By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 11, 2013 – The Navy and Marine Corps spent the last decade moving away from their traditional supporting/supported roles, “and it’s time to come back,” Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, the chief of naval operations, said today at a forum on the future of maritime forces.
For the Navy, Greenert said, that means maintaining a day-to-day presence where it matters, “and we’ve got to be there when it matters.”
The admiral noted the speed with which naval forces were able to respond during the recent North Korean missile crisis.
“If we were not there, if we did not have … a forward deployed naval force, we would not have been able to put in place the ballistic missile defense construct that we had in place in just about 72 hours,” Greenert said.
Today, he said, the Navy has the Kearsarge Amphibious Readiness Group in place in the North Red Sea, off the coast of Egypt. They wouldn’t be there if they hadn’t already been forward-deployed, he added.
“We can’t garrison and respond, because it will be too late,” Greenert said.
In an era of shrinking budgets, the Navy has to make the most of what it has today, he said, and that means finding innovative ways to be forward. “We have a budget that has been sequestered, but the requirement [to respond] hasn’t been sequestered,” the admiral said.
Flexibility is the key to keeping costs down while maintaining a forward presence, he said.
Through disaggregated operations, commanders have the ability to pull together ships and units to meet specific requirements, Greenert said, but the Navy’s older inventory wasn’t designed with this in mind.
The Navy has to build smarter, he said, and that means not constructing platforms that are so integrated and so complicated that they’re only good for about a decade, instead of a more realistic 30-40 year lifespan.
“An alternative is distributed operations with tailored ships with tailored capabilities,” the admiral said.
The Navy’s newest vessels, including Littoral Combat Ships, Joint High Speed Vessels and Mobile Landing Platforms, will provide volume, speed and persistence, with modular, evolvable payloads, and at a lower cost than previous ship generations, Greenert said.
Construction is already underway on these ships, he said, and won’t be affected by sequestration.
But, the admiral said, sequestration will mean fewer carrier strike groups and amphibious readiness groups available to surge to respond to crises. He likened the result to hollowing out a melon. At some point, Greenert said, the Navy will reach a point where it won’t be able to support a surge.
The admiral acknowledged that after spending so long largely operating independently of each other, command and control between Navy and Marine Corps forces is still a challenge.
During Bold Alligator 2012, an annual fleet exercise, he said, “We found we needed a common way to plan and execute amphibious operations … We need a better way to understand the ship-to-shore connectors.”
However, exercises are intended to serve as learning experiences, Greenert said, and the Navy is now investing in portable mission planning and force-tracking capabilities to address this issue.