CNO Outlines Guide Points for Building the Future Navy
By OTTO KREISHER, Seapower Correspondent
WASHINGTON — The Navy’s top officer said the sophisticated coalition strikes last month against chemical weapons facilities in Syria were “a validation” of decades of investments in working with allies and partners and now are being examined for how that “success” could be applied to more sustained and contested engagements in the emerging great-power competition.
“I like leveraging off of success. But how do you take that success into a much more high-end, prolonged, sustained scenario,” Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson said.
Addressing the U.S. Naval Institute’s annual meeting May 2, Richardson also described the drive to build “the Navy the nation needs,” which would be “bigger, better and ready.” But he worried about finding the Sailors that would be needed to crew the planned 355-ship fleet, given the current civil-military gap in the nation.
Richardson said the planning for the Syrian strikes, a large part of which were missiles launched from U.S., French and British vessels, “came together rather quickly” as a result of not only past coalition exercises but also going to each other’s schools and commanders and getting to know each other.
“The idea of trust and confidence … are pillars we’ll lean on as we go forward,” he said.
But Richardson conceded that the Syria mission was deliberately planned as “a surgical strike,” which over time has proven to have been a success. Now officials are looking to “rewind the tape” to re-examine that operation “in the light of great-power, long-term competition. What would we do differently? What capability would we need to have in place to not only build up and conduct that fight, but to get back into the fight and conduct the next one, and the next one after that under much more contested conditions?”
In his address, the admiral cited three guide points for the plan to build the future Navy, which were the guidance service leaders have from the new national security and national defense strategies, the resources Congress has provided in the fiscal 2018 and proposed 2019 defense funding bills, and the “great leadership” they have in Defense Secretary James Mattis and Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.
“By virtue of those three things, we’re in a great place,” he said.
Going forward, it is up to the Navy Department leaders to ensure those resources are spent wisely to build the bigger Navy, to make it better, more capable, more lethal, and to ensure that it is ready. But he stressed the need for “balance” to ensure they could sustain readiness while building up the force.
That is when he cited his concern about attracting enough Sailors to crew all the new ships.
Influenced possibly by the Naval Institute’s long-standing practices of publishing articles on Navy and Marine Corps history, Richardson said the current leaders should “look to the past” for guidance as they plan for the future and a possible great-power conflict. He made several references to the late Adm. Arleigh Burke, a heroic World War II destroyer commander and later CNO.