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What if Everyone Wanted a Maritime Strategy, but ...
...we never got one?
Bit by bit, stone by stone, we just might be building a critical mass towards changing our nation’s direction back to its natural state as a maritime and aerospace power.
We spend decades pretending to be a continental land power. Joined with an almost criminal neglect of our maritime sector deposited at the tail end of a box canyon of our own creation. The only way out is through positive action.
On Sunday’s Midrats, I quoted from SECNAV Del Toro’s recent speech at the Harvard School of Government. In part from September 26th;
This afternoon, I stand before you to call for a “new maritime statecraft” to prevail in this era of intense strategic competition.
Maritime statecraft, in a broad sense, encompasses not only naval diplomacy but a national, whole-of-government effort to build comprehensive U.S. and allied maritime power, both commercial and naval.
Our new maritime statecraft should be bold, founded on a strong Navy and Marine Corps to fulfill our national security interests.
It should also be equally strong on engagement in areas of economic development, trade, and climate diplomacy to enable us to compete more successfully on a global scale. It should leverage the tremendous advantages we uniquely enjoy in innovation and technology, particularly in the maritime domain.
It must be forward-looking to anticipate how to address future challenges.
Challenges that include competition over industrialization of the oceans and how to re-define territorial waters and economic exclusive zones as sea levels rise.
…The People’s Republic of China is building up its naval fleet at a rapid pace. In the 20 years since I left active duty, the PLA Navy has tripled in size, and is on pace to have over 400 naval warships by 2030.
I must also underscore to you — because it is far less widely understood, that the growth of the PRC’s commercial maritime power is a development more concerning than even its naval expansion.
Our nation’s most prominent naval strategist, Alfred Thayer Mahan, argued that naval power begets maritime commercial power, and control of maritime commerce begets greater naval power.
Today’s PRC leadership has read and studied Mahan’s theory, and their actions show it.
The PRC is today the world’s largest builder of commercial, ocean going ships, with over forty percent of the global market being built in Chinese shipyards.
More concerning still, Beijing leverages its dominant commercial shipbuilding capacity and modern commercial shipyards and infrastructure to more efficiently produce its naval combatants.
Chinese shipping firms have come to dominate the worldwide commercial shipping industry. They have established an ownership stake in 95 ports across 53 countries worldwide, including in many of our own ports and those of our allies.
They have a virtual monopoly over the global shipping container and ship-to-shore crane market.
If you ignore the sacrificial clause to the cult of climate change, that is simply spot on.
So, there is the right man in the Executive Branch making our sale.
At about the same time, Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) a day later on the 27th of September published the following;
…America's maritime enterprise reflects years of neglect and decline, despite being the world's largest economy, and relying heavily on global maritime trade.
Following World War II, American commercial shipbuilding led the world in output and tonnage. Today, the United States ranks just 19th in shipbuilding and produces less than ½ a percent of the world's commercial ships.
The fate of our shipping heritage is no different. In 1947, the United States fleet of over 5,000 vessels represented 40% of the world's shipping capacity. By the 1960's, however, America's nearly 3,000 ships only carried 16% of the world's cargo. Most recently, our nation's international trading fleet consisted of merely 80 ships, accounting for less than 1.5% of global trade.
What about the United States Navy? During the late 1980s, the fleet size was nearly 590 ships, but it has dwindled to about 290 ships today. Meanwhile, China's naval forces have soared to 340 warships, with hundreds more guided missile patrol boats and armed maritime militia vessels.
These trends directly translated into a decline of our nation’s power and influence.
Rebuilding that power through maritime strength requires a holistic approach, considering the readiness of our entire maritime machinery – infrastructure, workforce, technology, policies, industry, shipping fleets, and sea services. We need our own National Maritime Strategy to pull all these elements together and provide a true strategy for competing with China on the high seas, growing our maritime economy, protecting the freedom of the seas, and sustaining our oceanic resources.
There we have it. More than rough alignment that is almost what one might call a “bi-partisan consensus.
More from Waltz - an Army guy nonetheless;
…Congress should cultivate a finance and regulatory environment to make civil and commercial shipbuilding and shipping industries more competitive globally. Close loopholes that permit private equity funds to flood Chinese shipyards and harness those resources for domestic projects.
This means writing new laws that encourage and protect private investment in shipbuilding, shipping, and projects of national interest. Make it easier, safer, and more profitable for Wall Street firms, private equity, and the American public to invest in our nation’s naval activities.
Only Congress can provide the funding, prioritization, and accountability necessary to revitalize and sustain our maritime enterprise and position America for success on the seas. The strategic maritime environment demands urgent action to develop a national maritime strategy that synchronizes stakeholders, resources, and policy, leading to unity of maritime effort.
Put a bow on it.
All we need now is our new CNO to take this momentum as hers and start beating this drum over and over and over to the point everyone else at the Joint Chiefs are giving her side-eye and the SECDEF is making passive aggressive comments about her.
…and the rest of us should find a oar and pull.