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From The Sea:  The Right Strategy/The Wrong Tools
AUTHOR LCdr Carl B. Lawrimore, USN
CSC 1993
SUBJECT AREA - Strategic Issues
Thesis:  U.S. Naval strategy has shifted from a focus on a global
         threat to a focus on regional challenges concentrated in
         the complex operating environment of the "littoral"
         areas of the world: However, our current Naval force
         requires fundamental changes in order to be able to
         respond to strategic demands.
     I.  Changing national strategy
         A.  From global to regional focus
         B.  Budget considerations
     II. New Naval strategy
         A.  Operating forward from the sea
         B.  From a "blue water" to a "brown water" Navy
    III. An "enabling force"
         A.  The MAGTF
         B.  Tailored for national needs
    IV.  Naval force doctrine
         A.  Current versus new doctrine
         B.  Shaped for joint operations
     V.  Current problems
         A.  Inadequate weapons systems
         B.  Questionable Navy commitment
         C.  Adequacy of funding
     VI. Solutions
         A.  Develop the right doctrine
         B.  Restructure Naval forces
         C.  Restore/reprogram scarce funding
         D.  Procure the right weapon systems
     Naval service priorities have changed along with our
national security strategy as a result of the collapse of the
Soviet Union and the belief that future conflicts will grow from
emergence of regional/ethnic rivalries around the world.  Our
strategy has shifted from dealing with confrontation in a bi-
polar world to confronting multi-polar threats where probable use
of military force will be expeditionary in nature.  Consequently,
U.S. Naval strategy has shifted from a focus on a global threat
to a focus on regional challenges concentrated in the complex
operating environment of the "littoral" areas of the world.
However, our current Naval force requires fundamental changes in
order to continue to successfully operate in this environment and
to respond to strategic demands.
     The new defense strategy formulated in the Secretary of
Defense posture statement of 1990 recognized that the massive,
short-warning threat posed to Central Europe by Soviet military
forces, which could quickly escalate to global war, had been
eliminated.  But the regional defense strategy of this document
also acknowledged that nondemocratic powers might attempt to
achieve hegemony in regions that remain critical to  U.S.
interests.  (1:6)  The ability of the United States to implement
this new regional strategy has been dependent on retaining a
credible alliance structure, quality personnel , technological
superiority and critical warfare capabilities.  This regional
defense strategy consists of four essential capabilities :
strategic nuclear deterrence/defense, forward presence, crisis
response, and reconstitution.  Of these four capabilities,
forward presence and crises response are capabilities the naval
service has been ably performing for many years in a relatively
stable environment.
     To adapt to this new regional defense strategy in an
unstable environment, naval forces must fundamentally restructure
to respond to potential low-intensity contingencies, and the new
force structure must be sufficiently flexible and powerful to
project an enabling power in littoral areas.  The new direction
of the Navy and Marine Corps team is to provide the nation with
naval expeditionary forces, that are shaped for joint operations,
which project power from the sea, and are tailored to specific
contingencies. (6:2)  Since 1981 the Navy-Marine Corps team has
strengthened its ability to operate in this environment and has
made great strides in updating doctrine and procuring weapon
systems to ensure effectiveness in littoral warfare.  These naval
forces have also established a full partnership in joint
operations and, as the nation's expeditionary force, have been
most capable of responding swiftly and forcefully to almost any
regional crisis.  However, continued budget constraints and
disputes in doctrine development threaten to impede the naval
services' ability to maintain a fully credible and effective
strategy to respond to evolving strategic demands.
     The restructured naval force must expand on and capitalize
upon its traditional expeditionary roles. (6:3)  Specifically,
Naval Expeditionary Forces must ensure they remain:
     -Swift to respond while forward deployed, on short notice
to crises in distant lands.
     -Structured to build power from the sea to respond to
national strategic needs,
     -Capable of sustaining support from the sea for long-term
     -Unrestricted by constraining land borders in order to enter
the scene of crises,
     -Flexible to respond to multiple regional threats in
different parts of the world,
     This renewed emphasis on the Navy operating increasingly
within the littoral areas of the world is a difficult adjustment
for the "blue water" sailor to make.  Transforming the current
blue water Navy, which has concentrated enormous manpower and
budgetary assets toward possible confrontation with the Soviet
Navy, to a "brown water" Navy with a focus toward confronting
numerous potential regional threats within the littoral areas of
the world will require a fundamental shift in mindset and
  The new Secretary of the Navy will have many obstacles to
clear, foremost being the dwindling defense budget, in order to
successfully transform our Navy-Marine Corps team into a truly
naval expeditionary force.  A majority of the Navy's ships are
surface and subsurface combatants designed to operate and fight
in the deep open ocean environment.  Amphibious shipping,
specifically designed to carry marines to a regional conflict and
to put them ashore in an assault, has been allowed to dwindle in
size because the Amphib Navy has historically been viewed as less
prestigious than the other surface communities.  Thus, a
fundamental shift in mindset is critical to a successful shift in
strategy.  Additionally, emphasizing procurement of amphibious
shipping is also necessary to support a "brown water" navy
capable of fulfilling strategic requirements.
     The unique capabilities of the naval amphibious forces make
them ideal for providing the initial "enabling force"  very often
required in most regional crises.  An enabling force supplies the
means and opportunity to insert Marine forces into a crisis to
initially stabilize the situation which allows follow-on joint
forces ample time to mobilize, employ and intervene.  Quick
response of a credible armed force in a given crisis can make the
difference in stabilizing the situation.  Additionally, this
armed force must be fully capable of operating in a joint
environment for ease of integration into the unified commander's
joint force if the crisis proves to be of such magnitude as to
require a much larger force.  Focusing on the littoral area, the
Navy and Marine Corps, as the enabling force, can seize and
defend an adversary's port, naval base, or coastal air base to
allow the entry of heavy Army or Air Forces. (6:4)
     Thus in terms of naval strategy, the new direction of the
Navy and Marine Corps team is to provide naval expeditionary
forces shaped for joint operations, which are capable of
maneuvering from the sea to immediately respond to a unified
commander's direction to intervene in a crisis.  Naval force
doctrine is evolving to enable deployed amphibious forces to
configure expeditionary force packages that can respond to
various crises.  At present naval expeditionary forces, while
deployed overseas, are fully capable of responding to a wide
range of crises from humanitarian relief and non-combatant
evacuation operations to major offensive operations.  Naval
forces can also sustain long-term operations due to their unique
self-sufficient logistics system.  This harmony is more apparent
than real as will be discussed later.
     Task organizing into tailored expeditionary force packages
is generally accomplished by constructing a Marine air-ground
task force (MAGTF) which is embarked on Navy amphibious ships.
Today's MAGTFs are credible, mobile, sustainable, and flexible
forces with combined arms capabilities in a wide range of
operations including crisis response, presence, disaster relief
stability operations, and humanitarian relief. (2:51)  The MAGTF
has been a credible capability for many years.  Retention of this
capability is needed if we expect to have a viable expeditionary
force well into the next century.
     A MAGTF has all the characteristics inherent in a naval
expeditionary force: balance, flexibility,  recoverability,
reusability and strategically, operationally, and tactically
mobile and sustainable. (3:45)  This expeditionary capability is
enhanced when Marine flyaway forces are used in conjunction with
a forward deployed MAGTF.  These air contingency forces are able
to make long-range reinforcing deployments on short notice.  The
strategic importance of such rapidly deployable and employable
forces highlights the synergistic effects of Naval expeditionary
     With a diminishing Defense budget however, the Navy and
Marine Corps are now forced to review the structure needed to
meet global commitments and other possible contingencies.
Eventually this rethinking will lead to some dramatic changes
that require looking at force structure in different ways. (3:45)
To remain effective and tailored for national needs naval forces
will need to be creative and innovative as force structure
shrinks.  The large draw down in personnel and reduction of
amphibious shipping will likely result in smaller MAGTFs
deploying more frequently, if all current commitments are to be
met.  Naval forces must be both capable and affordable, supported
by relevant concepts, doctrine, and training.  These changes will
refine and implement the operational capabilities of
expeditionary warfare so that Naval forces can help provide the
National Command Authority with a full range of options. (6:10)
     Current Naval force doctrine resides in numerous Naval
Warfare Publications and in various Marine Corps Fleet Marine
Force Manuals (FMFM).  Naval force doctrine, specifically Navy
doctrine, is still weighted heavily toward countering a "blue
water" threat that was historically presented by the Soviet
Union.  However, this threat became drastically diminished after
the coup attempt in 1991 and decreases even more as time passes.
But Navy force structure as well as ship mix, remains configured
to meet this "blue water" threat.
     Current Naval amphibious doctrine was developed in the 1950s
and issued in 1962.  Dramatic changes have occurred in the world
in the past 30 years, but amphibious doctrine has changed very
little in that period. As Admiral LaPlante remarked "Littoral
warfare is going to be the mode of warfare in the future.
Amphibious forces will be involved in that, but, clearly, much
more broadly than in executing conventional assaults.  We need an
institutional way to think about those sorts of things, and how
we're going to establish command relationships and what the
tactics are going to be." (4:37)  Development of future Naval
doctrine must be accomplished with a clear understanding of
national objectives and not with the goal of furthering Mahanian
ideals.  This effort must include contributions equally from the
"Gator" Navy and Marine Corps as well as other surface/
subsurface combatants, and aviators.
     To conduct maneuver warfare from the sea, the Marines and
the few amphibious advocates left in the Navy have experimented
with a new concept.  The idea is for an amphibious task force to
remain over the horizon at distances up to 5O miles at sea and
instead of launching head-on attacks against enemy defenses (as
done in the Pacific war) attack an enemy's soft spots. (8:31)
Navy and Marine amphibious forces have been experimenting with
this approach for the past seven years.  This concept uses CH-
46/CH-53 helicopters to land Marines and light equipment behind
enemy positions ashore where they can marry up with tanks and
other heavy equipment landed ashore by Navy landing craft, air
cushion (LCAC) vehicles at speeds of 50+ knots.  These LCAC can
maneuver along a coastline probing for undefended/unmined beaches
and move inland some distance if needed to land their payloads in
a relatively benign environment.  The goal is to land an assault
regiment by LCAC and helicopter within 90 minutes from over the
     Maneuver warfare--from the sea--must be the linchpin of
future naval doctrine if naval forces intend to have any hope of
meeting future national needs in an unstable multi-polar world
where numerous regional threats may exist at any one time.  This
concept--maneuver from the sea--can succeed in the Navy if the
right direction is chosen.  However, a few major obstacles must
be cleared in the near future to effectively guide the Navy and
Marine Corps on the correct path to successful development and
implementation of maneuver warfare doctrine and procedures.
These problems that must be addressed are:
     -Lack of an adequate number of amphibious lift ships
     -Lack of a replacement for the Marine Corps medium lift
helicopter (CH-46)
     -Reluctance of senior Navy leadership to develop naval
doctrine that places more emphasis on the "brown water" Navy
     -Lack of adequate funding
     -Inadequate naval gunfire support
     Amphibious lift shipping.  While war plans require
amphibious lift for the assault echelons of two Marine
Expeditionary Forces(MEFs), available funding can support only a
2.5 Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) assault-echelon lift goal,
which is the Nation's minimum requirement.  If achieved, this 2.5
MEB lift goal would meet current requirements for forward
deployed naval forces and still provide sufficient surge
capability to lift the assault echelons of a MEB in the Atlantic
and Pacific theaters. (7:91) However, the Navy's inventory of
amphibious ships is decreasing with the retirement of older LSDs
and all the Navy's LSTs and LKAs. This decrease in amphibious
shipping exceeds the Navy's planned/funded new construction
replacement amphibious ships.  The Navy continues to build
amphibious assault ships (LHDs) and dock landing ships (LSDs),
but there will continue to be a shortage of amphibious shipping
unless the Navy is able to convince congress to fund a new class
of amphibious ship, the LX-90, which is currently awaiting
     Marine Corps medium lift replacement.  The aging CH-46
assault medium lift helicopter, a key maneuver element weapon
system that is in dire need of replacement, remains in the Marine
Corps inventory and will likely not be replaced in the near
future.  Due to a dispute on affordability of the V-22 Osprey,
Congress and the Department of Defense (DoD) have been unable to
agree upon a satisfactory replacement aircraft to fulfill the
Marine Corps medium lift mission.  Continued deadlock between
Congress and DoD, coupled with the continued deterioration of the
Marine Corps CH-46 fleet, will soon cause a serious degradation
in our emerging capability to effectively maneuver from the sea
in support of evolving strategic demands.
     Senior Navy leadership commitment.  For many years the
leaders of the Navy have mainly focused their efforts on
confronting the "blue water" threat posed by the Soviet Union.
Consequently, a majority of Navy funding and effort was devoted
toward building weapon systems that could combat this threat.
These frigates, destroyers, cruisers and carriers were considered
the backbone of the fleet and were where the premium billets for
line officers were located.  All other surface ships, especially
amphibs, were seen as second rate and offered very little
opportunity to for advancement.  This attitude is still prevalent
today.  However, the recently retired Secretary of the Navy, Sean
O'Keefe, has taken a giant step in a new direction for the naval
service with the publication of the Navy and Marine Corps white
paper From the Sea.  This was a good first step, but in order to
ensure the transformation in the way the Navy intends to approach
the current regional threat, emerging doctrine must be developed
with an emphasis on elevating the stature of service within the
amphibious fleet.
     Lack of adequate funding.  Prospects for future defense
budgets appear grim and will likely cause a drastic draw down in
personnel and an equal reduction in Navy ships.  Actual
reductions are not yet known, but if recent estimates from
Washington are accurate, a reduction below 159,000 active duty
personnel for the Marine Corps will be assured.  A reduction of
this magnitude will cause the Naval service to look at reducing
forward presence and the National Command Authority to cancel
various commitments throughout the world.
     Lack of adequate Naval gunfire support.  When the USS
Missouri was decommissioned and returned to mothballs in March
1992 the last of the Navy's truly effective naval gunfire support
(NGFS) platforms--the battleships--was removed from the Navy's
inventory.  The Navy destroyers' Mark 45, 5-inch/54 guns are the
only NGFS tubes remaining in the Navy's inventory.
Unfortunately, these 5-inch guns are not very effective on
today's high-tech battlefield.  This lack of effective NGFS
severely limits the Marine Corp's ability to maneuver from the
sea into a  hostile environment, which may be required in today's
environment. Given today's budget constraints, it doesn't appear
that an adequate NGFS weapon will be developed in the near
     These problems present a large roadblock to naval service
efforts at successful development and implementation of maneuver
warfare doctrine, but this doesn't mean it isn't insurmountable.
In terms of doctrine the Navy and Marine Corps team is changing
in response to the challenges of a new security environment.
(6:10)  To ensure these changes are adequate to enable the naval
service to maximize effectiveness against today's regional
threats requires a strong commitment by naval leadership and
strong support in Congress.
     The keys to overcoming obstacles must begin with at least
partial restoration of funding cut from the Department of the
Navy's budget during recent Congressional budget hearings and
continue with a dedicated effort by Navy leadership to develop
doctrine that encourages increased emphasis on amphibious
warfare.  The following choices must be made to set the Navy and
Marine Corps team on the right path toward development of
adequate maneuver warfare doctrine and procedures:
     -The Navy must obtain funding and then approve construction
of the next generation replacement amphibious ship,the LX-90.
This new amphibious ship will be able to embark a minimum of 700
troops; 25,000 cubic feet of cargo; four CH-46E helicopters;and
two LCACs.  It will provide a majority of the capabilities of the
remaining 26 ships of the Austin (LPD-4), Charleston (LKA-113),
Anchorage (LSD-36), and Newport (LST-1179), classes of amphibious
ships that will soon be retiring at the end of their 35-year
service lives. (7:91)
     -The Navy must convince DoD to support procurement of the V-
22 Osprey, which is an obvious choice for replacement of the
Marine Corps medium-lift helicopter, the CH-46.  The V-22 Osprey
was found to be the most cost-effective aircraft for the Marine
Corps medium-lift mission by a study conducted by the DoD-
sponsored Institute of Defense Analysis.  The V-22 is the right
platform to fulfill the Marine Corps medium-lift requirements
well into the 21st century, but DoD must first be convinced to
fund it.
     -The regional and littoral warfighting environment requires
new doctrinal thinking to get the most out of integrating the
Navy/Marine Corps and the joint sea-air-land team. (6:11) The new
Naval Doctrine Command being established in Norfolk will provide
the right stage to initiate doctrine development that can achieve
successful transformation from a "blue water" mentality toward a
"brown water" regional focus.  Total commitment on behalf of
senior Naval leadership toward this goal is mandatory for
     -Restoration of funding to a level that will allow the
Marine Corps to maintain active duty strength at current Base
Force levels is vital to meeting all current forward presence
commitments.  If funding is not restored Congress and the
National Command Authority must make some difficult decisions on
what commitments and contingencies are not going to be met due to
a shrinking armed force.
     -The ideal solution to ensure adequate NGFS would be to
bring back all four battleships.  Since this is an unrealistic
goal, development and funding of installation of the Mark-71 8-
inch gun for the Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers,
replacing the present Mark-45 5-inch/54 gun would be an
acceptable solution to providing adequate NGFS to the Marine
  While U.S. Naval strategy shifts from a global to a regional
focus, it has become evident that other key factors will affect
the naval forces' ability to successfully operate in this
environment.  Recently the Navy and Marine Corps team embarked
upon a no-holds-barred reassessment of it's role in the nation's
defense and the types of capabilities we must field to perform
that role.  This reassessment is an integral part of the
reorientation of our national military strategy, which requires
an increased emphasis on use of the sea to project and sustain
power ashore. (5:12)  The ability to rapidly maneuver Marine
assault forces--from the sea--to undefended coastal areas will be
a key ingredient to future naval doctrine, as the Navy/Marine
Corps white paper "From the Sea" clearly emphasizes the complex
warfighting requirements of the littoral areas of the world.
1.   Cheney, Dick. Annual Report to the President and Congress-
     FY93 February 92.
2.   FMFRP 2-12 Marine Air-ground Task Force; A Global Capability
     CG, MCCDC April 91.
3.   Hayden, Lt.Col. H.T. and Lt.Col. G.I. Wilson. "Defining the
     Corp' Strategic Concept." Marine Corps Gazette May 92:
4.   LaPlante, Radm. J.B. "The Path Ahead for 'Gators and
     Marines." Naval Institute Proceedings November 92: 34-38.
5.   Mundy, Gen. C.E. "Something Old for Something New." Naval
     Institute Proceedings November 92: 12-14.
6.   O Keefe, Sean. From the Sea, A Navy White Paper September 92
7.   O'Neil, Capt. J.E. and Cdr. J.D. Hankins. "Picking the
     Latest Gator." Naval Institute Proceedings August 92: 91-93.
8.   Trainor, Lt. Gen. B.E. "Still Going... Amphiious Warfare."
     Naval Institute Proceedings November 92: 30-33.

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