Rowden: Navy’s Surface Warriors Returning Focus to Sea Control
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — The Navy’s surface warfare boss said his warfare community is focusing increasingly on sea control as its core mission.
“It’s all about sea control,” Vice Adm. Thomas S. Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Forces and commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, told an audience Dec. 7 at the Combat Systems Symposium sponsored by the American Society of Naval Engineers. “The reason we have a navy is to control the sea.”
Rowden framed sea control as “a condition that exists in which the naval force is capable of mounting the full range of combat operations within the acceptable level of risk given the threat and the desired combat objectives.
“Sea control is not global; it is not permanent,” he said. “It is regional and it is temporal. We seize it from an opponent or we establish it over uncommanded seas. We do not exercise sea control for the sake of sea control, but to enable other operations, to include power projection, war at sea, and maritime security.
“Sea control is the ultimate cross-domain pursuit. … To establish sea control, one must control the undersea domain, the surface domain, the air domain, and the electromagnetic domain,” he said.
Rowden noted that since the Cold War, with the lack of a peer naval competitor and the focus on maritime security and land-attack operations in recent wars and crises, the Navy’s focus on sea control had atrophied.
“Post-Cold War, we were not challenged is sea control,” he said. “We had the luxury of stopping. It’s all back. The challenge is sea control and that’s why we’re going after it.
“Everything good that the Navy does operationally begins with sea control,” he said, noting that sea control enabled the defeat of Japan in World War II and “was in the forefront” of the Maritime Strategy executed in the 1980s against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
“Sea control is at the heart of our Navy’s future ability to provide a credible, conventional deterrent to rising powers in an uncertain future,” he said. “I have real concern that while we remain the world’s most powerful navy, other nations have become more adept in denying us free use of the seas.”
Rowden announced that he would present a new surface warfare strategy in January at the convention of the Surface Warfare Association.
He also has implemented measures to achieve “excellence in how we operate” and said his job is to “recapture [the Navy’s] historical expertise in sea control.”
One measure was creation of the Surface and Mine Warfare Warfighting Development Center, headquartered in San Diego.
“You can feel the pride of every single person that works in that place,” he said. “There’s a sea change going on out there — in the fleet, on the ships, in the wardrooms, in the chiefs’ messes. There is a tremendous amount of excitement for what it is we do — taking ships to sea, what it is we do for the country, what it is we do for the joint force, recognizing the value our surface ships deliver to our Navy and our nation.”
Rowden credited the center’s school for surface weapons tactics instructors, an equivalent of the tactical air community’s “Topgun” school, in part for revitalizing of tactical thinking in the surface warfare officer community.
“The expertise and tactical proficiency that is being generated in young lieutenants and young lieutenant commanders … is absolutely eye-watering,” he said.