Rewriting the Strategy

Information dissemination has been doing a series on the Naval Strategy that emerged during the 1980s and recently he has contrasted it to “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower (pdf), commonly referred to as CG21, noting the specificity of the earlier document strategy, compared with the relatively nebulous wording of the current strategy. The timing is relevant because reportedly CS21 is being rewritten.

This is an extract of what the current strategy says about homeland defense (from CS21 p. 15):

“Homeland defense is the most obvious example of the requirement for greater integration. It is not sufficient to speak of homeland defense in terms of splitting the responsibilities and authorities between the Navy and the Coast Guard along some undefined geographic boundary. Rather, the Sea Services must—and will—work as one wherever they operate in order to defend the United States. Consistent with the National Fleet Policy, Coast Guard forces must be able to operate as part of a joint task force thousands of miles from our shores, and naval forces must be able to respond to operational tasking close to home when necessary to secure our Nation and support civil authorities. Integration and interoperability are key to success in these activities, particularly where diverse forces of varying capability and mission must work together seamlessly in support of defense, security, and humanitarian operations.”

Similar generalizations are found in the Naval Operations Concepts, 2010 and the description of the Global Maritime Operational Threat Response Coordination Center. which is collocated with the Coast Guard’s National Command Center.

Unfortunately, if everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.

I think the Coast Guard could benefit from more specificity in the nation’s maritime strategy beginning with a simple declarative statement that while the Navy is primarily responsible for protecting the nation from overt maritime threats, the Coast Guard is primarily responsible for interdiction of covert surface maritime threats in waters surrounding US territory, including territorial sea, contiguous zone, and the exclusive economic zone.

Some might consider this a radical change, but in fact it is just acknowledging the current reality. The Naval Sea Frontiers are no more. The flotillas of minor combatants that once teamed around every port no longer exist. The US Navy no longer makes regular patrols of US waters. Generally, the only times Navy units are in US waters are for training and transit. Otherwise they are either forward deployed or in a very small number of US ports, usually in a condition that would require substantial notice to get them underway.

I believe a quote from Robert Rubel in the comments section of the post reflects the Navy’s position,

“After 2001 the US found itself confronted with a trans-national terrorist network whose tentacles reached across the AoR boundaries. The nightmare scenario was terrorists sneaking WMD into the US. The Navy came to realize it could not by itself assure the country that it could interdict such smuggling; the seas were simply to large. The associated nightmare scenario for the Navy was that it would be chained to the North American littoral to conduct patrols.”

The US Navy does not, and does not want, to patrol the US coast. There is nothing wrong with the concept of meeting threats as far from the US as possible, and nothing in the statement would preclude cooperation between the Coast Guard and the Navy or other agencies, but acknowledgement of the Coast Guard’s role would clarify equipment requirements and eliminate the still natural assumption on the part of many of those individuals that effect the Coast Guard’s budget (including the leadership of Dept. of Homeland Security) that, “The Navy will take care of that.”

3 thoughts on “Rewriting the Strategy

  1. I am well known for harping on the Coast Guard’s lack of historical knowledge, but this is another instance of where history would help. This is not the first time such ideas about cooperation have come into the discussion. However, the Coast Guard’s leadership is largely made of generational thought that dismisses the past. I fully understand the past is not the present and cannot be, but there are some lessons to be learned from the study of the past. The Coast Guard’s leadership pre-WWII leadership knew this and used it when the Navy tried to wipe out the Coast Guard in 1941.

    When it comes to the Navy the Coast Guard has to continually prove its worth and probably rightly so with the constant organizational wanderings of just what it is to be in the national framework.

  2. Some of you might be interested in this presentation by, CDR Bryan McGrath, USN (Ret.), Author of “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Sea Power,” at Navy Warfare Development Command’s headquarters on Naval Station Norfolk, July 18, 2013, 09:30 – 10:30 a.m. (Eastern)
    “If We Can’t Afford the Navy We Need, What Kind of Navy Should We Have”

    The presentation will also be streamed live, and later it will also be available on Youtube. See below for details. :

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