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 , 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 Ukraine and building illegal artificial island
bases. We haven’t deterred the Iranians
from developing nuclear weapons and sponsoring terrorism. We didn’t deter East China Seas from developing nuclear ballistic
weapons – although Trump may have single-handedly accomplished more than any of
our military deployments. We haven’t
deterred North Korea from using chemical weapons. Syria
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!) but, if not, 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.
accomplished. There’s your deterrence! Mission
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. China accomplished. There’s your deterrence! Mission
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.
accomplished. There’s your deterrence! Mission
Now, what if we don’t have the stomach for confrontations with
, China , Russia , 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. Iran
Deployments accomplish nothing. Missions accomplish a specific task.
Stop deployments and start executing missions.