Magazine article National Defense

Navy Can Secure 'Access' for Joint Force

Magazine article National Defense

Navy Can Secure 'Access' for Joint Force

Article excerpt

Future enemies could attempt to deny U.S. entry to ports and airfields

Despite the geographic and--sometimes perceived--philosophical distance between the operating fleet and those inside the Beltway, the Navy's ongoing efforts inside the Pentagon and in the fleet are indeed moving in the same direction.

The most important issues for both the fleet and Navy Pentagon are the employment of forces and their contribution to joint war fighting.

During the past decade, successive strategy and force assessments have sought to balance ends with means and to identify a "right-sized" U.S. military. This year, the second Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) will attempt to refine U.S. defense strategy and determine the force structure needed to execute that strategy. The central question is which capabilities are needed to defend America's global security interests.

Each of the services possesses unique and complementary attributes. Future projection of U.S. combat power overseas--where many of our security interests lie--will therefore be a joint endeavor.

Since the end of the Cold War, many of the forces that were based overseas have returned to the United States. This suggests that the future joint force must be more mobile and expeditionary to overcome the "tyranny of distance," particularly in the Asian theater.

The Army and the Air Force have begun "transforming" their force structures and/or organizations to do just that.

A rapidly deployable joint force must be capable of moving quickly to the fight. To accomplish that, it needs immediate and sustained access to any region of the world where U.S. security interests are threatened. Access is critical to U.S. operations against a potential foe. All else flows from the initial success of maintaining the access required for the follow-on fighting forces.

In the coming decades, we expect that this access may be challenged by nations that seek to expand their regional influence in ways that compete with the interests of the United States. One possible area of emphasis for the forces of these regional competitors would be on anti-access or area-denial capabilities, employing asymmetric means to deny access to regions of U.S. interest. Land-based cruise missiles, advanced surface-to-air missiles, land and sea mines and conventionally powered submarines typify the scope of these military threats. Other potential threats are ballistic missiles, weapons of mass destruction and information warfare.

The QDR analysis should identify those capabilities that overcome those challenges and create the requisite conditions for the timely projection of joint combat power.

It is helpful to consider the question of why naval forces are deployed overseas in peacetime, and how improved capabilities will expand the capacity of those forward-deployed forces to assure access.

The United States is a maritime nation with global interests. The oceans are the great commons" that connect us to the world. And in an era of globalization, information and communications technologies inextricably link our interests and economic prosperity to the freedom of these "commons."

Maritime transport alone accounts for more than 99 percent of the volume and 80 percent of the value of all intercontinental trade. U.S. exports directly support 11.5 million U.S. jobs and have fueled one-third of total economic growth since 1993. Nearly three quarters of those exports travel by sea.

Global information networks have become the catalysts for "just in time" supply chains, or those "heel-to-toe" economic relationships that allow merchandise to move more efficiently, without the overhead costs of warehouses and storage facilities. It is maritime transportation, however, that makes "just-in-time" work. Ships at sea have replaced the warehouse ashore.

Forward deployed naval forces, additionally, can be employed from within a region, without restrictions, even as we might begin to deploy other assets. …

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