CNO: Nation Needs More Naval Power
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy’s top officer said the United States needs more naval power to meet the demands of the National Defense Strategy.
Numerous studies “have all converged on the conclusion that we need more naval power to meet our responsibilities to the nation,” Adm. John M. Richardson, chief of naval operations, said Feb. 1 at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank.
Richardson discussed six dimensions in which naval power can be increased, “dimensions that hang together. … We must keep them in balance to provide a sense of integrity or wholeness.”
The CNO said that “one way to increase naval power is just to build a bigger fleet,” noting that the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 codified a fleet of 355 ships as necessary, subject to appropriations. “A bigger Navy is a more powerful Navy.”
The second dimension would be to “build a better fleet,” Richardson said, by modernizing platforms with better systems, making each platform more capable and, therefore, adding up to a more capable fleet.
“We are on the cusp of some very intriguing technologies that not only would increase our capability but also get us on the correct side of the cost curve,” he said, including concepts such as directed energy weapons, high-powered microwave weapons, lasers, electromagnetic maneuver warfare and other innovations, including a family of unmanned systems, some of which would be platforms and some of which would be payloads.
Richardson said the third dimension of increased naval power could be achieved through networking platforms and systems of the fleet.
“The power of networking things together creatively, adaptively, brings more power to that force,” he said.
“The fourth dimension is a more talented fleet,” the CNO said, referring to the number of Sailors and the skill sets “those Sailors are going to need, different than the ones we have right now. … As we get a bigger fleet, we’re going to need more Sailors. As we get a better fleet, we’re going to need Sailors that are trained a little more differently than we train them right now. Those systems demand different skills.”
The CNO named the fifth dimension as “the agile fleet, an appreciation for the concepts of operations [CONOPS] with which we operate that fleet, the C2 [command and control] structures with which we command and control that fleet.”
He noted that there is always a “dynamic [interplay] between the technology available to the fleet and the CONOPS with which we operate that fleet.
“As we consider things like distributed maritime operations, we’re really looking for a fleet that much more leverages the global maneuver power that is inherent in a Navy,” he said. “The only thing that structures that environment are the natural chokepoints. What it is not responsive to is the artificial lines: combatant commander boundaries and those sorts of things.
“We have to make sure that we preserve the inherent agility of the Navy as it maneuvers,” he said.
Richardson said the sixth dimension is the ready fleet, noting that turning potential power into kinetic energy requires readiness. Steaming, flying, having full magazines, logistics in place, spare parts available and maintenance accomplished were the things that bring a fleet to life, into actual capability, he said.
The CNO said that none of the dimensions “by themselves are sufficient to respond to today’s complex challenges without commanding officers of ships that are focused on competition, focused on building teams, that can go out there and compete and win.
“So, let there be no doubt: In times of triumph, times of turbulence, rough seas, calm seas, our Navy is operating around the world to secure our interests, protect America from attack, protect our prosperity, our influence around the world, ensure our way of life, which has always been linked to the sea,” he said. “We are a maritime nation. We hope that, by virtue of this construct, we will build the Navy the nation needs: a safe Navy for our Sailors, a reassuring Navy for our partners and a lethal Navy for our enemies.”