Academic journal article Naval War College Review

Future Navies-Present Issues

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

Future Navies-Present Issues

Article excerpt

The U.S. Navy is transforming itself to deal with a wider range of missions than the traditional blue-water, major combat operations that it has traditionally been equipped to handle.1 That emerging transformation has resulted in a number of new programs, technologies, and strategies that raise interesting, and sometimes complex, legal issues. Lawyers advising the Navy's leadership through this transformational process are analyzing these legal issues now, in the present, to ensure that the future U.S. Navy is properly, and legally, organized, trained, and equipped. This article will address five topics of interest for naval planners and legal advisers who are building the Navy of the future.


The U.S. Navy currently maintains a force of approximately 550,000 full-time employees, about 35 percent of whom are civilians. At any given time, 130-plus of the Navy's 283 ships are under way, about 45 percent of the total ship inventory.2 In 2004 the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), then Admiral Vern Clark, directed the Navy to maximize capabilities, minimize payroll, improve productivity, and eliminate unnecessary billets. One way to meet those goals is to remove sailors from billets that have little to do with war fighting and replace them with civilians. At sea, for instance, sailors cut hair, serve meals, maintain the engineering plant, chip paint-all tasks that civilians are equally capable of performing, and in fact do perform at commands ashore. Placing civilians on warships to perform those functions is a logical extension of the CNO's guidance and would free sailors for combat-related activities.

Accordingly, one of the Navy's answers to the CNO's challenge is an experimental program to place federal civil-service mariners on board warships. These mariners perform tasks naval personnel have traditionally performed on board warships but that civilians have performed on board naval auxiliary vessels for decades and on board merchant vessels for centuries-navigation, engineering, and deck seamanship. For example, in early 2005 USS Mount Whitney (LCC/ JCC 20) deployed to the European theater as the new U.S. Sixth Fleet and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) command ship.4 One of the most sophisticated command, control, communications, computer, and intelligence (C4I) ships ever commissioned, Mount Whitney today is manned by a composite crew of 157 U.S. Navy sailors and 143 civilian mariners employed by the Military Sealift Command. These three hundred personnel represent a reduction of 276 from the previous all-active-duty Navy crew. "By supplementing the crew with civilian mariners," the Sixth Fleet Public Affairs Office reports, "the Navy is operating the command ship at a reduced cost and employing captured uniformed personnel billets on forward combatant vessels."5 Mount Whitney will be engaged in NATO exercises and Standing Naval Forces Mediterranean maritime operations and will be available as a command and control ship for combat operations if required.

The Navy is simultaneously pursuing the concept of "sea basing" as a transformational initiative. Sea basing is the Navy's answer to the concern that access to bases in foreign territory will be less predictable and more ad hoc than in the past. This concern is not an idle or speculative one, as evidenced by Turkey's refusal during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM to permit the 4th Infantry Division to cross Turkish territory into northern Iraq.

The sea base is envisioned as a system of systems-a flotilla of ships serving collectively as a staging and sustainment area from which ground forces can launch attacks ashore in a nonpermissive environment-sometimes referred to as "forcible entry operations." Though no one knows exactly what the sea base will look like in any detail, it will probably consist of a "network of ships that would provide artillery fire, air support, supplies and a secure home for troops fighting on land. …

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