machine recommendations, thereby forcing the machine to learn, increasing the commander’s confidence in subsequent recommendations when communications are limited.28 The net result of this feedback loop is a decision-making apparatus superior to an adversary’s. When applied to enemy systems attempting to target/destroy friendly force systems, the resulting quick decision-making effectively outmaneuvers the opposing side.

A key enabler of this quick decision-making rests with the advent of the Information Warfare Commander position on Carrier Strike Group staffs, which has gradually elevated the status of the Information Warfare Community (IWC) across the service. Along with this position, personnel within the Strike Group IWC Enterprise are key enablers who must recognize that their ability to leverage decision-making and combat capability lies with their ability to enable AI and autonomous systems of the future, combine this enabling with their own understanding of enemy intentions, and ultimately make recommendations to improve the commander’s decision cycle.

To achieve this, IWC personnel must be cognizant of new technologies on the rise within industry, where the most promising disruptive innovation trends reside that can meet these challenges. As the National Security Strategy states, “We must harness innovative technologies that are being developed outside of the traditional defense industrial base.”29 To this end, and to “harness innovative technologies,” an AI-industry sponsor must be assigned to each Carrier Strike Group Information Warfare Commander and his/her subordinate staff. This sponsorship program would enable IWC personnel the ability to incorporate the most modern AI technology into at-risk portions of their portfolios and define exacting requirements for new tools that are flexible enough for future progressive technological investment. While such innovation developments may surpass the tenure of the personnel assigned to the Strike Group staffs, the output of each team will aid future teams’ performance and eventually the Navy’s fighting ability. As such, after several iterations of afloat Strike Group staffs working with their respective industry sponsor, the result would be the promotion of tool production that aids the service in possessing the technological and decision-making edge…and ultimately play a direct role in future potential conflicts.

Getting to this point will require a new mindset for IWC personnel. Most do not possess acquisitions experience and most have not worked in positions that require technological innovation. To aid in not overburdening an IWC staff, the TYCOM should assign an Acquisitions Community sponsor to each Information Warfare Commander. This new combined team, comprised of the Strike Group IWC personnel, the AI-industry sponsor, and the TYCOM-approved Acquisitions Community sponsor, would seek to prototype tools/designs that attack key problem areas encountered by end users (i.e. the IWC personnel), as stated earlier. By swiftly deploying new operational concepts into potentially useable tools and products, the new decision-making infrastructure would support a warfare model fit to confront China’s today.

When compared to every other warfare area within the Navy, the IWC requires the most modern technological advances in the least amount of time. While other communities have proven processes and protocols in place to implement new technologies into their existing platforms, the IWC is simply too new and in too much need to benefit from these practices. This demands that the IWC business model be different, as Information Warfare Commanders need tools right now to effectively compete and win. Further, they must be the right tools where end users have a direct say in what they get.

Great Power Competition will dominate our military’s focus for the foreseeable future and the Information Warfare Community, including Naval Intelligence, must adjust accordingly. Understanding that China intends to enhance its military modernization efforts with AI, that it thinks differently about warfare in the 21st century, and that we need to modify our own warfare model to effectively respond, the Information Warfare Community’s newfound status should elevate new technologies into our Navy’s decision-making and combat DNA. The nation, and our Navy, cannot afford a misstep in this realm. The next major conflict will possess high stakes in the information domain where the Navy’s IWC will be at the forefront.

LCDR Andrew Thompson is currently serving at the USINDOPACOM JIOC. As a Surface Warfare Officer, he served aboard USS BOONE (FFG 28) as the Communications Officer, at Destroyer Squadron FIFTY as the Operations Officer, and at Naval Special Warfare Group ONE as the Middle East Desk Officer. As an Intelligence Officer, he has completed tours at the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Navy Cyber Warfare Development Group, and Carrier Strike Group TWELVE (as the Deputy N2). He holds a B.S. in Naval Architecture (USNA ’05), an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering (NPS), and an M.A. in National Security Studies (Naval War College). He holds subspecialties in African Studies and Space Systems, and has deployed to the SOUTHCOM, EUCOM, AFRICOM, and CENTCOM AORs. The views expressed in this article are his own, and do not reflect those of the Department of Defense or the Intelligence Community. 

Endnotes

1 Trump, Donald J., National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December, 2017, 27.

2 “China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress.”

3 Ibid., 2.

4 Ibid., 3.

5 “Artificial Intelligence and National Security,” Congressional Research Service, November 21, 2019, 21.

6 Ibid., 21.

7 Ibid., 27.

8 Ibid., 28.

9 Ibid., 28.

10 Ibid., 28-29.

11 Ibid., 29.

12 Ibid., 23.

13 Ibid., 23.

14 Ibid., 23.

15 Engstrom, Jeffrey, How the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Seeks to Wage Modern Warfare, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2018, 10-11.

16 Ibid., 12.

17 Ibid., 13.

18 Ibid., 12.

19 Ibid., 13.

20 Ibid., 14.

21 Ibid., 16-18.

22 Clark, Bryan, Dan Patt, and Harrison Schramm. Mosaic Warfare: Exploiting Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems to Implement Decision-Centric Operations. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2020, ii.

23 Ibid., iii.

24 Ibid., iii.

25 Ibid., v.

26 Ibid., v.

27 Ibid., vi.

28 Ibid., vi.

29 Trump, Donald J., National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December, 2017, 29.

Bibliography

“Artificial Intelligence and National Security.” Congressional Research Service. November 21, 2019. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R45178.pdf

“China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress.” Congressional Research Service. May 21, 2020. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33153.pdf

Clark, Bryan, Dan Patt, and Harrison Schramm. Mosaic Warfare: Exploiting Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems to Implement Decision-Centric Operations. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2020. https://csbaonline.org/uploads/documents/Mosaic_Warfare_Web.pdf

Engstrom, Jeffrey. How the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Seeks to Wage Modern Warfare. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2018. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1708.html

Trump, Donald J. National Security Strategy of the United States of America. December, 2017. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf

Featured Image: Sailors wearing gas masks operate a combat direction system console aboard the guided-missile frigate Handan (Hull 579) during a 4-day maritime training exercise conducted by a destroyer flotilla of the navy under the PLA Northern Theater Command in waters of the Yellow Sea from March 27 to 30, 2018. (eng.chinamil.com.cn/Photo by Zhang Hailong)

Old Books, New Ideas: Realigning Naval Intelligence for Great Power Competition

Naval Intelligence Week

By Matt Wertz

The statesman of the twentieth century, Winston S. Churchill, cautioned about both the prelude to war and actual war, saying: “However sure you are that you could easily win, that there would not be a war if the other man did not think he also had a chance.” Therefore, intelligence as a whole should be looking for the other man’s chances, and to stay one move ahead of his. For Naval Intelligence, the maritime portion of the Great Power Competition (GPC) is nothing new; it is the 21st century version of former Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Paul Nitze’s, Cold War sea power tome, this time concerning both the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation.1 Naval Intelligence will prove its relevance by maintaining its wartime footing daily through the experiences and insights that its competitors do not have. Naval Intelligence is the decision advantage for GPC, using “old school” tools, honed through combat, the Cold War, and combat again, supplemented by “new school” techniques. All of these tools will be that decisive advantage just in case “competition” becomes “combat.”

What Intelligence is, and is Not

Intelligence is to provide a game plan, a scouting report concerning the competition. Others say that intelligence exists to narrow the range of uncertainty, and to predict patterns, and not events.2 Unfortunately, these opinions are written from a swivel chair in an airconditioned office in Washington, DC, and not underway from the Flag Bridge. Tactically speaking, “the single most important role of intelligence is to provide warning.”3 In the past, the failure to provide warning, the intelligence community’s “one job, one task, one mission” resulted in catastrophes at Pearl Harbor and on 9/11.4

The strategic signal regarding indications and warning is clear: the United States has returned to a state-versus-state paradigm against China and Russia for the foreseeable future, other missions, such as humanitarian assistance and counterterrorism, notwithstanding.5 The analysis that “as [China’s and Russia’s] denial and deception abilities increase, intelligence collection and the realm of the possible will be even more important, requiring greater preparedness and increased readiness, since warning time will be a thing of the past” is truer now than when first published in 1980.6 Naval intelligence must answer the question: when will China and Russia achieve their own GPC goals and objectives?

Intelligence and operations work best symbiotically, and lacking this symbiosis, the best possible intelligence will not be produced.7 This has proven true from ancient times to the modern day: “Those engaged in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan will attest that genuine ops-intel integration is a two-way street where warriors and intelligence specialists feed one another to produce genuine synergy and sharpened effects.”8 Additionally, the events surrounding the fall of the Shah of Iran taught: “History provides ample illustration to suggest the futility of warning if decision makers are unwilling to accept warning or are unprepared to deal with the terms on which the warning comes.”9 So, if Naval Intelligence’s job is “tomorrow,” i.e., warning in advance of conflict or catastrophe, then how can it accomplish this?

The current realignment to a navy-on-navy focus means that Naval Intelligence must reemphasize traditional intelligence disciplines (the “old school”), and learn new, tech- and data-savvy ones (the “new school”).

Old School

One “old school” theme has echoed across two centuries of naval intelligence: language training. Others, discussed for decades, include: geographic specialization expertise; operational intelligence (OpIntel); and targeting (i.e., war at sea targeting and strike). 

With perfect hindsight, the pre-World War II U.S. Navy should have developed in parallel the Rainbow War Plans and the skills from pertinent specialties, including the intelligence, communications, and medical communities, capable of working language, culture, and regional fluency in theaters where the United States expected to operate. However, the realities of the budget, especially concerning the interwar, post-Great Depression hardware needs may have outweighed the development of linguistic capabilities. Impressment of musicians for a perceived skill is no way to run an intelligence division, or to plan for combat operations. The Navy is now looking itself in the mirror a hundred years after the inception of these interwar operational plans with only a handful of Cantonese, Mandarin, (North) Korean, and Russian-fluent personnel, and even fewer fluent in allies’ languages. 

In 1879, then-Commander Alfred T. Mahan asserted that all officers should have language training,10 and in 1907 Admiral George Dewey said the same thing, commenting on the Russo-Japanese War.11 Other authors made similar observations in 1947,12 2006,13 and 2017, and stressed language and cultural capability for one simple reason: those who receive this education and training will be future chiefs and commanders, and they will have the knowledge and credibility required to be of maximum value to operations in those regions. In 1943, through the use of cultural/language training and expertise, Admiral Nimitz ordered the operation to kill Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Edwin Layton, the man who drafted Nimitz’s order, was the former Naval Attaché to Tokyo before the war, a personal friend of Admiral Yamamoto, and Admiral Nimitz’s Intelligence Officer.14

Open-ocean search and tracking – called Operational Intelligence or OpIntel by the U.S. Navy – has been the staple of intelligence and operations since men first took to the sea. A navy must be able to find its enemy, track its enemy, and if ordered to, engage its enemy using its primary weapons system, whether with its bow on a trireme, or an over-the-horizon guided weapon.15 Otherwise, that navy is useless to its country. OpIntel is the backbone of naval intelligence, requiring deep foundational knowledge of and investment in the adversary’s military doctrine, organizational culture, language, history, and technological trajectories, among others. But to accumulate this expertise, geographic specialists and OpIntel personnel require mutual training and support, before they can produce intelligence for fleet training, capability development, operational plans, etc.

Since at least 1901, authors have discussed collection and reconnaissance in Proceedings. For instance, one author thought that it was “the barest common sense” that intelligence not only be acquired in peacetime, but maintained “in the most persistent, painstaking and methodical way, so that it shall be but a matter of a minute to lay the Government hand upon any portion needed.”16 Today, this includes everything from order-of-battle to technical intelligence,17 and other collections.18

In Ellicott’s 1901 article, he stressed the need for reconnaissance. Forty years later, both reconnaissance and intelligence played their respective roles at Midway; had either failed, the U.S. Navy might have been defeated.19 In 1971, the U.S. Navy discussed the same theme concerning satellite ocean surveillance,20 and then again with the emergence of unmanned amphibious reconnaissance. Satellites cannot detect everything, and more often than not, the best intelligence collector is a human standing watch at sea. However, the intelligence community needs to be responsive to every intelligence report offered by a unit: no commanding officer should ever say, “Well, we sent the message and never heard from them. I don’t know if they even got it.”21 

The 20th century saw a reliance on the concept of coalition warfare, from World War I through the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, continuing into the Global War on Terror in the 21st century. Therefore, intelligence sharing is a rule. Although the current “Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council is an outgrowth of a World War II initiative, other counties and partners are engaged.22 Allied partners have been known to have effective intelligence capabilities.

Secrecy, Counterintelligence, and Security

Although “know yourself and know your enemy” is normally an operationally-associated dictum, American counterintelligence support to warfighting dates back to the Revolutionary War.23 The United States needs to keep its secrets secret. Many times, the United States has been its own worst enemy with respect to operational security, from social media surveillance, to classified material in peer-review publications,24 to open sources, to theft and positive collection from a hostile nation,25 and even espionage.26

Two years ago, counterintelligence (CI) was an award-winning topic in Proceedings as the author showed how important effective CI programs (“knowing yourself”) are, directly impacting operations. The Navy has had its spies, and strong CI operations can upset the game plans of those who try to steal the Navy’s information, a target set not limited to the Chinese or the Russians. The importance for GPC is that the Navy needs to protect its information, to root out the “moles” in the Department, and to prosecute them, or to use them for its own purposes.

The final word concerning security and counterintelligence rests in a comment made immediately following 9/11: “The final intelligence failure is the most telling, and that is our government’s failure to keep our intelligence capabilities secret. This is partially the fault of the intelligence community in its eagerness to brag about capabilities in search of appropriations, but more usually, the ‘leak’ comes from Congress or a senior leader in the administration. A collection capability revealed too often has become a capability destroyed. If we fail to protect our sources and methods, in time our system will be emasculated and intelligence failures will become a certainty.”27

The current COVID pandemic underscores the requirements for planning and executing operations in a contaminated environment (whether biological, chemical, or radiological). These considerations have been constant since World War I,28 persisting through the Cold War,29 the Balkan conflict,30 Afghanistan, and Iraq.31 Medical intelligence in support of force protection and maritime interdiction may play a greater role in GPC than originally envisioned. In fact, medical professionals may have more contact with foreign nationals than intelligence or operations personnel, and will require language and cultural training. Medical intelligence is as valuable as every other functional area of intelligence, especially in support of any operations ashore as those personnel “feet dry” may have contact with not only a myriad of possibly infectious diseases, but may be providing combat medical support simultaneously.

New School

In recent years, the asymmetric threat,32 cyber warfare, fourth generation warfare, artificial intelligence, and data science/analytics have come to fore as mission and mission support areas. In planning for cyber warfare, certain schools of thought have arisen, including the need for a cyber defense in depth as in traditional naval warfare, force protection, and offensive force application. Nowhere is this more prevalent than social media. “Connections on social media (including LinkedIn and Facebook) may not be who we think they are. The enemy wants to be your online friend and shipmate—and it is putting us all at risk.”

Other areas of importance to the “new school” of intelligence are AI and the rise of data, which affect the military and business sectors alike in areas such as the application of machine learning, the “shelf life” of data before it becomes stale or superseded, and data security, to name a few.33 Data should be taken out of its silo, and placed in more of a horizontal network. However useful as it may be in business, AI and application of data should never overreach beyond its intent, and should never undermine established principles of command: the commander-in-the-loop has the final say. In GPC, these are the tools of a new era of threat collection, reporting, and most importantly, analysis and prediction. 

No Bucks, no Buck Rogers

What is important, what is not, and what is worth paying for in peacetime that will take resources away from another capability that is an “operational requirement?” How much risk is acceptable when deciding not to have a given intelligence capability?

As intelligence is part of the Command Process, “This is no time ‘to begrudge the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver’ for information.”34 However, the Congress has other programs to fund, and in days of austere funding, every budgetary line item will be under scrutiny, including investments in intelligence.

There is a great difference between the meanings of the cost of intelligence, the price of intelligence, and the value of intelligence, but intelligence can provide a clear estimate of how the United States and its allies can cost-effectively compete and therefore drive down the price of defense (shipbuilding, weapons systems procurement, etc.), and the cost of war. 

The Bottom Lines

First, some of the issues raised in this article have been discussed since the Rutherford B. Hayes Administration, and the U.S. Navy has an opportunity to use these timeless lessons to grow and to use its intelligence capability during the early stages of GPC, rather than trying to catch up to current operations with minimal staffing, funding, equipment, and training. These monies start with “knowing your enemy” and progress into language proficiency and geographical area specialists, OpIntel, counterintelligence, medical intelligence (diseases are an enemy, too), and allied intelligence sharing.

Second, emphasis on both the active use of intelligence as well as the active defense of intelligence from the enemy are critical for maintaining information as a precious commodity. The enemy will steal it as fast as it can be produced. The easiest place to defeat an enemy is from the enemy’s computer hard drive, or from the enemy’s blackboard, not from a naval engagement.

Third, GPC is not a single-designator task, it is a service-wide issue. Although Naval Intelligence will play its role to ensure that the competition is favorable to the U.S. Navy, other designators will have to play their part as well. Naval Intelligence has had decades of combat experience, from Operation Desert Storm to Afghanistan, and will be a force multiplier by doing its time-tested job day in and day out to a receptive operational audience. But the other designator will need to do their respective parts as well. 

Finally, addressing these issues today means that the U.S. Navy and Naval Intelligence will maintain maritime superiority through GPC without firing a salvo in anger, and thus prove Mister Churchill correct: the other fellow will realize that he does not have a chance.

Matt Wertz is a retired Naval Intelligence officer with overseas assignments in Korea and Japan, was awarded the Bronze Star in Afghanistan for running Emergency Management Operations in 2004-2005. He made four more deployments to Afghanistan doing Counter-IED support. He has a MBA, and has accumulated language education on his own in: Latin, German, Korean, Hebrew, and Greek. Although born and bred a Pennsylvanian, he is living in Waynesboro, GA, with his wife and is a direct descendant of a veteran of the Battle of Waynesboro who was assigned to the Pennsylvania 9th Cavalry.

Endnotes

[1] For the overarching blueprint for winning the Cold War at sea, see: Paul Nitze, et al., Securing the Seas: The Soviet Naval Challenge and Western Alliance Options: An Atlantic Council Policy Study (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1979). Although thorough by 1979 standards, it does not reflect certain post-Cold War missions that Mr. Nitze, et al. could not have foreseen.

[2] Brent Scowcroft, “Intelligence is Not a Crystal Ball,” The Washington Post, 12 January 2000, 18.

[3] T. A. Brooks, “Did Intelligence Fail Us? By October 2001 U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 127, no. 10 (October 2001): 54-55.

[4] Joseph J. Thomas, Leadership Embodied: The Secrets to Success of the Most Effective Navy and Marine Corps Leaders (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2013). 76.

[5] Roberta Wohlstetter, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1962); and Ephraim Kam, Surprise Attack: The Victim’s Perspective (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988).

[6] Joseph C. Arnold, “On the Importance of Secret Intelligence,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 106, no. 8 (August 1980): 47-53, 53.

[7] J. V. Heimark, “Know Thine Enemy,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 85, no. 8 (August 1959): 65-71, 68.

[8] Mike Studeman, “Seven Myths of Intelligence,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 135, vol. 2 (February 2009): 64-69, 68-69.

[9] United States. Congress. House. Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Subcommittee on Evaluation. Iran: Evaluation of U.S. Intelligence Performance Prior to November 1978: Staff Report. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1979. Page 7.

[10] A. T. Mahan, “Naval Education,” U.S. Naval Institute The Record, 5, no. 4 (October 1879): 345-376, 352.

[11] Kemp Tolley, “A Century of Foreign Languages in the Navy,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 91, no. 2 (February 1965): 43-51, 45.

[12] R. A. Kotrla, “Naval Intelligence Specialists Trained on Post-Graduate Level,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 73, no. 9 (September 1947): 1061-1063.

[13] Zachary M. Peterson, “UAVs Praised: Intel Officers Emphasize Research, Key Jobs, Cultural Understanding.” Inside the Navy 19, no. 2 (2006): 2. www.jstor.org/stable/24839778.

[14] Edwin T. Layton, et al., And I Was There:” Pearl Harbor and Midway–Breaking the Secrets (New York: W. Morrow, 1985), 474-47 

[15] Dan Shanower, “Naval Intelligence Must Focus on Time Critical Targeting,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 126, no. 10 (October 2000): 102-103.

[16] John M. Ellicott, “Naval Reconnaissance in Time of Peace,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 27, no. 3 (September 1901): 561-579, 561.

[17] William L. Sachse, “Our Naval Attaché System: Its Origins and Development to 1917,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 72, no. 5 (May 1946): 661-673, 661.

[18] Chester C. Wood, “The Flow Of Strategic Intelligence,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 59, no. 3 (September 1933): 1296-1304.

[19] Heimark, 69. Emphasis added.

[20] Frank B. Murphy, “Ocean Surveillance: New Weapon of Naval Warfare,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 97, no.2 (February 1971): 41.

[21] Carl Giese, Commentary on, “Stop, Look, and Listen,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 93, no. 12 (December 1967): 103-104.

 [22] See: James Igoe Walsh, The International Politics of Intelligence Sharing (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010); Muza Tuzuner, Intelligence Cooperation Practices in the 21st Century: Towards a Culture of Sharing. (Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2010); and, Kevin Jack Riley, and RAND Corporation, State and Local Intelligence in the War on Terrorism (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corp, 2005).

[23] Sam Roberts, Spy History 101: America’s Intelligence Quotient, New York Times, 08 September 2002, Section 4, 4. George Washington declared ”the necessity of procuring good intelligence is apparent and need not be further urged.” He also warned ”for upon secrecy, success depends in most enterprises of the kind, and for want of it, they are generally defeated, however well planned and promising a favorable issue.”

[24] Tracy Barrett Kittredge, “A Military Danger. The Revelation of Secret Strategic Plans,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 81, no. 7 (July 1955): 731-743. Also, Paul H. Backus, “Security and The Double Standard,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 87, no. 12 (December 1961): 36-43.

[25] Takeo Yoshikawa, “Top Secret Assignment Completed,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 86, no. 12 (December 1960): 27-39.

[26] Esmond D. Smith, Jr., “Keeping Our Secrets,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 120, no. 5 (May 1994): 80-84.

[27] T. A. Brooks, 54-55.

[28] C. C. Baughman, “The Use of Chemicals in War,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 53, no. 5 (May 1927): 547-550.

[29] Timothy J. Keen, “Artificial Intelligence and the 1,200-ship Navy,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 114, no. 10 (October 1988): 96-100.

[30] Vash Klein, “Chemical, Biological, or Radiological?” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 126, no. 6 (June 2000): 74-75.

[31] Thomas C. Hone, “Combining Strategy and Intelligence,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 119, no. 6 (June 1993): 59-60.

[32] Rory Berke, “Training for the Wrong Fight,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 134, no. 1 (January 2008): 56-60.

[33] Andrei Haigu and Julian Wright, “When Data Creates Competitive Advantage…And When It Doesn’t,” Harvard Business Review (January-February 2020): 2-9.

[34] Rufus L. Taylor, “Command and The Intelligence Process,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 86, no. 8 (August 1960): 27-39.

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