Small Wars Journal

Institutionalizing an ‘Irregular Warfare’ Focus in the Navy

Wed, 08/24/2011 - 6:20am

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Confronting irregular challenges has been embedded in the United States Navy’s DNA since its earliest beginnings.  While today’s Navy draws on a wider range of capabilities than ever before, addressing 21st Century security challenges demands a culture of continuous adaptation to ensure the Navy remains a relevant instrument of U.S. foreign policy and a key element within the broader U.S. strategic narrative that reassures  friends and signals foes of America’s commitment to global stability. The Navy’s early history is replete with colorful examples of daring operations in response to irregular challenges. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur’s fearless mission to destroy the captured frigate PHILADELPHIA in Tripoli harbor in February 1804, and Lieutenant John McLaughlin’s use of his “Mosquito Fleet” to conduct joint counterinsurgency operations with Army units in the Everglades during the Second Seminole War in 1839 are but two vivid examples of Navy multipurpose forces confronting irregular challenges. Although Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan believed “…the Navy is best used to find and defeat an opponent’s fleet”,  a review of U.S. naval history reveals a consistent theme of operations that did not engage an enemies fleet. Moreover, this historic trend continues to hold strong currency in today’s Navy missions, ranging from the Libyan intervention to providing humanitarian assistance to Japan and ballistic missile support to Europe. Today, three imperatives guide Navy efforts to confront irregular challenges:  increasing understanding of this complex and dynamic security environment; improving the proficiency of Navy fleet forces to prevent and respond to irregular challenges; and enhancing the Navy’s interoperability with the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Special Operations Forces, and other nation’s navies.

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About the Author(s)

John Sandoz is President of Adaptive Strategies Consulting, LLC, and is a former Naval Officer and defense consultant.



Wed, 08/31/2011 - 4:57pm

In reply to by Dave Maxwell

This information on Special Operations may be interesting, but there simply are "not" that many officer billets at higher levels in the SEAL hierarchy. The few officers, especially at the Commander, Captain, and Admiral level that once were SEALS are few and far between, would have left the Special Operations area and entered into fleet commands, etc. Of course there may be one or two that still function in that command structure, but how many Admirals (O7 and above) and Captains (O6's) would the Navy need for such a comparatively small number of men.

The US military appears to have learned how to successfully conduct Special Operations, and they deserve credit for their successes; however that does not make it a Navy mission. Important as they may be to IW and the like, successful as they may be and appear to be, cost effective, and many suggest should replace the current costly COIN efforts--military operations conducted hundreds of miles from the ocean are not in the Navy's domain. Land warfare is the Army's domain, not the Navy or the Marine Corps area of concern. This country does not need three armies, even under the concept of unified commands.

To the extent that SEAL forces are not involved in, or training for, or needed to support river operations or in support of amphibious forces, that (Navy) excess manpower should be transferred to the highly capable Army Special Operations Group. If my use of Army titles is incorrect, that is for obvious reasons--I have never been in the Army.

The question posed by the paper which is the subject of this discussion is not whether special operations are: operationally effective warfare, a cost effective approach to ground warfare, valuable to the armed forces, etc. They most certainly are that and more. The underlying question posed by the referenced paper is in essence what is the mission of the U.S. Navy--and I, and most Naval Officers, would contend that it is not ground warfare. We concede that area of expertise to the Army, where it belongs and to those who understand it.

In fact, as the previous Marine Corps Commandant noted and / or implied, the Marine Corps has become to large and is losing sight of its mission. They are soldiers of the sea to be employed temporarily extending Naval power ashore. That is why the Fleet Marine Force Commanders operationally report not the Commandant of the Marine Corps, but to CINCPAC and CINCLANT.

As the former Commandant noted the Corps has to be reduced back to its pre- 9/11 size, and (in my opinion) their excess manpower billets should be given to the army. An army which clearly is understrength or staffing wise it would not need to rely far to occasionally on Marine divisions to assist in conducting its inland warfare efforts. I am not implying that the army operationally needs Marines, just that it is understrength.

To the extent that Marine Corps operations create a second army those forces and staffs should be transferred to the actual army and the remainder of the Corps return to being soldiers of the sea and function in support of the Navy's mission.

My disagreement with your approach is not over the value of special operations or IW, just in which branch of the military they belong. The Navy consists of Cruisers, Destroyers, Submarines, Aircraft Carriers, Landing Ships, Aircraft for sea control and support of amphibious support, Construction Battalions to build ports and runways close ashore, Marine Corps landing teams, etc; but not Naval Infantry regardless of their deserved recent publicity. To the Army, what is the Army's, adopting with modification the ancient saying about Caesar.

Dave Maxwell

Wed, 08/31/2011 - 12:39pm

In reply to by CBCalif

Hold on CB Calif: SEALs don't advance? Two back to back Admirals commanding USSOCOM (Olson then now McCraven) - Look at Harward, Kernan, Pybus, Losey and there are more flag officers on the way (and some I missed). SEALs are doing very well in terms of promotions in the Navy and assignment to critical national security billets.

New York Times
August 9, 2011

Special Operations Veterans Rise In Hierarchy

By Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt

WASHINGTON — A growing number of veteran commandos in Special Operations are rising to top positions in traditional military units and across the national security bureaucracy, reflecting the importance of their specialized training to fight unconventional wars that defined the past decade.

Among the most visible of these appointments were the recent promotions of two Navy Seal commanders to the No. 2 slots at a pair of military regional commands, a historic first.

Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward was named deputy commander of Central Command, the military’s busiest, managing two wars while watching a complex set of partners and rivals across Southwest Asia and the Middle East. Vice Adm. Joseph D. Kernan was named deputy commander of Southern Command, specializing in upgrading the skills of local security forces across Latin America and the Caribbean with the exercise of American influence, or “soft power.”

The intermingling of conventional forces and Special Operations personnel is under way elsewhere, too, reflecting a significant shift in military culture and reshaping not only the armed services but also the executive branch and Capitol Hill.

Senior Obama administration officials say these veteran commandos bring to policy making in Washington astute long-range planning skills and a knack for working with disparate federal agencies. But to succeed, these appointees will have to overcome years of distrust between traditional military units and Special Operations forces, who are trained very differently and whose cultures diverge sharply.

Admiral Harward caught the attention of senior White House officials while working on counterterrorism as a military staff officer on the National Security Council after he had commanded Special Operations forces in Afghanistan. He brought to the White House experience combining military, intelligence and diplomacy to fight terrorism.

“We had to build a whole different network,” Admiral Harward said of the task facing the government after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “with the ‘intel’ community, with the embassy country teams, with the whole interagency.”

His boss today, Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marines, the top officer at Central Command, fought alongside Admiral Harward in the first phase of the Afghan war.

“This command and the conventional forces needed the unique intellectual agility and drive of an experienced special operator like Vice Admiral Harward,” General Mattis said, “especially as the character of the fight becomes increasingly asymmetric.”

Those same traits are seen as increasingly important for Special Operations officers elsewhere among senior military commands.

Admiral Kernan cited drug trafficking, criminal cartels and violent extremist organizations as the major challenges to security in South America. “They are all asymmetrical,” he said. “They are not a large conventional force.”

Admiral Kernan, who has also commanded Seal combat units, said Special Operations attributes relevant to his current assignment included a focus on “a small footprint” in South American countries where help is desired but a “Made in the U.S.A.” presence is not.

“We are warriors first, but we are happy not to go to war,” Admiral Kernan said. “We are happy to be a deterrent to conflict.”

This effort to spread Special Operations officers across the military and into the executive branch and Congressional staff positions was the initiative of Adm. Eric T. Olson, in charge of the Special Operations Command. (Admiral Olson retired Monday in a ceremony that also memorialized 30 American service members, among them 22 Navy Seals members, who were killed last weekend when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.) The admiral’s idea of assigning his most promising officers across the military and government bureaucracy was supported by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Robert M. Gates, the former defense secretary.

The trend is expected to continue under Mr. Gates’s successor, Leon E. Panetta, who worked extensively with many of these Special Operations commanders during his tenure as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Panetta “strongly values the decisive leadership they have demonstrated across a wide range of national security challenges,” said George Little, the Pentagon press secretary.

There are, however, cautionary examples. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal remains the most respected counterterrorism commander of his generation, even though his career ended prematurely after he was promoted to the top command post in Afghanistan. In a profile in Rolling Stone magazine, he and his senior staff were depicted as being disrespectful toward civilian authority, and the general was relieved of his command by President Obama. A subsequent Pentagon investigation cleared General McChrystal of all wrongdoing.

A notable example on the successful melding of conventional and commando leaders came in northern Iraq in 2007 and 2008, when Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, then in command of the First Armored Division, selected Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, an Army Ranger with extensive Special Operations experience, as a deputy commander of the heavy tank division.

The mission placed the division in a complex ethnic and religious landscape, and one of the biggest challenges was balancing the influence of Kurds and Arabs. General Thomas “understood that early on, because of his ability to quickly fuse intelligence,” General Hertling recalled. “He helped us fight better.”

General Thomas, who has since returned to senior command positions within Special Operations, said that the crossover of commanders was more than a cultural exchange and that it had significantly improved the ability of the entire force to fight.

He noted a history of distrust and misunderstanding between the conventional and Special Operations forces, or S.O.F., but said that had been diminished by the exchange of commanders.

“We all now recognize that whether it’s in counterinsurgency or an invasion, the S.O.F. operations have to complement what the conventional guys are doing,” General Thomas said.

Another crossover officer is Maj. Gen. Raymond P. Palumbo. He commanded Army Special Operations aviation units and served as assistant commanding general of the Army Special Operations Command before being sent back to the conventional force, where he is in command of all Army units in Alaska.

General Palumbo said Special Operations soldiers “have the flexible mind-set ingrained in you,” which is valuable in solving problems within a complex military service or government bureaucracy.

Other examples include Brig. Gen. Austin S. Miller, who just completed a Special Operations command tour in Afghanistan and is expected to get a senior post at the Joint I.E.D. Defeat Organization, which oversees a multibillion-dollar, militarywide effort to counter improvised explosives, the largest killer of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And Brig. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo, former commander of the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group, recently left a deputy commander position with a conventional Army division. His new assignment is overseeing Special Operations missions within the Central Command’s area.

Lt. Gen. Francis H. Kearney III, another veteran Special Operations commander, heads the arm of the National Counterterrorism Center that coordinates White House priorities. From his office in Northern Virginia, he uses planning skills he honed as a battlefield commander to help the government plot strategies to combat terrorist threats.

Last fall, when European and American officials detected credible threats from terrorist groups in Pakistan and northern Africa aimed at European capitals, General Kearney and his aides worked with officials at the Pentagon, White House, intelligence agencies and other federal departments to devise a plan to address the potential threat.

Intelligence agencies focused on the threats pointed to a series of suspected plans linked to Al Qaeda to attack “soft targets” in Britain, France and Germany. Law enforcement agencies coordinated with foreign counterparts. The National Security Council set up an interagency task force.

“You move through a matrix of what you can do with government capabilities at a certain time, and what indicators you are looking for,” General Kearney said.

Shadow Warriors: Movin' On Up
By Conn Hallinan, August 18, 2011

For decades the U.S. military has waged clandestine war on virtually every continent on the globe, but for the first time, high-ranking Special Operations Forces (SOF) officers are moving out of the shadows and into the command mainstream. Their emergence suggests the U.S. is embarking on a military sea change that will replace massive deployments, like Iraq and Afghanistan, with stealthy night raids, secret assassinations, and death-dealing drones. Its implications for civilian control of foreign policy promises to be profound.

Early this month, Vice Adm. Robert Harward—a former commander of the SEALs, the Navy’s elite SOF that recently killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden—wasappointed deputy commander of Central Command, the military region that embraces the Middle East and Central Asia. Another SEAL commander, Vice Adm. Joseph Kernan, took over the number two spot in Southern Command, which covers Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Obama administration has been particularly enamored of SOFs, and according to reporters Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post, is in the process of doubling the number of countries where such units are active from 60 to 120. U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Col. Tim Nye told Nick Turse of Salon that SOFs would soon be deployed in 60 percent of the world’s nations: “We do a lot of traveling.”

Indeed they do. U.S. Special Operations Command (SOC) admits to having forces in virtually every country in the Middle East, Central Asia, as well as many in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. But true to its penchant for secrecy, SOC is reluctant to disclose every country to which its forces are deployed. “We’re obviously going to have some places where it’s not advantageous for us to list where we’re at,” Nye told Turse.

SOF forces have almost doubled in the past two decades, from some 37,000 to close to 60,000, and major increases are planned in the future. Their budget has jumped from $2.3 billion to $9.8 billion over the last 10 years

These Special Forces include the Navy’s SEALs, the Marines Special Operations teams, the Army’s Delta Force, the Air Force’s Blue Light and Air Commandos, plus Rangers and Green Berets. There is also the CIA, which runs the clandestine drone war in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

It is increasingly difficult to distinguish civilian from military operatives. Leon Panetta, former director of the CIA, is now Defense Secretary, while Afghanistan commander Gen. David Petraeus—an expert on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations—is taking over the CIA. Both have worked closely with SOF units, particularly Petraeus, who vastly increased the number of “night raids” in Iraq and Afghanistan. The raids are aimed at decapitating insurgent leadership, but have caused widespread outrage in both countries.

The raids are based on intelligence that many times comes from local warlords trying to eliminate their enemies or competition. And, since the raids are carried out under a cloak of secrecy, it is almost impossible to investigate them when things go wrong.

A recent CIA analysis of civilian casualties from the organization’s drone war in Pakistan contends that attacks since May 2010 have killed more than 600 insurgents and not a single civilian. But a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at City University in London found “credible evidence” that at least 45 non-combatants were killed during this period. Pakistani figures are far higher.

Those higher numbers, according to Dennis C. Blair, retired admiral and director of national intelligence from 2009 to 2010, “are widely believed [in Pakistan],” and he adds that “our reliance on high-tech strikes that pose no risk to our soldiers is bitterly resented.”

Rather than re-examining the policy of night raids and the use of armed drones, however, those tactics are being expanded to places like Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. The question is, who’s next?

Latin America is one candidate.

A recent WikiLeak release demonstrates that there was close coordination between right-wing separatist groups in eastern Bolivia—where much of that country’s natural gas reserves are located—and the U.S. Embassy. The cables indicate that the U.S. Embassy met with dissident generals, who agreed to stand aside in case of a right-wing coup against the left-leaning government of Evo Morales. The coup was thwarted, but Bolivia expelled American Ambassador Philip Goldberg over U.S. meddling in its domestic politics.

The United States has a long and sordid history of supporting Latin American coups—at times engineering them—and many in the region are tense over the recent re-establishment of the U.S. Fourth Fleet. The latter, a Cold War artifact, will patrol 30 countries in the region. Given the Obama administration’s support for the post-2009 coup government in Honduras, its ongoing hostility to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and now the WikiLeak revelations about Bolivia, the idea of appointing a “shadow warrior” the number-two leader in South Command is likely to concern governments in the region.

SOFs have become almost a parallel military. In 2002, Special Operations were given the right to create their own task forces, separate from military formations like Central and Southern Command. In 2011 they got the okay to control their budgets, training, and equipment, independent of the departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. If one reaches for an historical analogy, the Praetorian Guard of Rome’s emperors comes to mind.

There is a cult-like quality about SOFs that the media and Hollywood have done much to nurture: Special Forces are tough, independent, competent, and virtually indestructible. The gushy New Yorker magazine story about SEAL Team Six, “Getting Bin Laden,” is a case in point. According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, the story will be adapted into a made-for-TV movie and released just before the 2012 elections.

There is a telling moment in that story that captures the combination of bravado and arrogance that permeates SOF units. An unidentified “senior Defense Department official” told author Nicholas Schmidle that the bin Laden mission was just “one of almost two thousand missions that have been conducted over the last couple of years, night after night.” And then adds that these raids were routine, no big thing, “like mowing the lawn.”

But war is never like “mowing the lawn,” as 38 American and Afghan SOFs found out the night of August 6 when their U.S. CH-47 “Chinook” helicopter flew into a carefully laid ambush just south of the Afghan capital of Kabul.

“It was a trap that was set by a Taliban commander,” a “senior Afghan government official” told Agence France Presse. According to the official, the Taliban commander, Qari Tahir, put out a phony story that a Taliban meeting was taking place. When Army Rangers went in to attack the “meeting,” they found the Taliban dug in and waiting. Within minutes the Rangers were pinned down and forced to send for help.

The Taliban had spent several years practicing for just such an event in the Korengal Valley that borders Pakistan. According to a 2009 Washington Poststory—“Taliban Surprising U.S. Forces With Improved Tactics”—the Valley is a training ground to learn how to gauge the response time for U.S. artillery, air strikes, and helicopter assaults. “They know exactly how long it takes before…they have to break contact and pull back,” a Pentagon officer told the Post.

“The Taliban knew which route the helicopter would take,” said the Afghan official, because “that is the only route, so they took position on either side of the valley on mountains and as the helicopter approached, they attacked it with rockets.”According to Wired, the insurgents apparently used an “improvised rocket-assisted rocket,” essentially a rocket-propelled grenade with a bigger warhead.

As soon as the chopper was down, the Taliban broke off the attack and vanished. According to the United States, many of those Taliban were later killed in a bombing raid, but believing what the military says these days about Afghanistan is a profound leap of faith.

SOFs are not invulnerable, nor are they a solution to the dangerous world we live in. And the qualities that make them effective—stealth and secrecy—are in fundamental conflict with a civilian-controlled armed forces, one of the cornerstones of our democracy.

As Adm. Eric Olson, former head of Special Operations, recently said at the Aspen Institute’s Security Forum, having Special Forces in 120 countries “depends on our ability to not talk about it,” and what the military most wanted was “to get back into the shadows.”

Which is precisely the problem.

Conn Hallinan can be read at


Wed, 08/31/2011 - 12:03pm

Bill M.: As you note, whether today, or in the past, budgetary considerations almost always guides where the military, or at least the Navy, directs its funds. Ships, submarines, and planes and their accompanying electronic warfare and weapons systems have been costly, at least in my lifetime. Accordingly, the Navy will direct few, if any, funds to other than its core missions which include anti-submarine warfare, ship based anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems, submarine capabilities, etc, etc. Redirection elsewhere will take away from the costly development and production efforts in these areas and few career minded officers, if any, will suggest redirection of funds from core areas under the command of very influential Admirals and their staffs. In fact, the type commanders will be competing with each other for funding leaving essentially no room for non-core areas, especially those which are viewed as quickly re-assembled when (not often) needed. After all, the Vietnam Brown Water boys went out of existence in approximately 1970 and the need did not return until Iraq 2003, a twenty three year period of non-involvement. I would imagine that if the anti-piracy efforts, such as they are, are continued off Africa some of the capabilities used in IW will be maintained.

Of course, on a side comment, one wonders why we haven't learned the lessons of the past and realize that one must destroy the bases used by the pirates and preemptively kill, imprison or hang their crews, if one wants to end piracy in an area. That is what the British did in the 1700's the US in the 1800's, the Romans in the 1rst Century, etc. We have Marine Corps BLT's afloat for that purpose.

Second, the Navy has always (and almost totally successfully since WWII) had as one of its goals to be so capable and so powerful that no other Naval force is capable of competing violently with it for control of the High Seas. That required the 500 to 600+ ship Navy of my time, certainly not the lesser force of 297 (?) currently maintained, meaning funds will need to be directed at core efforts to once again achieve and sustain that result.

While I agree with your proposition that it should be possible to maintain expertise and develop capabilities in non-core areas such as River Warfare or in today's world, "IW," the Navy's organizational culture will preclude that from occurring. I don't not how the Army internally functions, but the few Army Officers I knew from my 30' and 40's told me that (in the post-Vietnam era) that career development was limited for those officers in specialties such as Special Forces versus those in the regular infantry or armor. Officer career advancement for sea going line officers at any decent speed in the Navy requires these line officers serve in major commands such as destroyers, the Amphibs, (and now) submarines, and the like. Navy line officers who attempt to make a career out the SEALS, for instance, find themselves quickly topped out and unless they redirect themselves at an early pay grade level (O2 or O3) into a major line command their careers are effectively over, absent the very few that make it above that level.

This in itself would preclude development of sustained expertise in that area as few, if any, officers would risk / sacrifice career advancement to internally retain that knowledge. Absent making O4 there is no retirement and that probability would be slim in a subsidiary and small operation such as IW, just as it is in the SEALS. TV and the movies provide the SEALS publicity, but that grossly exaggerates their position or value to the mission of the Navy. Career SEAL officers, with very few exceptions, simply do not advance. The same would hold true for those officers assigned permanently to IW. In the Navy's culture IW would be avoided like the plague and those assigned their would do their utmost to be reassigned back to the "fleet" immediately thereafter to take it as a signal of time to retire.

That unfortunately is reality. What did Admiral Mullen say about his early Naval Service--that he did his best to be assigned to what he referred to as the "gun line" off Vietnam. He meant his (successful) objective in that theater was not the River Warfare units, but instead was duty on Destroyers or Cruisers off the coast of North or South Vietnam. He obviously understood the career advancement game.

Again, while you are in all likelihood correct, that maintaining an expertise can be valuable, in the Navy secondary ones such as IW will always suffer due to budgetary and career advancement issues and in all likelihood be mothballed, so to speak.

Bill M.

Tue, 08/30/2011 - 6:52pm

In reply to by CBCalif


As an Army guy I'm not about to argue with your hard hitting logic, not only because I have limited Naval expertise, but also because I agree with your primary arguments. However, I don't see why the Navy can't reign supreme in the areas you argued that should remain the Navy's core focus and at the same time add some enablers that will make them more effective against irregular threats (an old and future normal)? Why not add more 11m RHIBs to the surface ships? Why not add some IW specific ISR capabilities? As for moth balling your brown water boats after a conflict I guess that is an option, but it seems you risk losing a body of knowledge/doctrine and a core training training team that would allow you to rapidly expand that capability if needed again.

I am seeing a worrisome trend in various threads now that reminds me of much ugliness witnessed during the early 90s when DOD suffered a major budget cut (peace dividend post Cold War). Every service and elements within each service engaged in excessive chest thumping, claiming why their team was the ideal team for future conflicts and those yahoos across the street were pretty much worthless, so you can cut them and give me some additional funding.

Based on our budget system there may be no way to avoid this, but it is unfortunate that best approaches won't be considered in this zero sum game of fighting to maintain funding to the organizations we feel the most the loyalty to.

A former Naval Officer (1100) I agree with the above comments. The primary mission of the United States Navy is to ensure this nation's control of the sea and to ensure that our country's goods and military forces and their supplies can move where needed and when needed. This requires the U.S. Navy be able to overwhelm any current or potential opponent.

Irregular Warfare on the rivers during an occasional conflict are at best subsidiary efforts and can be funded and organized quickly without the effort required to develop and maintain the systems, ships and aircraft needed for the Navy's main mission. River patrol is not now, never was, and will never be a sustained and on-going effort conducted by our Naval forces. The US Civil War and the later Yangtze River patrols came and went, PT Boats were of little strategic value in WWII in the open waters around the Islands of the South Pacific, twenty years later the limited requirements of Vietnam were met and the effort thereafter appropriately mothballed for lack of a sustained need, and now the post 2003 Iraq river activities will cease and the equipment used will either go into mothballs or be donated to the Iraqi military and deteriorate accordingly.

On the other hand, recall what happened when the US degraded its conventional forces after WWI and the difficulties the Navy initially faced against the German U-Boats and the Japanese Navy in the Pacific. My father, a career Navy Chief, fought in the Battle of the Atlantic and previously in the 1939-1940 undeclared North Atlantic war against the U-Boats. From his few stories I understand what happens when we allow the combat capability and number of ships and planes of our Navy's conventional forces to effectively deteriorate.

Recall what happened happened when the Russians under an intelligent Admiral Gorshkov (sp?) built up their conventional strengths while we wasted ours on the senseless support efforts in Vietnam. Nixon and company almost allowed the Russian Navy to drive ours out the Med instead of calling in reinforcements and calling the Russians bluff and taking them head on. We effectively backed down--something we never did against Russian attempts at interference during the 1960's, and I make that comment comment based on person OOD Underway experiences.

Now the Chinese, as did once the Japanese, are building up their Navy in the Western Pacific, which effort arrogant or foolish Americans are degrading. Where have we heard that foolishness before? Add to that fact that many nations are acquiring the very quiet conventional submarines. Don't forget about that little war with the Iranian Navy when Regan was President. How do you think it would go today if we aren't prepared to take on their newly acquired submarines?

As needed, there will repeatedly be, but not always be, a need for some so-called Irregular War effort by the Navy. I would suspect that is what the SEALS were intended for, not to be an extension of the Army as currently being used inland.

Our Navy will rise or fall based on whether we succeed against the Chinese, the Indians if necessary, the Brazilian dreams of sea power, etc--not based on some wooden boats going up and down rivers. Carriers, destroyers, submarines, P3's or the like, Carrier Air Wings, etc is today and is the Navy's future and is this country's future. These remain the normal, not costly and non-productive and often "strategically" unnecessary "extended" irregular warfare" efforts which, as before, will provide no lasting strategic benefit to the US.

Advocate for IW capability, but don't argue it is the new normal as it simply is not.

Robert C. Jones

Thu, 08/25/2011 - 7:06am

This seems like a effort to justify why the Navy should be able to use the IW category to validate budget in the upcoming fight. While certainly the Navy possesses tremendous capability to support IW operations, my experience is that they see such support as an annoyance that is taking them away from their "real mission." In many ways they are correct.

We need a Navy focused on maintaining America's access to the oceans of the world. I cannot imagine an America denied access to the seas by some hostile foreign power, but it has happened before, and it could happen again if we allow the Navy to degrade or lose focus.

I had to chuckle a bit as I read the portions of this article citing to the tremendous support of the USNS Stockham to JSOTF-P. This contract vessel is without a doubt a tremendous resource, and the abilty of the Navy to provide such support is of inestimable value. But, as the J3 for Special Operations Command, Pacific, I cannot tell you how many times I had to beg the PACOM J3 for Navy support. To not allow the Stockham to go off station to make a liberty port call in the middle of a major operation; to provide a few more hours of P-3 support in a theater where there is none of the ISR so common in Afghanistan or Iraq; or to authorize a Navy helicopter to fly over land at all for any reason. Or my frustration in engaging with the Navy to step up to their responsibility as designated Service for providing Service-Common support to SOCPAC (everything from rifles, to vehicles, office supplies).

So, God bless the US Navy, as it allows our nation to be the nation it is. But IW? They don't much like it, and while they need to support it better, they don't need an additional share of the budget to do that, but more like an occasional swift muddy boot in the seat of their nice white pants.