Integration Of Naval Forces: The Time Has Come
SUBJECT AREA - National Military Strategy
Title: Integration of Naval Forces: The Time Has Come
Author: Lieutenant Commander M. P. McMillen, United States Navy
Thesis: U.S. Naval Forces must respond to declining budget
allocations with innovative methods for employing available
forces to ensure that they adequately provide for the national
Background: U.S. Maritime Strategy and National Military are the
same. Deterrence, Forward Presence, Crisis Response, and
Reconstitution are the keys to this. However, the U.S. Navy's
budget will shrink dramatically in the immediate future. This
situation is likely to continue into the next decade. To ensure
that its roles and missions adequately provide for the national
defense, naval planners must take positive steps to deal with
actual budget allocations and develop innovative methods for
employing existing forces. Key components of the force are
Carrier Battle Groups and Amphibious Readiness Groups who
provide the preponderance of our forward strategy. Major items
to be resolved are the use and disposition of forces, and the revision
of warfighting doctrine to accommodate both the U.S. Navy and the
U.S. Marine Corps.
Recommendation: Carrier Battle Groups and Amphibious Readiness
Groups should be combined. CV's/CVN's should be reconfigured to
carry amphibious forces. The Navy's Composite Warfare Commander
concept (CWC) should be revised to include Amphibious Warfare as
a key element. Flag and General officers should be interchangeable
at the CVBG/OTC/CWC level.
INTEGRATION OF NAVAL FORCES: THE TIME HAS COME
Thesis Statement: The U.S. Navy must respond to declining budget
allocations with innovative methods for employing available forces to
ensure that it adequately provides for the national defense.
I. The U.S. Navy in the aftermath of the Gulf War and Cold War
1. Within the national military establishment
a) Diminished credibility with sister
services following Gulf War
(1) Aloofness led to under-
utilization in battle
(2) Apparent non-participation
in Joint arena
(3) Performance and planning
failure in certain key roles
b) Backlash following roles and missions
struggle of 60's - 80's
(1) Sacrificed all for high ticket
(2) Achieved missions (and dollars)
at expense of sister services
2. Strategically, operationally, and tactically
a) Capable of single response, countering
Soviet threat with:
(1) Strategic deterrent: submarine-
launched ballistic missiles
(2) Theater level attacks against the
(3) Tactical battles against the Soviet
b) Assumption that all lesser threats are
automatically countered by preparation for more
a) Procurement failures have left the Navy with
no replacement systems
b) Many systems nearing end of useful service
(2) Surface ships
4. Financially - funds no longer available for future use
a) Diverted to expensive weapons systems
b) Strategic homeporting base construction
c) Loss of prime defense contractors
B. Regrouping in progress: "Less is more."
1. Clearly define roles and missions
a) Striking capacity against land
(1) Forward presence
(a) Deployed forces
(b) Strategic deterrence
(2) Power projection
(a) Naval aviation
(b) Amphibious forces
b) Transitioning forces
(1) Sea control (lines of communication)
2. Capabilities amidst fewer dollars, fewer systems,
a) Strong naval tradition
b) Flexible options with weapons systems,
c) Renaissance in naval thought - flexibility
solves longstanding problems
II. Possibilities in emerging naval presence
A. Traditional naval task forces
1. Carrier Battle Group (CVBG)
a) Composite Warfare Commander (CWC)
b) Subordinates for AAW, ASUW, and ASW
(along with a cast of several other significant area
2. Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG)
a) Commander of the Amphibious Task Force
b) Commander, Landing Force (CLF)
B. Who should exercise command at sea
a) Ships - surface officers
b) Aircraft squadrons (and aircraft carriers) -
c) Submarines (and submarine support
vessels) - submariners
a) Those commanders at sea who best under-
stand the operational and tactical application of their
source disciplines throughout the levels of warfare
(1) Naval aviators command aircraft
carriers - sensitivity to personnel conducting
(2) Marines are most prepared to assume
command of Amphibious Task Forces
b) Capitalize on strengths of backgrounds to
produce the most credible defense (and threat)
C. Scarcity of personnel makes regrouping critical
1. Single battle force capable of amphibious warfare,
offensive air strikes, and self-protection
2. Composite Warfare Commander (CWC) becomes a
complete task force commander, available to serve as
a JTF Commander
3. CVBG and CATF/CLF responsible to CWC
a) All three could be aviators
b) All three could be Marines
c) All three could be both
III. Development of strong, flexible and small task forces
A. Capable of all mission areas
1. Sea, air and land
2. Strategic, operational and tactical levels of warfare
3. High, middle and low-intensity conflicts
B. Make most use of available platforms to carry out mission
(nearly all ships have some aviation and amphibious
1. Forward presence through deployment
2. Power projection through composition and capability
C. Provide operational commanders with strongest naval
INTEGRATION OF NAVAL FORCES: THE TIME HAS COME
In the aftermath of the Cold War and the Gulf War the U.S.
Navy is operationally overextended and its warfighting doctrine
outdated. It stands out among the nation's armed forces for its
recent bitter, inconclusive soul-searching regarding its roles,
missions, and relevance within the contemporary U.S. national
defense. Ultimately global and regional situations will continue
to arise which call on naval forces as a key element in joint and
combined efforts during crisis: we are a maritime nation and our
national strategy recognizes the necessity for us "to control
vital sea lines of communication through naval superiority.1"
Recent Maritime Strategy has evolved from the roles of
Peacetime Presence, Crisis Response, Warfighting and War
Termination cited by ADM Watkins in 1986 (2) to coincide with the
1990's National Military Strategy of Deterrence, Forward
Presence, Crisis Response, and Reconstitution. 3
Presence and deployment patterns of naval forces remain an
important element of deterrence against key areas of U.S.
vulnerability. Effective forward presence will require that
naval forces do more with less: the composition of deployed
forces must change to meet the realities of the current national
budget and political climate without placing naval personnel on a
near-wartime footing while the international security environment
(and U.S. society) enjoys the current peace. 4
Naval preplanning and rehearsal in the joint arena are
required to prepare the Navy for joint crisis-response scenarios.
While previously unchallenged as the first force on-scene for
regional contingencies,5 the Navy today enjoys limited
credibility with sister services following the Gulf War. What
appeared as aloofness was in fact a lack of practice at joint
doctrine. The result was the same: under-utilization in battle.
Reconstitution will be difficult at best in terms of naval
forces as we know them: once personnel and equipment have been
reduced, substantial time and expense will be required to restore
the force to something comparable to its original configuration.
While the role of reserve forces is clear, restoration of an
adequate shipbuilding base with less than four or five years'
lead time is unlikely.
Navy planning and strategy over the past fifteen years
shaped the CVBG to project power against a single threat, the
Soviet Union, at the expense of the Amphibious Task Force (ATF)
and amphibious shipping. Planners developed tactics and weapons
systems to protect the CVBG against Soviet regimental bombing
raids and retaliate with carrier air wing (CVW) strikes against
the Soviet homeland and fleet. With the Soviet Union's collapse
low and mid-intensity conflict have emerged as the most likely
threats, and CVBG tactics must change. While the assumption that
all lesser threats are automatically countered by preparation for
high-intensity war with the Soviet Union is fallacious, the
equipment and forces which resulted from that stimulus are quite
capable. It is obviously better to plan for the future with an
initial excess than to attempt an arms buildup in an austere
During the previous ten years Navy planners established the
service's future agenda with no requirement to consider the
impact of today's increasingly inflexible defense budget coupled
with the obligation to maintain absolute accountability for hard
national concerns (as opposed to parochial service issues).
Important naval missions such as Amphibious Warfare were
inadequately addressed during the 1980's defense buildup and
deficiencies now threaten our ability to project power.
Simply stated, there are insufficient hulls afloat to
conduct all naval missions as they have evolved today. The
problem is not limited to the failure to translate roles,
missions, and Maritime Strategy into practical, affordable
shipping. Total ship numbers are declining, and there is no plan
for replacing more than a fraction of those scheduled for
decommissioning. Maintaining the remaining ships in the fleet
becomes prohibitively expensive as the ships near the end of
their useful service lives. The Navy's amphibious capability
continues to decrease in both quantity and quality. Not only are
amphibious ship numbers decreasing as available ships reach or
exceed their useful service life, remaining ships show wear and
reduced efficiency which translates into higher repair budgets.
The total end-strength number of ships slated for new
construction has shrunk (LSD 41, LHD 1), and planning for entire
new ship classes has ceased (LST X).
This review is made more urgent when one
considers that the United States will be
faced with an increasingly uncertain,
multipolar world, with the potential for
shifting alignments and alliances, and when
one considers that 20-30 years are required
to conduct a shift in fleet architecture.7
The Navy's planners have routinely revised lift requirements
downward vice committing additional funds to maintain forward
presence and power projection missions. It is clear that
sufficient funding will not be available to resolve this dilemma.
Certainly none of the armed services escaped the optimism which
placed tremendously expensive weapons systems within their reach.
Nor did any service escape the inevitable snow-balling expenses
of high-technology equipment which resulted in drastic re-
prioritization as funding quickly eroded.
Although Navy planners failed to anticipate the extent of
this predicament as it developed over the past fifteen years,
they provided the foundation for a clear alternative to it in the
Carrier Battle Group (CVBG). The aircraft carrier (CV) remains a
flexible weapons platform with significant combat power.
Proposals for employing CV's scheduled for decommissioning beyond
their original design are an indicator of lift scarcity: two
leading proposals have the CV as either a Mine Warfare platform
or as an Amphibious Command and Control ship (LCC).8 It has
dramatic potential for employment beyond its original conception
in transporting Marine troops, carrying Marine amphibious
equipment, and reconfiguring its air assets to include Marine
air. 9 Notionally the Carrier Air Wing (CVW) could be modified
as follows from Figure 1 to Figure 2 to accommodate the Air
Combat Element (ACE) of the embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit
Click here to view image
Space is available for such large equipment as sixteen to
eighteen Light Amphibious Vehicles (LAV's), four to six 155mm
Howitzers, and fourteen to eighteen High Mobility Multipurpose
Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV's). The CV's capacity to berth troops is
above both the doctrinal and practical minimums for a Marine
Expeditionary Unit (MEU). Although the Carrier Air Wing's (CVW)
combat redundancy will be decreased, total air assets would be
carefully matched to a broader variety of the spectrum of
conflict. The Amphibious Task Force gains the added capability
of a complete Air Intermediate Maintenance Facility for the ACE,
the availability of E-2C aircraft to provide command and
control/early warning, and the additional firepower in the CVW
immediately on call.
This plan is not without disadvantages: reduction in the
numbers of CVW aircraft reduces combat power and strike capacity,
and requires a willingness on the part of high level planners to
accept more risk in a high-threat air scenario (mid-to-high
intensity conflict). Planners should, however, take into account
the availability of Anti-Air Warfare ships escorting the CV as
well as the MEU ACE's ability to supplement the CVW in defense of
the CVBG. The Amphibious Task Force will require additional
troop space for up to 2500 troops, lift for four tanks and twelve
Armored Amphibious Vehicles (AAV's) elsewhere within the
These changes significantly enhance the CVBG's capability.
Command and control are improved through the co-location of the
CVBG commander, the Commander of the Amphibious Task Force
(CATF), and the Commander of the Landing Force (CLF)0. The
Amphibious Task Force can travel in the CVBG at speeds greater
than thirty knots if required. Finally CVBG logistics support
will improve immeasurably as the result the additional heavy lift
Expanding the use of the CV and the CVBG to amphibious
warfare makes the most of existing resources. It immediately
expands amphibious lift by a factor of twelve, the number of
large-deck aircraft carriers in the fleet today, and it can be
accomplished regardless of defense budgetary constraints. Most
importantly it significantly increases the Navy's flexibility,
ability to accomplish deterrence, maintain forward presence, and
respond to crises from our most likely threats.
The Navy accomplishes its deterrence, forward presence, and
crisis response missions in one of two ways: through traditional
naval task forces, which are either Carrier Battle Groups (CVBG)
or Amphibious Readiness Groups (ARG). Carrier Battle Groups,
holding the bulk of afloat assets are commanded by a flag-rank
warfighter working directly for a Unified CINC. Functionally he
serves as the Officer in Tactical Command OTC) of all forces and
the Composite Warfare Commander (CWC) with subordinate Warfare
Commanders task-organized for Anti-Air Warfare (AAW), Anti-
Submarine Warfare (ASW), and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW).10
The central thesis for this organization pictures the CVBG dispersed
over large areas where individual warfare commanders are required
to counter rapidly developing threats independently, especially
in multi-threat environments.11 Notionally a Strike Warfare
Commander has been added to this group. There are several main
supporting players to the CWC's main cast including the Aviation
Readiness Coordinator (AREC), the Electronic Warfare Coordinator
(EWC), and the Screen Coordinator (there are also several other
significant supporting commanders).12
The Amphibious Readiness Group has traditionally been an
entity separate from the CVBG with the Commander of the
Amphibious Task Force (CATF) as a flag-rank warfighter, who in
many cases is tasked to serve under a CWC, the commander of a
Carrier Battle Group. The Commander, Landing Force (CLF)
doctrinally has been tasked under the CATF during transit to the
Amphibious Operating Area (AOA) until he has established a
beachhead with his forces ashore as described in JCS Pub 3-02.13
This relationship and its attendant coordination problems
have been the source of recurring rancor between both elements of
the naval service. Doctrinally CATF and CLF are to be co-
located. When they are not, their joint planning, decision-
making, and execution between them (including the work of their
staffs) suffer to the extent that the success of entire
operations is jeopardized.14 With the added dimension of a CWC
in the same organizational (as well as physical) arena, further
complications arise over who is the "real" OTC. The CWC is
overall OTC, but once an AOA is established (complete with a CATF
and CLF), then CATF doctrinally becomes the OTC within his AOA.
What if the AOA is so large that the CWC and his CVBG must
transit it or conduct operations within it? Who then is the OTC?
While some have recommended that CWC/OTC be designated CATF
in the initiating directive for the AOA,15 recent developments in
the Gulf War have left CATF and CLF adrift without establishment
of an AOA ("We'll make one when we need one"16). Recent moves
to make the CATF and CLF Warfare Commanders in their own right
within the CWC are a practical solution, especially without the
establishment of an AOA.17 This would have the benefit of
placing all individual warfare commanders' assets at the disposal
of CATF/CLF, along with coordinated planning of any amphibious
operation. CATF and CLF as coequal Warfare Commanders would
not only practically combine amphibious doctrine with CWC, it would
signal the end to "this tactical separation of responsibilities
during . . . amphibious operations that precludes the amphibious
forces from achieving more integration and mutual support at the
tactical level.18" Considering maneuver warfare, I would argue
that this integration is important at the operational level of
war as well.
While Marines must depend on strong leadership from the Navy
through the vagaries of CWC, some have posited that a reciprocal
level of Amphibious Warfare knowledge is not a necessity at the
OTC/CWC level - the OTC/CWC depends on his Warfare Commanders
to be strong in amphibious operations.19 To believe that
amphibious training and the study of littoral warfare is "below"
the position of an officer capable of attaining CVBG command and
serving as OTC/CWC is to doom the "campaign general" to failure
by preventing him from seeing (or making him responsible for) the
battlefield he has been tasked by a CINC to control.
Consider the case of junior aircraft carrier aviators in the
1920's who found themselves in the unenviable predicament of
fighting against the larger community of surface officers for the
idea "that the full potential of the carrier could not be truly
realized unless the officer who commanded her was himself an
aviator," not to mention promotion and command (20): President
Coolidge's aircraft board (the Morrow Board) reported on 30
November, 1925, in part,
. . . there should be a recognition in principle
that an officer with both sea and air
experience should, other things being equal,
be better fitted for command than an officer
who has had sea experience only . . . officer
should have a general knowledge of all
branches of his profession and a specialized
knowledge of one.21
The following excerpt from U.S Navy Regulations (Article 1349.2)
was the result of the Morrow Board's recommendation, the basis of
an Act of Congress of 24 June 1926: "The officer detailed to
command an aircraft carrier or an aircraft tender shall be an
officer of the line, qualified as a naval aviator, eligible for
command at sea." 22
Who should exercise command at sea? Historically, ships
have bee commanded by surface officers, aircraft squadrons (and
aircraft carriers) have been commanded by naval aviators, and
submarines (and submarine support vessels) have been commanded
by submariners. "Our reluctance to envision new command
arrangements is the obstacle to achieving one doctrine for our
forces." 23 Realistically, those commanders at sea should be
officers of the naval service who best understand the operational
and tactical application of their source disciplines and have
best studied their "battlefields" across the spectrum of warfare:
The Morrow Board quotation above could just as easily read "an
officer with both sea and land combat experience should, all
things being equal, be better fitted for command than an officer
who has sea experience only." While naval aviators command
aircraft carriers, Marines may be the best prepared to assume
command of Amphibious Task Forces. Is command at sea thrust onto
unprepared naval aviators? No, they are groomed for command
within their own community, then selected to serve in training
with an abbreviated series of shipboard assignments which lead to
command. Could a parallel course be developed for Marines, and
would there be any value in pursuing it? Naval aviators
transition from successful aviation command through a shipboard
executive officer tour, then proceed to command of a larger
auxiliary or amphibious ship prior to attaining command of a
CV/CVN (with follow-on to Carrier Group/CVBG/OTC/CWC). Marines
could pursue the same proven procedure from command of troops
through executive officer and commanding officer afloat (with
follow-on to Amphibious Group/ARG). Considering the combination
of CVBG and ARG into an Expeditionary Task Force (24), the sources
for Task Force Commander would not necessarily be limited to the
traditional Carrier Group or Cruiser-Destroyer Group Commanders.
By capitalizing on strengths of backgrounds to produce the most
credible deterrent, the scarcity of personnel makes regrouping
critical: what is required is a single battle force capable of
amphibious warfare, offensive air strikes, and self-protection.
Thus the Composite Warfare Commander (CWC) becomes a complete
task force commander. In this conception the CWC, CATF, and CLF
could all be aviators, Marines, or both, despite views to the
contrary ("existing relationships have stood the test of time and
are satisfactory 25")
The development of strong, flexible and small task forces,
capable of all mission areas, will accomplish the objectives of
U.S. Maritime and National Military Strategy. Combining Carrier
Battle Groups with Amphibious Readiness Groups is not only
fiscally sound in view of current defense funding forecasts, it
provides enhanced response for mid and low-intensity conflicts,
those which are most likely given the current world environment.
Possessing capabilities across the broad spectrum of
warfare, the Navy can readily make most use of its available
platforms to carry out deterrence, forward presence, and crisis
response missions since nearly all ships have some aviation and
amphibious capability. Naval forces can best be led by
developing existing manpower to provide operational commanders
with the strongest warfighting backgrounds regardless of service.
As General P.X. Kelly, USMC so aptly stated in his 1986
Amphibious Warfare Strategy, "It is only through the dynamic
synergism of the Navy-Marine Corps amphibious brotherhood that
risks are minimized, obstacles are overcome, and victory is
1. P. X. Kelly and Hugh K. O'Donnell, Jr. "The Amphibious Warfare
Strategy," Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, January 1986, p. 24.
2. James D. Watkins, "The Maritime Strategy," Proceedings of the U.S.
Naval Institute, January 1986, pp. 7-13.
3. Stan Weeks, "Crafting a New Maritime Strategy," Proceedings of the U.S.
Naval Institute, January 1992, p. 32.
6. Ibid., p. 33.
7. Michael L. Bosworth, "Fleet Versatility by Distributed Aviation,"
Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, January 1992, p. 100.
8. Marc E. Liebman, "The Auxiliary Carrier, Mine Countermeasures (AVM),"
Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, January 1992, p. 97.
9. Interview with Colonel W. C. McMullen, United States Marine Corps,
Office of Aviation Plans and Policy, Headquarters USMC, Quantico, Virginia,
10. U.S., Department of the Navy, Naval Warfare Publication 10-1,
Composite Warfare Commander's Manual (U), Chief of Naval Operations (OP-
953), June 1985, p. 1-1.
13. Terry C. Pierce, "MAGTF Warlords: A Naval Perspective," Marine Corps
Gazette, July 1991, p. 38.
14. USREDCOM/J3, "Colocation of CATF/CLF," April 1980, Marine Corps
Lessons Learned System, Report Number 10843-03989 (01317), Marine Corps
War College, Quantico, Virginia.
15. Commanding General, 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, "Command
Relationships for Composite Warfare and Amphibious Warfare," February 1988,
Marine Corps Lessons Learned System, Report Number 20634-78079 (00481),
Marine Corps War College, Quantico, Virginia.
16. Interview with Major General Harry W. Jenkins, United States Marine
Corps, Director, Intelligence Division, Headquarters USMC, Quantico, Virginia,
17. Pierce, "MAGTF Warlords," p. 39.
18. Ibid. p. 38.
19. Ibid., p. 40.
20. Malcom W. Cagle, The Naval Aviator's Guide. (Annapolis: Naval
Institute Press, 1963), p. 126.
23. Pierce, "MAGTF Warlords," p. 38.
24. John Thornell, "The Expeditionary Task Force," Amphibious Warfare
Review, Summer 1990, p. 49.
25. Interview with Major General Harry W. Jenkins, United States Marine
Corps, Director, Intelligence Division, Headquarters USMC, Quantico, Virginia,
26. Kelly and O'Donnell, "Amphibious Strategy," p. 29.
1. Bosworth, Michael L. "Fleet Versatility by Distributed Aviation." Proceedings
of the U.S. Naval Institute, January 1992, pp 99-102.
2. Cagle, Malcom W. The Naval Aviator's Guide. Annapolis: Naval Institute
3. Jenkins, Harry W. Major General, United States Marine Corps. Director,
Intelligence Division, Headquarters USMC. Quantico, Virginia. Interview, January
4. Kelly, P. X., and O'Donnell, Hugh K., Jr. "The Amphibious Warfare Strategy." Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, January 1986, pp 18-29.
5. Liebman, Marc E. "The Auxiliary Carrier, Mine Countermeasures (AVM)."
Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, January 1992, pp 96-99.
6. McMullen, W.C. Colonel, United States Marine Corps. Aviation Plans and
Policy, Headquarters USMC. Quantico, Virginia. Interview, January 1992.
7. Melhorn, Charles M. Two-Block Fox: The Rise of the Aircraft Carrier,
1911-1929. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1974.
8. Pierce, Terry C. "MAGTF Warlords: A Naval Perspective." Marine Corps
Gazette, July 1991, pp 38-40.
9. Thornell, John. "The Expeditionary Task Force." Amphibious Warfare
Review, Summer 1990, pp 48-50.
10. U.S., Department of the Navy. Naval Warfare Publication 10-1, Composite
Warfare Commander's Manual (U). Chief of Naval Operations (OP-953), June
11. Watkins, James D. "The Maritime Strategy." Proceedings of the U.S.
Naval Institute, January 1986, pp 2-17.
12. Weeks, Stan. "Crafting a New Maritime Strategy." Proceedings of the
U.S. Naval Institute, January 1992, pp 30-37.
13. Quantico, Virginia. Marine Corps War College. Marine Corps Lessons
Learned System. Report Number 20634-78079 (00481). Commanding General,
5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, "Command Relationships for Composite Warfare
and Amphibious Warfare," February 1988.
14. Quantico, Virginia. Marine Corps War College. Marine Corps Lessons
Learned System. Report Number 10843-03989 (01317). USREDCOM/J3, "Colocation
of CATF/CLF," April 1980.
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