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The Florida Times-Union

Navy Leads Combat Refit That Branch Is Bringing Rumsfeld's Vision Of 21st Century Warfare Into Reality

By GREGORY PIATT, The Times-Union

2 December 2004
Copyright © 2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

The Navy might not be at the center of the fight in Iraq, but the maritime service has gone farther than the Army and Air Force to transform the way it fights and does business with the other services, a military analyst said.

Last month, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld specifically recognized what the Navy is doing to transform itself from a Cold War force to one that can handle the emerging threats of the 21st century while under budget constraints caused by the war in Iraq.

Washington-based analyst Loren Thompson said the Navy has done more to change its culture and fighting style in the past four years than it did in the previous four decades.

"The Navy has taken Rumsfeld's idea of transformation to heart," said Thompson, an analyst with the Lexington Institute, in a recent phone interview.

When Rumsfeld became the Pentagon chief in 2001, he was headstrong to transform the services by skipping a generation in weapons systems and technology, reducing personnel and having the armed forces work together in new roles. Rumsfeld's idea was initially met with resistance from uniform and civilian personnel in the Pentagon.

But then came Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Afghanistan, which forced the services to think of new ways to cooperate -- and consequently move toward Rumsfeld's vision. Special Forces suddenly took on a lead role in strategy, the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk became a floating base for Army troops and Navy and Air Force pilots worked closely with troops on the ground.

Such moves were an early glimpse at the Navy's transformation plan.

About two years ago, Adm. Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations, unveiled the Navy's vision called Seapower 21, which consists of three main pillars -- Sea Strike, Sea Shield and Sea Base.

Sea Strike is a concept that the Navy can hit fixed, mobile, surface and subsurface targets in multiple ways from an array of weapons systems. Sea Shield is mainly a plan to protect the homeland, a theater or specific forces from incoming missiles.

Sea Basing will put Army troops on board ships, keep them at sea and ferry them along with their equipment to conflict zones. Such a concept wasn't tried before because of long-standing traditions and rivalries between the armed services.

The Navy is well advanced with Sea Strike, but will still have to spend a lot of money to implement Sea Shield, Thompson added. The service still must develop some ideas to cobble existing ships with new ones to come up with a Sea Basing plan, Thompson said.

"The Navy has become a much closer collaborator and cooperator with the other military services than what was the case in the past," Thompson said. "The Navy and Marine Corps are seamless and the Navy, Army and Air Force are now working together to come up with a division of labor so they won't waste money on redundant capabilities. That's really transformational."

The Navy has had its hurdles, however, in funding the future.

Afghanistan was soon followed by the ongoing war in Iraq, and the cost of the war soon reached a crossroads with the progress of transformation. Clark's plan depended on new ships, submarines, and manned and unmanned aircraft. But current budget constraints have delayed those weapons systems, Thompson said.

"The Navy had to come up with some money out of its [$115 billion] budget to help fund the war in Iraq and help the Army get through to the end of the 2004 fiscal year [which ended Sept. 30]," Thompson said. "The Navy's dilemma is that it has a concept of what the future looks like, but the demands of the present are so imposing that it is hard to find the money for implementing its long- term vision."

So the Navy has started its transformation by using current weapons systems to address new threats.

Reforming the fleet into smaller Carrier, Expeditionary and Surface Strike Groups instead of Carrier Battle Groups was designed to meet the types of threats. Under the strike group concept, ships in the Atlantic Ocean use joint service ranges in Florida and along the East Coast instead of the Navy's now closed range on the Island of Vieques in Puerto Rico.

Under the Navy's Fleet Response Plan, put into motion in 2003, ships in the strike groups are ready to deploy more often. Ships are battle-ready 55 percent of the time rather than the 25 percent under the previous training cycle, the Navy's 2nd Fleet said in a news release.

"We've made considerable strides in effectively and efficiently transforming our fleet into one that gets ready faster and remains ready longer," said Vice Adm. Gary Roughead, when he relinquished command in October of Norfolk-based 2nd Fleet, which is in charge of training for Atlantic-based carriers like the Jacksonville-based USS John F. Kennedy. Roughead is now deputy commander of the Pacific Fleet.

Another move was to set up Force Net, a new wireless Web network that connects the whole fleet and allows for tapping into other government and military sources for real time information and intelligence across the globe, Thompson said.

The network was created by using existing programs, so the Navy didn't have to spend a ton of money to build a new network, he added.

Another Cold War strategy changed when the Navy decided to transform four Ohio Class ballistic missile submarines to carry 150 cruise missiles and 60 Navy SEALs. Although it was decided to convert the subs in the late 1990s, their importance to face emerging threats became apparent after Sept. 11, 2001. Now one, and possibly two, of the converted subs will be based at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.


To implement Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's ideas to transform the armed forces, the Navy developed Seapower 21, which has three parts:

Sea Strike

The Navy's new attack concept to hit fixed, mobile, surface and subsurface targets from an array of naval weapons systems. Budget constraints delayed the purchase of some new technology and ships, but in the interim the Navy is changing its current systems. For example, Ohio Class ballistic missile submarines are being transformed to carry 150 cruise missiles and 60 Navy SEALs. The Navy expects to base possibly two of those subs at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.

Sea Base

A plan to put Army troops onboard ships, keep them at sea and ferry them along with their equipment to conflict zones. The early version of that concept was seen during the war in Afghanistan when the Army stationed troops aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. The Navy originally planned to develop new ships for this concept but that has been delayed due to budget constraints. The Navy will instead have to develop some ideas to use existing ships for Sea Basing.

Sea Shield

A plan to protect the homeland, a theater or specific forces from missile attacks. Early concepts call for Navy ships to be placed in specific positions to monitor and thwart attacks. Military analysts say the Navy has moved slowly so far on a definite plan, which is expected to be expensive.

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