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Mattis Is Pushing The Navy To A Brand New Fleet Strategy
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Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently hinted at major changes to how aircraft carrier battle groups are deployed, saying that the current eight-month deployment cycle is “no way to run a Navy.”
Instead, the order of the day is preparation for peer conflict. Deployments scheduled years in advance may be replaced by flexible 90-day tours. “They won’t spend eight months at sea,” Mattis continued in his remarks to the House Armed Services Committee last month. “We’re going to have a force more prepared to surge and deal with high-end warfare as a result, without breaking the families, the maintenance cycles-we’ll actually enhance training time.”
Mattis seems to be bringing his old Marine Corps “Chaos” persona to an organization that’s built a business model on predictability. Training, readiness, and staffing issues aside, what effect would the secretary’s proposed changes have on US Naval Strategy?
The best way to understand the contemplated changes is to see this as a transition from a Mahan-inspired Navy to a Corbett one.
What does that mean? Well, the work of Alfred Thayer Mahan is at the core of our Navy’s culture. It formed the basis for the grand strategy of the US Navy. In particular, his 1890 book The Influence of Seapower Upon History articulated the strategic logic behind a naval building frenzy that took the world by storm. Mahan believed that concentrated battle fleets made up of capital ships on the strategic offensive, based at and supplied by chains of distant colonies, would establish “command of the sea” for the nation’s shipping interests. Unfettered access to foreign markets was won through fleet-on- fleet battle. An enemy fleet’s proper place was trapped in port or on the seafloor. Mahan’s theories paved the way for American holdings in Cuba and the Philippines. Later, colonies were replaced with bases stationed with allies around the world.
Sir Julian Corbett was a British contemporary of Mahan. In Some Principals of Maritime Strategy, published in 1911, he argued that “command of the Sea” was a relative term, as the world’s oceans were too vast to “control.” What could be controlled were lines of communication. The act of passage, then, was more important than outright control. It was better to maintain a presence, then quickly seize temporary control of small areas when needed. Corbett prized maneuver over decisive battle in an overall plan of strategic defense that featured concentrated local offensives and combined operations. Commerce raiding and blockades featured heavily. Capital ships were only one part of the equation. The enemy never needed to be destroyed in the Mahanian sense.
Secretary Mattis’ view of sea power comports more with Corbett’s views than with Mahan’s. Corbett wrote his tome for the Royal Navy, then a long established sea power—as, now, is the U.S. Navy. Defending the status quo in delicate geopolitical situations meant decisive fleet on fleet battles were to be avoided. Corbett’s emphasis upon the operational level and hitting enemies fast and hard where needed fits neatly with Mattis’ views of warfare. While aircraft carriers have long since taken the battleship’s place as the fleet’s capital ship, Corbett’s theories make room for other types of warships to contribute to the mission. Cruise missiles, armed UAVs, and special operations forces make this facet quite attractive.
Reordering the Navy from its Mahanian mindset will be tough. Questioning long-standing philosophies always meets resistance. Mahan’s arguments on decisive battle and absolute control of the sea were made at the time America was a rising sea power, not an established one. This is supported by Mahan’s popularity with new naval powers like China. It’s yet to be seen whether the Navy is unwilling to give up the historic foundation of its mission.
While the specifics of Secretary Mattis’ plans have yet to be announced, the strategic implications are many. Bottom line is, Mattis seems to be gambling that certain regions used to a predictable naval presence will remain stable despite unpredictable rotations. How will allies and opponents react?
Kyle Gaffney received his Master’s Degree in History from William Paterson University. He last wrote for The Long March about Tom’s hero, Gen. William T. Sherman. Follow him on Twitter at @citizenGaffney .
BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea said on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.
The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.
An opening ceremony will be held Monday on Hawaii island for a military exercise with China that will involve about 100 People's Liberation Army soldiers training alongside U.S. Army counterparts.
This comes after Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke on Veterans Day at Punchbowl cemetery about the "rules-based international order" that followed U.S. victory in the Pacific in World War II, and China's attempts to usurp it.
Those American standards "are even more important today," Davidson said, "as malicious actors like the Communist Party of China seek to redefine the international order through corruption, malign cyber activities, intellectual property theft, restriction of individual liberties, military coercion and the direct attempts to override other nations' sovereignty."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".
In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"
It is impossible to tune out news about the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump now that the hearings have become public. And this means that cable news networks and Congress are happier than pigs in manure: this story will dominate the news for the foreseeable future unless Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt get back together.
But the wall-to-wall coverage of impeachment mania has also created a news desert. To those of you who would rather emigrate to North Korea than watch one more lawmaker grandstand for the cameras, I humbly offer you an oasis of news that has absolutely nothing to do with Washington intrigue.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will return three captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday and is moving them to a handover location agreed with Kiev, Crimea's border guard service was cited as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday.
A Reuters reporter in Crimea, which Russian annexed from Ukraine in 2014, earlier on Sunday saw coastguard boats pulling the three vessels through the Kerch Strait toward the Black Sea where they could potentially be handed over to Ukraine.