Naval Forces for the Future
Adm. Harry Train II, USN (Ret.)
Whoever will be serving as Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) of the United States Navy in the mid-1990s will not have to grapple so much with the challenge of acquiring naval forces. Rather, his problem will be one of applying existing forces to evolving tasks, the fuller nature of which will not yet have become clear. The forces under the CNO's command will be the legacy of the farsighted efforts of predecessors many times removed. However, while those predecessors initiated procurement programs in support of a national strategy focused on containment of a rival superpower, the future CNO will preside over the employment of these forces in pursuit of national objectives in a post-containment world.
Will this make a substantial difference in terms of the Navy's overall capabilities? Probably not. At the turn of the century naval forces will be employed in much the same way as they have been throughout the century's second half. Studies and analyses addressing the frequency with which U.S. naval forces have been employed in crisis management since the end of World War II virtually make up a cottage industry. But the reactive forces involved in those many contingencies were procured in response to the requirements generated by the "case one threat"--the threat posed by the Soviet Union. As Sen. Sam Nunn has observed, "If you can skin the cat, you can skin the kitty." In other words, those forces authorized, funded, and procured for the purpose of containing the Soviet Union can also be invoked against challenges to U.S. interests of lesser magnitude, as they were against Iraq in 1990-91.
The problem for the CNO of the mid- 1990s thus will be not one of acquiring,