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ALEXANDRIA -- Good Evening, Drifters

In journalism we have a thing called "the nut graf." I always try to have one in every story. It's the "so what" paragraph of your story.

Here's one I wrote about a request for information about a sub-launched drone for aerial surveillance:

"The Navy has been interested in sub-launched drones for some time and has been testing prototypes, but the RFI shows the service is getting serious about the idea as it adds longer-range torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles to the arsenal of its attack submarines."

I mean, it's not Shakespeare, and it's not even a particularly good nut graf, but it gives the reader high up in the story what the takeaway should be.

It is not often you get a really good bit of writing from the U.S. Military, but props to whoever drafted this paragraph which is the nut graf (referred to as "The Problem Statement") of the Navy's newly released Tri-Service Maritime Strategy:

"China’s and Russia’s revisionist approaches in the maritime environment threaten U.S. interests, undermine alliances and partnerships, and degrade the free and open international order. Moreover, China’s and Russia’s aggressive naval growth and modernization are eroding U.S. military advantages. Unchecked, these trends will leave the Naval Service unprepared to ensure our advantage at sea and protect national interests within the next decade."

A couple things I would have changed but, all told, it gets the point across: this is an emergency.

So, let's dive into this strategy tonight, shall we?

Let's Drift.


Strategy Drift Notes

In the first paragraph of the forward, we get a reference to long-range precision fires. That should give you a clue about what they are interested in.

Excerpt: Significant technological developments and aggressive military modernization by our rivals are eroding our military advantages. The proliferation of long-range precision missiles means the United States can no longer presume unfettered access to the world’s oceans in times of conflict.

Then in the second graf, Russia and China.

Excerpt:Since the beginning of the 21st century, our three Sea Services have watched with alarm the growing naval power of the People’s Republic of China and the increasingly aggressive behavior of the Russian Federation. Our globally deployed naval forces interact with Chinese and Russian warships and aircraft daily. We witness firsthand their increasing sophistication and growing aggressiveness. Optimism that China and Russia might become responsible leaders contributing to global security has given way to recognition that they are determined rivals. The People’s Republic of China represents the most pressing, long-term strategic threat.

Getting to the point:

Excerpt:"America’s Naval Service defends our Nation by preserving freedom of the seas, deterring aggression, and winning wars. For generations, we have underwritten security and prosperity and preserved the values our Nation holds dear. However, China’s behavior and accelerated military growth place it on a trajectory that will challenge our ability to continue to do so."

Banging long-beat drum, the strategy raises the alarm about China's intent to dominate its regional waters and remake the world order in its favor. It also cites China’s rapid growth, calling it "alarming."

Exceprt:Already commanding the world’s largest naval force, the PRC is building modern surface combatants, submarines, aircraft carriers, fighter jets, amphibious assault ships, ballistic nuclear missile submarines, large coast guard cutters, and polar icebreakers at alarming speed. China’s navy battle force has more than tripled in size in only two decades.

This rapid growth is enabled by a robust shipbuilding infrastructure, including multiple shipyards that exceed those in the United States in both size and throughput. In conflict, excess PRC industrial capacity, including additional commercial shipyards, could quickly be turned toward military production and repair, further increasing China’s ability to generate new military forces.

So, the brass tacks here are the ways the Navy plans to counter the problem it sets up. This is laid out in a section called: Employing Naval Forces.

Prevailing in the Long-Term Strategic Competition

The Navy plans to give the Chinese threat primacy and focus its efforts on countering it globally.

Key paragraph: "Deterring and contesting incrementalism requires firm and persuasive operations to confront malign behavior. Ready, forward-deployed naval forces will accept calculated tactical risks and adopt a more assertive posture in our day-to-day operations."

This is the Navy saying it is going to start taking the gloves off. This could mean challenging China in ways that could provoke a confrontation, maybe even shouldering.

Operating Across the Competition Continuum

The Navy is going to continue to operate with allies and partners and strengthen international partnerships like always.

Here's a key paragraph: Together with whole-of-government partners, we will deny the obscurity that our rivals exploit, holding them accountable to the same standards by which others abide. Exposing and attributing malign behavior imposes reputational costs, diminishes the effectiveness of propaganda, and galvanizes international resistance.

This is naming and shaming. It is also perhaps hard to pull off as this would be an interagency thing. So, unless the Biden State Department throws its weight behind this, it will be hard to do without stepping on toes.

There are a few other sections here but I find them less compelling.

Ok, so under "In Conflict," I have to point something out:

Excerpt:"In combat, naval forces will leverage the concepts of Distributed Maritime Operations, Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment, and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations to support Joint Force Commander objectives. Nested under the emerging Joint Warfighting Concept, our operations will mass the effects of joint, sea-based, and land-based kinetic and nonkinetic fires."

This is an odious paragraph. It is a word salad; a morass of undefined terms and ill-defined concepts that mean nothing to most readers. The paragraph even acknowledges that there is no defined "Joint Warfighting Concept," only promises that it is "emerging." How could one know that the other undefined concepts fit with something that has yet to fully emerge?

I follow this stuff and have seen all these terms and read all the related material so I get it.. kind of. But honestly who is this document for? I shouldn't read a 36 page document and finish it, only to realize I'm going to need another 80 pages of word-salad to understand one paragraph. The glossary isn't helpful either, it's just more jargon.

Contrast the problem statement with the above paragraph. You know what the difference is? Clarity. Don't waste your reader’s time and attention by throwing a bunch of technical-sounding junk at them. If your reader does not know what you are talking about, they may draw the conclusion that you don't know what you are talking about.

Moving on.

Developing Naval Forces

Key paragraph: Consistent with the findings of recent force structure assessments, we will generate a balanced, hybrid fleet that includes undersea, surface, air power, aircraft carriers, and expeditionary land forces. Cost-effective platforms and manned-unmanned teaming will increase the capacity of the fleet and expand our ability to distribute our forces. We will leverage the lethality of submarines in sea denial and focus on enhancing long-range fires, including aircraft and missile ranges, and manned-unmanned teaming in all domains.

Marine Littoral Regiments, as part of Marine Air Ground Task Forces and Marine Expeditionary Forces, will bring additional ISR, C2, and long-range fires capabilities. A modernized Coast Guard fleet will enhance global deployability and provide expanded options across the competition continuum. We will resource integrated force generation, with both funding and time, to ensure deploying forces are prepared for a global, all-domain fight. Finally, we will ensure we have the necessary capacity and capability for sealift and logistics to sustain our forces in contested battlespaces.

One point on this: Should the Coast Guard, at its current size, be focused on deploying globally? Or might we want to maybe invest in them a bit more if we want them to further increase their commitments outside of the Western Hemisphere?

Anyway, according to the strategy the naval force will emphasize the "sea control" mission over all others.

Excerpt:The maritime domain can no longer be considered a permissive environment. Establishing sea control is a critical enabler for all other naval missions that support the Joint Force, including power projection and sealift.

The other thing to pull out from here is that the services will emphasize more distribution over exquisite platforms. "We will design our future naval force to support distributed operating concepts that rely on lower signature, highly maneuverable forces," the strategy reads.


CNO has, to his credit, hammered this during his time in the chair: This all depends of a network that doesn't exist.

Key paragraph:The Naval Service will accelerate delivery of the next-generation Naval Operational Architecture, composed of the Naval Tactical Grid, battle management aids, data structures and infrastructure that underpin distributed operations. This network will be fully interoperable with Joint All-Domain Command and Control systems and will combine inputs into an actionable common operational picture. Leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning, we will give our warfighters enhanced situational awareness and facilitate decision making at tactically relevant speeds.

And that's basically it!

On to The Hotwash.

The Hotwash

This seems like it could be bad: US Navy investigates potential LCS class-wide design flaw

CNO encourages fleet to get COVID-19 vaccine

Congress OKs new Arctic icebreakers for Coast Guard

Navy unveils warrant officer specialty to operate MQ-25 Stingray refueling drones

Beijing Upgrading Naval Bases To Strengthen Grip On South China Sea

The World’s Most Important Body of Water

David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.

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