Jumat, 18 Desember 2020

America’s New Naval Strategy Focuses On Maintaining Rules-Based Order At Sea - Forbes

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The Trump administration has released America’s first new joint maritime strategy encompassing the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard since 2015. At risk of being lost in the Trump administration’s welter of provocative last-minute policy proposals, plans and budgets, the tri-service strategy is a refreshing surprise: It reflects a sound approach to present-day maritime threats, offering the incoming Biden administration a helpful path towards bipartisan cooperation in a tough fight to fund the Defense Department.

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While the “Advantage at Sea” strategy highlights great power competition with China and Russia, its primary focus is really upon maintaining rules-based order on the high seas. Starting from the premise that “the United States has built, led, and advanced a rules-based international system through shared commitments” with allies, this Tri-Services Strategy is refreshingly cooperative and multilateral. It focuses on maintaining international rules-based order in increasingly fragile seas, where a range of technologically skilled players are employing every possible aggressive tactic—short of war—to achieve ambitious and unjust geopolitical goals. 

It is a fascinating document. For the first time, the maritime services are beginning to formally grapple with the challenge of managing incremental coercion and “fait accompli” actions, or other tactics that leave the world no viable option other than to accept the consequences of Chinese, Russian or other entity’s maritime provocation. 

This Tri-Services Strategy sets the stage for a far more crafty application of American maritime power. While it emphasizes the robust old strategy of “sea control,” the maritime forces are moving away from the shortsighted and simplistic Mattis-era obsession with lethality. Instead, America’s fleet is putting a far sharper focus on shaping the geopolitical environment for the smart, timely application of maritime power. To do this, alliances and partnerships, actions short of war, and forward operational deterrence with right-sized, integrated forces all get their due.

The Strategy’s overarching press for better integration between America’s maritime stakeholders helps break down the somewhat artificial distinctions between deterrence, sea control, power projection and maritime security assets, encouraging the Services to embrace “concepts and capabilities that apply across the competition continuum over those that are narrowly focused.”

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The Tri-Services Strategy adopts a healthy approach to assertive, confrontational tactics, stating that “ready, forward-deployed naval forces will accept calculated tactical risks and adopt a more assertive posture in our day-to-day operations.” While that does not necessarily mean ships will be fighting at sea, the maritime services themselves will be more vocal, and far more ready to “detect and document” violations of rules-based order, and “refute the false narratives of our rivals” in the maritime.

While the Tri-Services Strategy makes a strong call for increasing maritime investments overall, the U.S. Coast Guard does seem to be big winner. The emphasis on rules-based order in the maritime echoes the language in many, long-standing U.S. Coast Guard strategic documents, and, as a result, the Strategy seems to roll a lot of responsibility to the Coast Guard.

The Tri-Service Strategy may set the Coast Guard up for a budget boost, recognizing that America’s popular Coast Guard may end up on the winning side of two likely Biden Administration budget trends. While the Strategy expands the Coast Guard mission-set without offering commensurate financial support for Service growth, the new missions detailed in the Strategy position the Coast Guard—the only non-Defense Department branch of the military-to serve as a viable offset to expected Defense Department cuts.

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And, as one of the few components of the Department of Homeland Security that has not been tainted by immigration scandals, the always popular and in-demand Coast Guard, again, may be well-positioned to receive a funding boost as less popular Components of the Department of Homeland Security face a reckoning.

But, if no new money is forthcoming, and unless other services ramp up their commitment to support Coast Guard missions, America’s maritime law enforcement service, under this Maritime Strategy, will be in for a very busy, very engaging and very tough time. 

Better Late Than Never

It is a pity that this strategy took so long to release. There is a lot of goodness here, but, now, rather than execute, the risk is that the Biden Administration will want more time to put their own stamp on this ambitious—albeit solid—Tri-Services Strategy.

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There certainly are things to improve. The Maritime Strategy is still somewhat tactical in nature. Beyond the obvious, the Strategy fails to explicitly identify some of America’s overarching strategic goals for the maritime. Revealing some specific strategic goals is important—if the maritime services are going to start calling out bad actors in the maritime, then the maritime services, with the help of other governmental organizations, need to be far more explicit about publicly identifying what they want to get as they press bad actors to follow the rules in the maritime. Identifying some of America’s (or a rival’s) strategic goals might be seen in certain quarters as an intelligence risk, but that information may do wonders in marshaling public support for the maritime services. And a little more data sharing certainly will help inform observers just how well this Tri-Service Strategy is working in the years to come.

The Tri-Services Strategy is a bit exclusive, cutting out a few important maritime stakeholders. While the strategy comments on the importance of sealift and the environment, the Department of Transportation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were ignored. These two components of America’s National Fleet—transport and research fleets—are critical stakeholders whose contributions must be aligned with America’s strategic direction in the maritime. Given that environmental challenges are already fueling maritime conflict, NOAA’s research fleet of manned and unmanned craft will be an important partner.

Shortcomings aside, the Tri-Service Strategy is sound, offering the Biden Administration a very good starting point. After offering the maritime little beyond constant leadership disruption, the Trump Administration, has, at the eleventh hour, offered the incoming Biden Administration a clear—and likely quite popular—strategic template.

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December 18, 2020 at 05:25AM
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America’s New Naval Strategy Focuses On Maintaining Rules-Based Order At Sea - Forbes

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