U.S. Surface Navy Priorities Updated

By Rear Adm. Thomas S. Rowden
Director, Surface Warfare Division, N96

The progress we have made in understanding and funding manpower shortages, establishing and funding defendable maintenance requirements, stabilizing procurement accounts, and the successful deployment of the littoral combat ship USS Freedom to the Western Pacific have led me to reassess the N96 Surface Warfare priorities.

The priorities are now:

  1. Support rebalance to Pacific
  2. Build to the future
  3. Make the things we have today work
Ships from the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group simulate a strait transit in the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 10, 2013. The strike group was conducting a pre-deployment evaluation. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert/Released)

Ships from the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group simulate a strait transit in the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 10, 2013. The strike group was conducting a pre-deployment evaluation. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert/Released)

As President Obama highlighted in his Defense Strategic Guidance, the center of world mass is moving east towards Asia. This new focus brings into sharp relief the realities of Eastern Pacific geography and threats to our freedom of navigation at the crossroads of the global economy. The economic and strategic necessities of maintaining the freedom of the global commons mandates that the U.S. Navy – indeed all global naval powers – will play a critical role in shaping the future, multi-polar world. The surface Navy is going to be in the center of this role and to succeed we need to refocus on our core warfighting competencies: anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and integrated air and missile defense.

The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Dec. 13, 2013. Freedom's first operational deployment, a 9-month assignment forward-operating from Singapore, is the first ever deployment for a littoral combat ship and the proof-of-concept deployment for the ship class. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Johans Chavarro/Released)

The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Dec. 13, 2013. Freedom’s first operational deployment, a 9-month assignment forward-operating from Singapore, is the first ever deployment for a littoral combat ship and the proof-of-concept deployment for the ship class. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Johans Chavarro/Released)

My generation cut our teeth squaring off against the Soviets in the Pacific. The threat was real and global. Since the abatement of the Soviet threat, we have as a Navy turned our attention to power projection. No other nation on Earth challenged our ability to control the seas or project power from the sea.

Over the past two decades, we focused our efforts on honing our ability to project power, and we became exceptionally good at strike. Additionally, we excelled at both maritime security and humanitarian support missions. These were the missions our country demanded and its strategy dictated. Our ability to project power thousands of miles from our own shores was underwritten by our unfettered ability to control the seas where we operated. This did not go unnoticed by nations with an interest in challenging our control of the seas, and we began to see the development of “anti-access/area denial” threats. This is the threat to which we now respond by re-embracing the core elements of sea control.

Surface warfare’s broad capability set, persistence in denied battle space, and command and control capacity make us the natural leaders in our core competencies that are so critical to winning the theater fight, and the investments we make today will position us to reassert our mastery of this domain.

Surface warfare has a long, rich history of warfighting excellence. To continue this tradition we must reapply ourselves to the fundamentals of sea control. As the director of Surface Warfare, I challenge our Navy team to focus and rededicate our energy and capacity to the core of what is surface warfare, so that we can continue to control the seas.

Do you agree with these priorities? Let us know and why. Just comment below.

Editor’s note: Rear Adm. Thomas S. Rowden is scheduled to speak at the Surface Navy Association 2014 Symposium’s “Updating the Surface Navy Vision” on Tues., Jan. 14, 2:45 to 4 p.m. EST.

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