The CNO Has a Plan
not too shabby
The Chief of Naval Operation's 2022 Navigation Plan is out ... and besides a couple of expected errata points I'll cover at the end ... I like it. It answers the bell.
I'm not going to go paragraph by paragraph as I want you to read the whole thing. The document is important because the CNO is the boss, and this is the Ref. A everyone needs to align with. It will drive discussions, efforts, focus, and defines the four corners for any argument the Navy will make. As such, read it if you want to understand what everything for the next year or more is going to be built around.
It is just a couple of dozen and change pages. Lots of pictures and side-bars, so it is a quick read. Congrats to the chop chain as there is an economic use of jargon and acronyms with just a few exceptions - but as a whole digestible from E1-O10.
Full disclosure up front - because long-term readers and certified members of the Front Porch may think I had a role in at least the Introduction ... because it is - I will humbly submit - Salamanderesque ... sadly I did not ... but someone here did;
First, the 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS) clarified America’s national security objectives, emphasizing the need to address long-term competition with China and sustain military advantage against Russia.
Did you catch that? "...competition with China..." and "sustain military advantage against Russia." That is a clever way of saying the primary effort must be to counter to the People's Republic of China, and the USN's efforts and posture towards Russia will be an economy of force effort.
Anything we develop to address China will translate well if needed against what remains of the Russian Navy. As long as we keep and advance our ASW edge against the best the Russians can put to sea, the Army and Air Force can handle the rest of the worry with our NATO allies in primary position. That's the subtext.
Third, through a rigorous campaign of learning, we recognized that the Navy needs a more continuous, iterative Force Design process to focus our modernization efforts and accelerate the capabilities we need to maintain our edge in this critical decade and beyond.
The victory of the Anti-Transformationalists is complete. "Transformation" is mentioned nowhere, and "transforming" written only once in a different context. "Third" above is a return to the cornerstone of the great Rear Admiral Wayne Eugene Meyer, USN's "Build a Little, Test a Little, Learn a Lot." For 18-years we've wanted to see the turn towards this correct mindset be complete, and I think we are here. BZ Front Porch.
Take the "W."
Our Navy team is the most capable in the world. However, we have identified unacceptable variability in our performance—the gap between our best and worst performers is too great. History shows that the navy which adapts, learns, and improves the fastest gains an enduring warfighting advantage. The essential element is fostering a healthy ecosystem—a culture—that assesses, corrects, and innovates better than the opposition. This is the essence of our Get Real, Get Better call to action,
That is simply so damn good I don't really think I have much more to say than, yes. As for the "Get Real, Get Better," I first scrunched up my nose at it as it has a little of this vibe...
...but it has grown on me. I like it. It underlines a mindset of honesty, humility, and ... a call to action to improve from a sub-optimal position.
Like I said, the Introduction is superb...but we are not even there yet ... as so far we've only go to the warm-up to the intro and we are already well in to Salamander-101.
The Introduction starts like this;
America has always been a maritime nation. The seas are the lifeblood of our economy, our national security, and our way of life.
This progress and prosperity did not happen by accident. American sea power, combined with the dedication of our allies and partners, guaranteed freedom of navigation, maintained peace, and fostered a rules-based order grounded in fairness for all.
I'm not even going to be grumpy that I wasn't given a footnote.
Today, for the first time in a generation, we face strategic competitors with the demonstrated intent to unravel the free and open order.
This is a critical decade. As global challengers rise to threaten U.S. interests, America must maintain maritime dominance.
That is the "Long Game" series running 18-yrs in a nutshell.
The CNO could have stopped with the Introduction. That is the core, everything else is commentary ... but as Hillel might suggest, let's continue to read.
The three trends in Security Environment are spot on;
Today, our Navy operates in a battlespace that is quickly growing in lethality and complexity. We face many challenges across the globe, but they largely stem from three significant trends:
• The erosion of credible military deterrence, particularly due to China’s rapidly increasing military capabilities.
• Increasingly aggressive Chinese and Russian behavior that undermines the international rules-based order.
• The accelerating pace of technological change and the expanding impact of the information environment.
It nicely boils down China's goal;
China designs its force for one purpose: to reshape the security environment to its advantage by denying the United States military access to the western Pacific and beyond.
I wish this thread was pulled a little more, as the Russo-Ukraine War is giving a strong affirmation of this;
Artificial intelligence, ubiquitous sensors, unmanned systems, and long-range precision weapons are proliferating globally, making contested spaces more transparent and more lethal, and transforming how navies will fight in the future.
The CNO ends the argument about if presence is a mission. Solid.
America cannot cede the competition for influence. This is a uniquely naval mission. A combat-credible U.S. Navy—forward-deployed and integrated with all elements of national power—remains our Nation’s most potent, flexible, and versatile instrument of military influence.
While not worthy of being included in the errata sheet, what looks like a last minute bone thrown to the SSBNs mafia is an awkward construct around the problematic and questionable concept of "Integrated Deterrence" ... but I think it looks forced because it was forced...maybe.
The ultimate backstop of integrated deterrence is a secure and reliable strategic nuclear deterrent.
A little high and right methinks. We need to find a better way to hook in the strategic deterrence imperative as the SSBN force is the most effective of the triad.
Leaving that stumble behind, this is much better;
Every day, the Navy operates forward alongside allies and partners through combined operations, theater security cooperation, and capacity building initiatives. These activities strengthen our strategic partnerships, increasing interoperability, information sharing, and capacity for resilient, integrated logistics. Working together, we strengthen our ability to prevail in conflict and further bolster integrated deterrence by demonstrating a united front against potential adversaries.
All allies and friends are one of our primary comparative advantages. That paragraph was solid...but the following one a little, "meh."
The Navy is also uniquely equipped to contest gray-zone incrementalism and malign influence by our adversaries. Many gray-zone activities occur in the global commons—particularly in the maritime domain and cyberspace. Gray-zone aggression thrives on non-attribution. The best way to oppose these activities is to deny our adversaries anonymity with persistent domain awareness, the effective leveraging of intelligence, and the agile application of sea power. Together with whole-of-government partners, the Navy denies the obscurity that our rivals exploit. Contesting, exposing, and attributing malign behavior imposes reputational costs, diminishes the effectiveness of propaganda, and galvanizes international resistance.
That would not have survived my chop.
I like lists as they are easy to remember and frame arguments around. The six "Force Design Imperatives" get a Salamander endorsement letter in the affirmative;
Generate Decision Advantage
I'm not a big fan of the "Force Design 2045" section, not so much from the substance but from the concept. 2045 is 23-yrs from now. The "out years" are an unknown country and too many people put too much credit to it.
Imagine in 1927 what "Force Design 1950" would look like. Lots of dirigibles I think. What about 1892's "Force Design 1915?" How about 1972's "Force Design 1995?
Wait a minute. 1892's would have probably have a lot of big gun ships, and I believe Aegis started in 1969 and TLAM in 1972 ... so they might have been pretty close to being right.
See, a useful process, just be careful expecting too much clear-eyed futurism. Some of it will be shockingly right, but a lot notsomuch.
Like the "Force Design Imperatives," I liked the "Navigation Plan Priorities."
Generate cost-effective capacity
Invest in .... Sailors
Yes, yes, yes...these are fundamentals, but you have to repeat the fundamentals on a regular basis or things get sloppy.
Let's back up a bit to Force Design 2045 for a second. There is this nugget;
Retiring legacy platforms that cannot stay relevant in contested seas—and investing in the capabilities we need for the future—is essential for our national security.
Its companion is found in Priorities and together is a bit of a war warning for the Potomac Flotilla. Both are bolded in the original for a reason and you need to read them carefully.
To simultaneously modernize and grow the capacity of our fleet, the Navy will require 3-5% sustained budget growth above actual inflation. Short of that, we will prioritize modernization over preserving force structure.
The prophecy of The Terrible 20s made flesh.
Look at the economy and inflation. Do you think the Navy is going to get 3-5% above inflation with how we do budgets now? Without finding some way to get Army money? I don't see a path there, so what does that lead to?
We've seen this movie before. Be careful.
Like I said earlier, the "Get Real, Get Better" section is good. It gives the impression that we officially and openly are self-aware that we need to do better than we have in the past - regardless of the happy talk of the past.
We can work with this.
Get Real requires Navy leaders to ruthlessly self-assess; be honest, humble, and transparent about their capabilities and limitations; challenge their beliefs using data, facts, and diverse input; and “embrace the red”—acknowledge shortcomings—by being curious and taking pride in finding and fixing problems.
Get Better requires Navy leaders to deliberately self-correct; find and fix small problems before they become larger, systemic issues; fix the root causes, not just symptoms; apply critical problem-solving tools and best practices to shift from more activity to better outcomes; set clear accountability; work collaboratively; and quickly identify and remove barriers to progress, elevating problems to higher leadership, if necessary.
The substance from there has a good workmanlike feel to it for its genre.
Parts of the "Where we are Going" section hit some high points regulars here and over at Midrats will like. Here are my top-6 from the list;
- Ship/Submarine/Aviation Maintenance: Continue to drive maintenance delays down to zero. Work with naval shipyards and industry partners to improve performance. Accelerate gains made in aviation readiness to reinvest in other areas of the Naval Aviation Enterprise.
- Terminal Defense: Pursue a fully-integrated combat capability that employs lethal and sustainable effects to defend naval forces against complex raid scenarios.
- Contested Logistics: Recapitalize our logistics fleet through used sealift buys in 2022, achieving T-AO 205 Initial Operational Capability by 2023, delivering Next-Generation Logistics Ship by 2030, and recapitalizing C-130s by 2030. Continue war-gaming and experimentation to inform how a survivable Navy logistics construct supports the sustainment of military operations in a contested environment.
- Long Range Fires: Develop and integrate joint, all domain capabilities to project power at increasing ranges through contested maritime environments. Pursue a mix of weapons with required enablers, including CPS development and all-up-round testing.
- Unmanned Systems: Accelerate innovation efforts by aligning the acquisition, requirements, financial management, and operational communities supporting unmanned technology. Strengthen a culture of accountability and measurable progress. Focus on adopting enabling technologies that both provide near-term capability and help lay the foundation for the future hybrid fleet.
- Affordable Force Structure: Improve budget, requirements, and acquisition processes with a cost estimating dashboard to better project risk in cost, schedule, and performance.
I was going to do a top-5, but that last bit was a nice nod to, "Yeah...we screwed the pooch on CG(X)" and as such needed to be folded in.
We are running out of time and have not yet won the battle for money, so this is where I would prioritize what push we have. Faster.
I think the most fair critique of the document is the section on "Sailors" that in part I will cover in the errata section. If Sailors are our greatest asset, then why are they tagged on as an afterthought at the end and only get less than 10% of the effort in the document? It signals again the very DC nature of our Navy where much of our leadership has spent too much time - and our naval nomenklatura never leave.
In DC, it is all about money and the programs that move it around ... and that can focus the mind for leaders that soak too long in it. Sailors can become an abstract. If this is an external messaging document - which it is - with a secondary internal role, if you consider Sailors an "internal" challenge, then I can understand its placement at the end and underemphasized.
The substance seems a bit copy and paste, which is OK, some of the rest of the document is to a lesser effect - as you would expect - is. That is OK. I'm a firm believer that you have to repeat the essentials until you are sick of doing it. Only then will you finally be heard.
However, the "Sailors" section just isn't written as well as the rest of the document. It even starts with this vein on the forehead throbbing line;
The Navy’s enduring asymmetric advantage is our workforce—both uniformed and civilian—across our active and reserve components.
No. Just, no. There is nothing more symmetric than Sailors. Sailor performance is not "asymmetric" to anything at sea. It is the center of everything. What they are trying to say - and this would be in my chop - is;
The Navy’s enduring comparative advantage is our workforce—both uniformed and civilian—across our active and reserve components.
No, that is not a minor difference. Yes, words matter.
Finally, what in the name of Poseidon's trident is this?
We holistically evaluated Navy efforts focused on building a stronger, tougher, and more resilient Navy. We found that we risk creating gaps in supporting the physical, psychological, spiritual, and social needs of our force without an integrated framework focusing on optimizing the performance of our Sailors. We will better align this constellation of programs so that Sailors, with the support of their commands, can reach their optimal potential.
Now to my "Errata Section."
Review my comments above WRT DC and our leadership who spends too much time there. I get to DC a few times a year. As I've advertised a lot, I love the city. I wish it would return to pre-COVID levels of enjoyment, but perhaps soon. I still love the city and have a nearly perfect circle of acquaintances and friends there - but - it is a cultural terrarium.
The people and their priorities of DC are not aligned with the rest of the nation, much less the fleet. If you are soaked in DC life, its media, its culture, and you live in base housing surrounded by the long dwell natsec nomenklatura who have spent 80%+ of their professional life inside a commute distance of DC for decades - if you don't make a sustained effort to remained grounded with the larger nation you serve, you will do and think some strange things as viewed from the provinces.
Like a fish that is not aware that it lives in water - what you assume is normal, isn't - at least to the land dwelling animals that surround you.
Of course, I am talking about something we've long gotten used to; the DC-centric domestic political posturing that leaks in to US Navy. Not just the Biden Administration either. This is a Potomac Flotilla problem, not a partisan problem ... though it gets worse in (D) administrations, but to be clear, Bush-43 was not much better, and until the last 6-months of his administration, Trump did nothing to counter any of it.
Mike Mullen's back to back tenure from CNO to CJCS allowed him to shape a generation of domestic political agenda nomenklatura pushing senior leadership to carry their banner - and it shows. It has become normalized, I just don't think they know it sticks out in bold relief.
Errata A: Fealty to an Official Religion: This seems obviously spot-welded in to the "Security Environment" section;
Climate change threatens coastal nations with rising sea levels and more extreme weather. Melting sea ice opens the Arctic to growing maritime activity and increasing competition. COVID-19 demonstrates how rapidly some threats can become global in scope, generating worldwide political and economic instability. Competition over offshore resources, including protein, energy, and minerals, fuels international tensions. All these trends create vulnerabilities for adversaries to exploit and volatility that can erupt quickly into crisis.
Praise Buddha that this reads so clunky and out of place that most readers will see it was clearly included as a, "We have to address this..." to check the block.
I'm less irritated then humored.
Errata B: The Least Important Aspects of our Sailors are What we Worry About the Most: Next to Gaia worship, the other secular religion of the senior leadership of the US Navy is to first judge Sailors by the color of their skin, to hell with the content of their character or performance.
I did a quick wholesale word count of the document. It is 7,469 words. The "Sailor" section is just 694 words, 9.3%. Of those 694 words, 142 are dedicated to "Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity" discussion. 20.5%.
We only dedicate less than 10% of our "Navigation Plan" to our greatest comparative advantage, and of that we dedicate almost a fifth of that time on something that does not bring Sailors together, but drives them apart. Something that does not reward performance, but gives special treatment based on something so incredibly meaningless to winning our nation’s wars - the self-identified race, creed, color or national origin of our Sailors (something they cannot do anything about).
Heck, I'll go ahead and quote that section - but first as a reminder - let's go back to basics; words mean things. "Equity" does not mean "equality."
Equality has to do with giving everyone the exact same resources.
Equity involves distributing resources based on the needs of the recipients.
Remember, the US Navy does not have a "needs" metric it tracks. No, it uses the brain-stem simplistic metrics of tribalism; race, creed, color, and just to divide us more, sex and probably soon sexual orientation. All, including sex, self-identified and subject to self-identification. When the Navy says "equity" it is talking about special treatment based on tribalistic markers. Don't forget that great shame.
So, now that you understand what "equity" means in your Navy;
Launched 48 Task Force One Navy initiatives, which remain on track for full implementation, with further Navy Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts underway.
What We Have Learned
• Progress toward a more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and stronger Navy is difficult and requires sustained commitment. Given how diverse each community is within the Navy, tailored approaches are more successful than one-size-fits-all, prescriptive measures. We are developing a Navy methodology to measure diversity of representation and equity of opportunity to make progress toward essential Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals across the Total Force.
Inclusive and Diverse Force: Through the Navy Leader Development Framework, continue to measure the results of initiatives to ensure the Navy is becoming a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable force, making stronger teams and stronger warfighters.
Supported Commander: Deputy CNO for Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Education/Chief of Naval Personnel (OPNAV N1)
History will no look back kindly on this posturing ... and change is coming.
Again, on balance this is a good publication and especially the opening five pages - exactly what we need.
Don't rely on my pull-quotes above, read the whole thing and let me know your thoughts in comment.