Naval Expeditionary Warfare Director: Power Projection, Sea Control Must be Linked
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps general who directs the Navy’s expeditionary warfare programs said that, in addition to the Navy’s need to increase from 32 to 38 amphibious warfare ships, the capabilities of those ships must be upgraded to ensure effectiveness and survivability in higher-end, full-spectrum conflict.
“Our thesis is we must reinvigorate naval maneuver warfare, linking sea control and power projection in order to win current and future fights,” Maj. Gen. David W. Coffman, director of expeditionary warfare in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, said July 24 to an audience of the Amphibious Warfare Industrial Base Coalition (AWIBC) on Capitol Hill.
Coffman said the Navy’s expeditionary forces — amphibious warfare ships, landing craft, mine countermeasures ships and vehicles, construction battalions, beachmasters, coastal riverine forces, explosive ordnance disposal forces and SEALs — are “frequently overlooked,” a “non-union shop” compared with the aviation, surface warfare and submarine communities, and spending only approximately 6 percent of the Navy’s budget.
He said that he is working hard to merge the disparate efforts into a cohesive force using a “fiscally, technically and operationally approach.”
Amphibious warfare ships are “the most versatile ships on the planet,” he said, pointing out their use in power projection for combatant commanders throughout the world and their use in aiding American citizens suffering from natural disasters such as hurricanes.
Coffman said the LPD 17 Flight II class of amphibious dock landing ships, beginning with LPD 30, will present an opportunity to add capability to operate in a contested environment.
The new flight of LPDs will be based on the San Antonio-class hull and replace the current Whidbey Island- and Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ships. Coffman said the procurement strategy for the new class has not been finalized.
Coffman said that such future ships would be built from the start to carry and operate unmanned systems.
Also speaking at the event was Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee. He said the Navy “had to get to 38 [amphibs],” pointing out that forcible entry is still a warfare requirement.
Brian Schires, vice president, government relations, Naval Marine at Rolls-Royce and president of AWIBC, pointed out the need for stability, predictability, multiyear procurement and block buys to keep the industry healthy and able to meet demand.
He also noted that, under current planning, the gap between construction centers for big-deck amphibious assault ships LHA 8 and LHA 9 was seven years, too long to avoid layoffs and loss of skill in the shipbuilding workforce.
Schires said that of the Navy’s 32 amphibs, one-third were in maintenance or overhaul, and that 50 amphibs were needed to meet combatant commanders’ requirements.
Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he Navy cannot reach its now statutory commitment of a 355-ship fleet “if we don’t make the strategic investments in our industrial base.”