Fleet Response Plan
The Fleet Response Plan, adopted in 2003, calls for six of the Navy's 12 aircraft carriers to be available for deployment within 30 days and another two to be available in 90 days. Typically, the Navy will have two carriers based in the United States deployed overseas, in addition to one carrier permanently stationed in Japan.
The requirement to be able to swiftly defeat aggression in overlapping conflicts called for in the 2001 QDR has necessitated a focus on developing new surge capabilities to complement and capitalize on our current competency in providing immediately employable forward-deployed naval forces. The recently created Fleet Response Plan (FRP) will significantly increase the rate at which we can augment deployed forces as contingencies require. Under the regular rotation approach, the training, manning, maintenance, and readiness funding practices of the Inter-Deployment Readiness Cycle (IDRC) were optimized to meet the requirements of Global Naval Forward Presence Policy. While a modest number of forward deployed units were at peak readiness, the majority of ships and associated units were not deployed and thus at a point in their IDRC that made it difficult and expensive to swiftly "surge" to a crisis, conflict or for Homeland Defense.
The FRP features a change in readiness posture that institutionalizes an enhanced surge capability for the Navy. Under the guidance of Commander Fleet Forces Command (CFFC), a revised IDRC is being developed that meets the demand for a more responsive force. With refined maintenance, modernization, manning and training processes, as well as fully-funded readiness accounts, the Fleet can consistently sustain a level of at least 6 surge-capable carrier strike groups, with two additional strike groups able to deploy within approximately 90 days of an emergency order. In parallel with this, the Naval Reserve Force is embarked on a fully integrated active-reserve transformation to a more flexible unit structure. Part of this transformation is focused on providing a rapid surge capability of skilled aviators who have trained with active-duty units to reinforce them and rapidly boost their ability to generate combat sorties.
The enhanced and expanded readiness availability delivered by the Fleet Response Plan provides the President with unprecedented responsiveness. Instead of predictable, lock-step, 6-month deployments to pre-determined regions in support of the Global Naval Forward Presence Policy, the Flexible Deployment Concept allows units that have attained high readiness to embark on deployments of varied duration in support of specific national priorities such as Homeland Defense, multi-national exercises, security cooperation events, deterrent operations, or prosecution of the Global War on Terrorism. often in multi-Carrier Strike Group formations. These deployments provide "presence with a purpose" and can also occur in less predictable patterns, thereby forcing potential adversaries to adjust to our operational timelines. The sustained readiness created via the Fleet Response Plan will enable the Flexible Deployment Concept.
Flexible Deployment Concept implementation will occur under the emerging Joint Presence Policy. Naval implementation of these new presence requirements will be carefully monitored to ensure that schedules and OPTEMPO standards are adhered to so that our unprecedented force levels will not result in uncertainties for our sailors or allies.
The military build-up for and waging of Operation Iraqi Freedom dramatically impacted the IDTC and the deployment schedules of the Navy's aircraft carriers as six carriers were sent to the Persian Gulf and another carrier was sent to fill the vacuum left by the Kitty Hawk's deployment to the Persian Gulf. In some instances carriers were surged earlier than expected and in other cases carriers experienced an extended deployment, most notably the USS Abraham Lincoln, who deployed in July 2002 and did not return to the US until May 2003.
Prior to OIF the Navy began to experiment with an altered IDTC that reduced the time that a carrier would spend in the yard and accelerated the ships training cycle. The USS Carl Vinson returned from a deployment on January 23, 2002 and after spending roughly 4 months in the yard began sea trials and its IDTC in September. The Vinson had completed its COMPTUEX by late November, its JTFEX in January and was deployed on February 6, 2003.
In March 2003, the Chief of Naval Operations released his "Culture of Readiness" message to the Navy that directed Commander, Fleet Forces Command to develop IDTC processes and milestones that would improve the speed of response for the full combat power of the Navy. The CFFC convened a working group composed of fleet and TYCOM representatives and developed a fleet response concept that would make the necessary changes to attain the increased readiness and responsiveness.
In May 2003, the Navy issued a message to major commands describing the Fleet Response Plan which would dramatically alter the IDTC and the way in which the Navy leadership viewed deployments. The FRP would shift the focus away from rotational deployments and presence to being capable of surging substantial forces, ideally 6 surge ready carrier strike groups and 2 carrier strike groups that would follow shortly thereafter.
In addition, under FRP, eight out of 10 of the Navy's submarines are able to respond to emergent fleet requirements at any time.
To meet this objective the Navy intends to extend the interval between maintenance periods and modify training and manpower processes. The Navy also adopted a mindset of "R+plus" (R=return) rather than "D-minus" (D=Deploy). The idea being that working up for a scheduled deployment was not as important as being available as quickly as possible from the end of the last deployment.
Instead of the rather vague "surge status" or "deployed status" the Navy created emergency surge status, surge ready status, and routine deployable.
- Emergency surge assets are those that would be employed in cases of urgent need. Attaining emergency surge status occurs upon completion of the Basic phase of the IDTC. "Emergency Surge" status should be attained with three to four months of the completion of its maintenance period.
- Surge ready status are those assets that can deploy upon completion of the intermediate phase of the IDTC. Ships should attain Surge Ready status within six months of the completion of its maintenance period.
- Routine deployable is equivalant to completion of the current IDTC.
The goal of the current new concept would be to move assets through the IDTC as quickly as possible and conducting refesher training to insure readiness.
The FRP was instituted by July 1, 2003 and the 6+2 surge goals were completed by December 1, 2003.
Maintaining the Fleet Readiness Plan (FRP) construct of six aircraft carriers available within 30 days plus two additional carriers available within 90 days is a difficult task. Maintenance requirements on carriers alone make satisfying the FRP a challenging scheduling problem. By increasing the average cycle time for a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to 27 months, the FRP requirements can be met continuously, after an initial maintenance adjustment period of 62 months.
During the summer of 2004 the Navy surged some aircraft carriers from their homeports . to generate as many as seven of 12 carriers on station . for Coalition operations. The ability to push that kind of military capability to the four corners of the world is quite remarkable and recent. Several years ago, the Navy could deploy only two. Through this series of deployments, surge operations and exercises, the Navy will demonstrate and exercise a new approach to operations and maintenance.
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