Thursday, May 3, 2018

Deployments or Missions?

Our current system of 6-12 month deployments is badly broken.  The driving force behind the perceived need for such lengthy deployments is the Combatant Commander’s insatiable and, generally, worthless requests for forces to enhance their prestige and importance combined with the Navy’s absolute refusal to say no to any request because they perceive excessive demand, however worthless, as justification for larger budget slices.  All of this gains us … nothing.

Our deployments certainly aren’t deterring the Russians from seizing Crimea, invading Ukraine, and harassing our ships and aircraft in unsafe passes.  We absolutely aren’t deterring the Chinese from ignoring international law and seizing the South and East China Seas and building illegal artificial island bases.  We haven’t deterred the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons and sponsoring terrorism.  We didn’t deter North Korea from developing nuclear ballistic weapons – although Trump may have single-handedly accomplished more than any of our military deployments.  We haven’t deterred Syria from using chemical weapons.

So, if we aren’t deterring anyone, what are we accomplishing?  Well, we’re running our ships and aircraft into early retirements, we’re putting ships to sea that have training and certification waivers and have proven incapable of conducting basic seamanship evolutions, we’re reducing readiness, we’re creating a hollow force, we’re creating a mountainous backlog of maintenance, and we’re placing enormous strain on our personnel.

Clearly, our current deployment model is badly broken.

So, given what we are and are not accomplishing, what should we be doing?

The answer is simple.  Until such time as we decide to allow our forces to respond forcefully to harassment and misbehavior, which might actually enable effective deterrence, we should bring our ships and aircraft home.  I’ve discussed this before.  Deployments aren’t accomplishing anything so let’s leave everything and everyone home to conduct non-stop maintenance and training.  Let’s get readiness up to warfighting levels.  After all, isn’t that where we should be – ready to fight a war tonight?  Isn’t that where real deterrence comes from?

Ships should be constantly training.  Periods of pierside and shore training should alternate with frequent at-sea training exercises punctuated by ample maintenance periods.  In other words, ships, aircraft, and people should be either training or maintaining – there is nothing else.

Now, can we utterly pull back from the world stage?  No.  There are some areas that need attention.  However, what those areas don’t need is worthless deployments where a ship plows back and forth accomplishing nothing.  Instead, what we need are missions.  Yes, missions.  You know what a mission is, right?  It’s a specific task with a specific, achievable goal.

Let’s say there’s an area that is having trouble with piracy.  You don’t deploy and just wander around, hoping that your presence will somehow deter pirates (assuming they even recognize what a warship is which has proven not to be the case!).  Besides, your Rules of Engagement don’t really allow you to do anything effective.  Instead, we conduct a mission to exterminate the pirates at their source.  We collect intel, find and fix the pirates and their supporting elements, and execute a mission to wipe them out.  Then, we return home to train and maintain.  Mission accomplished.  There’s your deterrence!

Is China building another illegal, artificial island?  You don’t conduct another absolutely worthless Freedom of Navigation exercise that only reinforces their territorial claims.  Instead, if we have the willpower and courage to stop them, we conduct a mission to that end.  We collect intel, come up with a plan to actually stop their activities, plan for contingencies and escalation, and execute a mission to stop them.  Then, we return home to train and maintain.  Mission accomplished.  There’s your deterrence!

Tired of Russian aircraft making unsafe passes and maneuvers around our ships and aircraft?  You don’t continue to send unescorted ships and aircraft to sail/fly back and forth with no freedom to take any action.  Instead, you plan a mission to put a halt to the unsafe activities, presumably by “accidentally” downing some aircraft.  Then, we return home to train and maintain.  Mission accomplished.  There’s your deterrence!

Now, what if we don’t have the stomach for confrontations with China, Russia, Iran, and NKorea?  Fine.  So be it.  Then we sit home and train and maintain.  If we don’t have the stomach to confront then deployments aren’t going to accomplish anything, anyway, are they?  If and when we develop the will to confront someone then we can execute a mission with our, at that point, highly trained, well maintained, combat ready forces.

Deployments accomplish nothing.  Missions accomplish a specific task.

Stop deployments and start executing missions.


  1. I see the US has reported its C-130s have been lasered coming into the airbase at Dijoubti on the Horn of Africa. The lasers have been coming from the direction of the Chinese base. I think this for me was a step too far. While they have picked on what are normally non combat aircraft, the C-130. Not all versions are 'non combat'

  2. Heard it couple of days ago thru grapevine but seems like more official news outlets are carrying it now, Trump has asked DoD to look at troop reductions in SK. If we trade our troops in SK for a few NK nukes, we might as well admit we are officially a paper tiger, yes, then let's go home and train, buy stuff that works and stop wasting money. We have lost Asia, you bet Japan and Taiwan are going to rush to China to get the best deal they can from China while they can. Expect US to be out of Japan really fast, no point staying there now. China is moving fast in Africa, that's a mess they can have and interestingly, maybe they will get stuck in ME. Most of the big moves in investments and opportunities in ME are Chinese interest, not US interest and money anymore.

    I'm all for going back to basics and realigning our interests and what level of pain we can tolerate militarily. I can see Americans being ok going after goat herders with AKs and assorted terrorists but going after Russia or CHINA, forget it, let's stop kidding ourselves, we don't just have the pain tolerance or the guts anymore.

  3. In related news the Navy is putting a band aid on the manning problem for forward deployed ships. I wonder how this will effect long term reenlistment and the manning of US based ships now that forward deployed get this priority

    """"""Navy Increases Tour Lengths for First Time Forward Deployed Sailors

    By: Ben Werner
    May 2, 2018 1:36 PM

    THE PENTAGON — The Navy is extending initial tour lengths for forward deployed enlisted sailors in an attempt to cut down on the constant churn of personnel passing through ships based overseas."""""

    First-term sailors being sent to sea duty billets in forward deployed locations – Japan, Guam, and Spain – will be assigned to tours of up to 4 years if accompanied or unaccompanied. If a sailor’s family is not given command sponsorship, a maximum of two years unaccompanied orders will be issued, according to a Navy announcement released Tuesday.

  4. Meanwhile China, despite the problems of its army, work hard to resolve them (stealing as much technology as it can for example). Sadly they are not stealing the stupidity of our training. They train to invade Taiwan and control the south China sea.

    Where is the training to defend Taiwan? Where is the training to invade Chinese island in the South China sea? Where is the constant training of the US navy with Japanese, south Korean and Taiwanese navy to defend itself against a peer competitor?

    Japan and Korea are the main competitor of China in ship Building, we should encourage them to take a bigger part of the naval arm race. they have money, the skills and the naval industrial base. We should work our diplomacy to fix the Korea/Japan/Taiwanese issue (japan/Korea often play USA like total fools in diplomacy, they like Germany and China, are dependent on exporting to USA for their economy, USA can force tariff if they do not cooperate more against China).

    1. You're describing a Pacific NATO type organization and that would be a good counter to China.

    2. Isn't it time we changed the name of NATO and its remit and asked Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, India, Brazil etc to join? Perhaps we could then get something that would also replace the utterly useless waste of space called the UN.

    3. "Isn't it time we changed the name of NATO"

      Recall that NATO was formed because the member nations faced a common threat and had a common goal. The Chinese threat would be of far less interest to most current NATO nations. I think a tailored Pacific-NATO is a better approach such that each member nation would have a very high interest in the common goal of countering China.

    4. Western Europe has roughly the same population and GDP as the USA - they can defend themselves; especially against a Russia that is half the size as it was during the cold war, and maybe has 25-35% of GDP of the EU.

      Worse, do not expect expect the Europeans to rush to defend Canada or the USA if China attacks: NATO membership obliges a response only to an attack on continental Europe. In the context of a Soviet attack this was of no import, but it makes a convenient excuse for our "allies" to bugger off. A Clinton official described the situation perfectly: the Europeans expect to fight to "the last American."

      Generals and admirals have wonderful base homes in Euroupe, the liberty for the troops is great, but a more mis-guided use of tax payer dollars, and U.S. military manpower is hard to find.

      If that were not enough, EU nations are great trading partners with wonderful countries like Iran.

      The USA actually has a stronger interest in a cooperative relationship with the Russians and other Artic Ocean nations than with the EU/NATO.


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    1. One commenter here said there was a naval version of nato in Asia in the past. I forgot the name. My point, outside of China not stealing the stupidity of either Americans or Russians, is that America has the leverage to force them to participate more. If usa has a current account deficit with Japan, at least make Japan participate in Asia peace. It would also save money to better spend for military.

      I did not delve too much on it because that is mainly economics. I will expend : a quick check in trade and current account deficit show how much Asia depends on exporting to USA both its good and its excess capital. Many people think China has leverage against USA because if the US debt. I think it is the other way around. Without us debt, the Chinese currency rise, and China become less competitive stop exporting. It is still an exporting economy Around 20% of its gdp despite many financial bubble. If it stop exporting, the economy crash. And a good economy is a pillar if the communist party legitimacy. (and USA does nothing to destroy it, USA should want a trade war with China, they would leave the south China Sea quickly, do not make your future enemy richer)

      USA knew that with Japan before ww2(Russia did not with nazi Germany and they paid it). We sanction Russia we should sanction both Russia and China.

    2. Trump is steadily ratchetting up the pressure on just this issue. He's pushing for the imbalance in trade to be eliminated. This would slow the Chinese economy and accelerate the American - it's a very smart move.

    3. Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) ...


    4. SEATO - I had forgotten about that organization. It dissolved in the mid '70s or so, if I recall. But, yes, we need to learn some lessons and think about reforming a version of it.

    5. SEATO was ineffective at best; the problem is that unlike the NATO nations, which had a clear threat in the USSR and Warsaw Pact to unite against, the Southeast Asian nations see each other as competitors, rivals and enemies. Kinda hard for the nations in SEATO to play nice together and do joint ops when each has their own agenda, will not submit themselves to a common cause, and oh yeah, they've been fighting with each other - Vietnam and Thailand fought border skirmishes after the Vietnam war, Indonesia landed invasion troops in West Malaysia and Singapore, the Phillipines tried to landgrab the state of Sabah from Malaysia, Indonesia is believed to have supported a communist coup attempt in Brunei...

      It's a kinda dysfunctional region.

    6. Of the countries you named, only Thailand and Philippines were actually members. So, the member nations did 'play nice together'. Other countries in the region have had issues with each other but they were never part of the organization.

      SEATO was successful and productive in non-military matters.

  6. I agree. We burn fuel oil for largely nothing. The most important benefit is 'presence' which is largely a maritime law enforcement matter. Wasting billion or trillion dollar battle groups for this is useless. Even a LCS could handle these missions. For the amount of money spent, US Gov sponsored PMCs for ship security in high threat zones would bring the same effect for far less dollars. Hell form some USCG reaction teams for rescues and law enforcement functions. Move them about by air as needed. US Gov can compensate merchantman for hosting them as needed.

    The only benefit I see for at see deployments are ESGs. Just enough land and air, add back the 1990s surface ships for some firepower to handle quick brush fires until a carrier can be dispatched or an airforce AEF flown in to friendly base.

    And really this discussion has been had here before.

    It is essentially the Battle Fleet vs the Colonial/Presence Fleet.

    Name an operation since the end of the cold war, where forward deployed USN battle fleet forces proved decisive with a no notice (ie no 6 month or 1 year tension and forces build up in a region) made the difference. It hasn't happen.


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