The United States is currently facing a range of challenges: budgets are being trimmed, extremist groups threaten in Iraq, Ukraine is embroiled in hybrid war, and China is becoming more ambitious in the Asia-Pacific. At a seminar at IFS 14 October Vera Zakem and Capt (ret) Peter Swartz from the CNA Corporation´s Center for Naval Analyses addressed the US Navy's role in meeting these challenges.
Vera Zakem began the seminar by pinpointing the traditional and non-traditional challenges across various regions of the globe, dwelling in particular on pressing issues pertaining to Africa, the Middle-East, Asia and Europe. She underscored how the US Navy plays a pivotal role in all these regions by conducting various operations to stabilize, assure, deter and prevent. Given the plethora of present challenges, Zakem argued, the demands on the Navy's flexibility are tangible. Innovation and small footprint approaches are needed. Yet, due to the combination of a "resource strained environment" and "multiple tasks" required, it is more important than ever to "build trust and partnerships" and to train with allies and partners.
Well versed in the US Navy's historical deployment patterns, Capt. (ret) Peter Swartzbegan his presentation by arguing that the essence of the US Navy is operations and deployments rather than declaratory strategy. His core message was that the US Navy, for all intents and purposes, has been about "forward offensive operations". Sweeping through the US Navy's deployment history from 1775 till the present, Swartz made the case that, rather than being a fleet for pure homeland defense tasked to secure and patrol the US coastline, the Navy has historically been forward deployed with a truly global scope. This remains true today.
Like no other branch of the US military, the Navy's missions and deployment patterns epitomize the global scope of US power projection. The Core capabilities of the Navy today are nuclear deterrence, power projection, sea control, forward presence, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and maritime security, all of which require a forward and flexible fleet. Today's six fleets – which are organized into two hubs and consists of about 300 vessels, 3700 aircrafts and 10 operational aircraft carriers – are a significant and highly useful combat force ready to engage in potential crisis and war spots. The US Navy is capable of deterring, reassuring, intimidating and enabling others. It is this versatility, Swartz argues, that makes the deployment model superior to its available alternatives. Nevertheless, questions loom about the model's economic sustainability.
Report by Johannes Rø