Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Dynamic Force Employment

ComNavOps has argued for the abandonment of the traditional naval deployment model in favor of a mission based model (see, "Deployments or Missions?").  The result of a mission based model is that readiness, in all its manifold expressions, increases dramatically.  It appears that SecDef Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Dunford have begun implementing a naval activity model that lies somewhere between deployments and missions.  By way of example, the Truman carrier group is returning home after just a three month deployment instead of the more common 8-12 months. 

“In a statement, new Fleet Forces Command head Adm. Christopher Grady said the order for Truman to return to home port was a “direct reflection of the dynamic force employment concept, and the inherent maneuverability and flexibility of the U.S. Navy.” (1)

Cutting a deployment short does indicate flexibility, to an extent, I guess.  I’m not sure how it demonstrates maneuverability nor am I sure what maneuverability even means in this context.  It sounds like a meaningless buzz-phrase.

Mattis’ hybrid activity model, which he refers to as ‘dynamic force employment’ (DFE – another buzz-phrase), is intended to make naval forces “more agile and less predictable” (1).  Again, I’m not sure how a shorter deployment make the Navy more agile or what that even means.  The returning Truman group will enter a surge-ready sustainment phase, whatever that means.

“… all returning units are 100 percent mission-capable and will remain in the sustainment phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan, which means they will sustain war-fighting readiness and be ready to surge forward or redeploy when called upon.”

In Navy-speak, the sustainment phase means that the ship will be held at deployment-level manning, training and general readiness so that it can surge on short notice in a crisis.”

As a reminder, the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) was an attempt by the Navy to better manage regular deployments so as to ensure proper maintenance through the course of the deployment cycle.  Unfortunately, the OFRP immediately failed upon its initial implementation.  Regardless, the OFRP is predicated on rigid adherence to planned deployment schedules.  Returning a group early from a deployment is the antithesis of the OFRP.

The DFE is a hybrid type of deployment model.  Insofar as it reduces pointless deployment time and increases home port maintenance time (if it does?) and training time (does it?), ComNavOps can buy into it.  After all, it’s not all that far removed from a pure mission based activity model which is what I’ve advocated.

The DFE does, however, lead to the question, why deploy at all?  An actual, short deployment is a whole lot of pointless sailing, not much meaningful activity, a lot of operating cost, and a near suspension of training in favor of routine ‘operations’.  It would make far more sense to stay home, save money, forego pointless sailing, and concentrate on meaningful training and maintenance – in other words, a mission based activity model.

The cynical among you, myself included, might wonder if this DFE is just a thinly disguised way to reduce operating costs?  After all, it’s always about the money, right?

On a practical note, deployments that end unexpectedly (if the end was actually a surprise to the crews?) must create problems for the crews and their families due to the uncertainty.  Yes, there would be a great deal of happiness at the unexpected good news but also a great deal of confusion and disruption of carefully laid plans.

All in all, I’m cautiously in favor of this DFE pending additional evidence of the detailed workings and scope.  Was this a one time cost savings measure, not to be repeated?  Will the group simply be ‘parked’ to save money and not actually use the time to train, maintain, and improve readiness?  The answer to these kinds of questions will determine whether I’m in favor of this over the long haul.  So, this may be a step in the right direction but the better approach is no deployments and implementation of a purely mission based model.




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(1)Defense News website, “Jim Mattis’ ‘dynamic force employment’ concept just got real for the US Navy”, David B. Larter, 17-Jul-2018,


13 comments:

  1. It seems like CNO Richardson is thinking somewhat along the same lines, but he doesn't seem to have a concrete plan as to how to approach it.

    “Maybe we increase naval power by bringing the strike group back a little early and we do high-end strike-group-on-strike-group exercises or training like that, and then you really kind of enter a, I’m trying out some things that are really on the cutting edge of naval warfare. And then the strike group pulls in and they get a little time with their families, time to go to schools, that sort of thing, and then maybe they surge forward – so you’re not gone for that long period of time, maybe you can do a little maintenance, and so we see there’s opportunities.”

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    1. Yeah, that's a bunch of vague ideas - the opposite of an actual plan. This is what passes for leadership in the Navy today.

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  2. "The DFE does, however, lead to the question, why deploy at all? An actual, short deployment is a whole lot of pointless sailing, not much meaningful activity, a lot of operating cost, and a near suspension of training in favor of routine ‘operations’. It would make far more sense to stay home, save money, forego pointless sailing, and concentrate on meaningful training and maintenance – in other words, a mission based activity model."

    As in all things, moderation is probably important. Perhaps deployments aren't the most cost-effective use of time, but "deploying" every now and then might reveal issues that merely going on "missions" might hide. In metallurgical terms, you might say that missions are analogous to fatigue as deployments are analogous to creep. Both fatigue and creep can lead to failures.

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    1. I fear you've missed the basic concept in the mission model. The ships aren't just parked and forgotten, they're exercised at sea regularly, under all conditions. The ships will cycle through maintenance, training, and missions. The difference is that when not on a mission the ship is training extensively rather than doing nothing useful. There will be plenty of sailing - it will just be near home ports. The training might be a day or so at a time or it might be many days, even weeks during a major exercise. If there are any long term issues, they'll become evident.

      The kind of training I envision - as close to combat as possible - will be far more stressful on the ships, physically. High speed maneuvers, rapid extreme change of speeds, violent evasive maneuvers, sprint and drift, etc. will all become commonplace.

      The time a ship spends at sea in a mission model will be time well and productively spent as opposed to aimlessly sailing back and forth on some deployment that accomplishes nothing.

      Moderation is not the answer - stress is! Stressful sailing and stressful training produce combat readiness.

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    2. "The time a ship spends at sea in a mission model will be time well and productively spent as opposed to aimlessly sailing back and forth on some deployment that accomplishes nothing."

      Except the deployments give the crew an opportunity to stand countless watches, conduct countless drills, and perform countless unreps while coping with all the mechanical and psychological effects of being at sea for an extended period of time (e.g., boredom and interpersonal conflicts). It's a different kind of stress and one that you don't necessarily have when you know that you'll be back "home" in a week or two.

      "I fear you've missed the basic concept in the mission model. The ships aren't just parked and forgotten, they're exercised at sea regularly, under all conditions. The ships will cycle through maintenance, training, and missions. The difference is that when not on a mission the ship is training extensively rather than doing nothing useful."

      All you're really describing is OFRP without the deployment phase.

      "As a reminder, the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) was an attempt by the Navy to better manage regular deployments so as to ensure proper maintenance through the course of the deployment cycle. Unfortunately, the OFRP immediately failed upon its initial implementation. Regardless, the OFRP is predicated on rigid adherence to planned deployment schedules."

      First, OFRP is ongoing.

      Second, I think it's a stretch to say the OFRP is "predicated on rigid adherence to planned deployment schedules." Yes, OFRP was sold as incorporating "strategic predictability" (i.e., well-defined deployment schedules), but it doesn't necessarily fail just because one phase or another is extended. The OFRP cycle for aircraft carriers consists of a 7-month maintenance phase, a 7.5-month training phase, a 7-month deployment phase, and a 14.5-month sustainment phase. The OFRP for CSG surface combatants is a little different.

      Third, to the extent that OFRP has "failed" it is largely because the CSGs that have entered OFRP have missed the cutoff of the preliminary maintenance phase of the OFRP cycle due to their overuse prior OFRP.

      https://www.gao.gov/assets/680/676904.pdf

      Fourth, the main selling point of OFRP is that CSGs would be home-ported during the sustainment phase for continued training and contingencies rather than wearing down men and material on additional deployments. The sustainment phase would be a perfect time for the kind of training you are advocating.

      https://news.usni.org/2016/01/19/u-s-fleet-forces-new-deployment-plan-designed-to-create-sustainable-naval-force

      Fifth, ORFP and DFE are not mutually exclusive. It sounds like DFE is to govern the employment of asserts during the sustainment phase while also possible shortening the deployment phase to three months instead of seven, which seems reasonable enough to me.

      https://news.usni.org/2018/05/16/cno-dynamic-force-employment-allow-high-end-training-strike-groups

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    3. "Except the deployments give the crew an opportunity to stand countless watches, conduct countless drills, and perform countless unreps while coping with all the mechanical and psychological effects of being at sea for an extended period of time (e.g., boredom and interpersonal conflicts). It's a different kind of stress and one that you don't necessarily have when you know that you'll be back "home" in a week or two."

      First, the mission model is non-stop training, less maintenance periods, so the cumulative watch standing, etc. will as great or greater than for the deployment model, just more productive.

      Second, you seem not to understand how navies fight and, to be fair, this is a common failing. Most people seem to think a navy is going to conduct deployments during a war - hence, your comment about long term boredom - and nothing could be further from the truth. The entire history of naval warfare is a series of SHORT but incredibly intense battles. For example, Coral Sea and Midway each only lasted around four days. At the end of the mission/battle, the task forces return to port. Long term boredom isn't a thing.

      It's a question of what you want to prepare for. Do you want to prepare for year long deployments or short, intense missions/battles?

      Fight like you train, TRAIN LIKE YOU FIGHT.

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    4. "All you're really describing is OFRP without the deployment phase."

      In the simplest possible form, yes. The difference is the rigidity of the OFRP with its ebbs and flows of readiness. The mission model is continuous readiness and training, less maintenance periods.

      The other difference is the quality of training. OFRP trains to pathetic standards using canned exercises that prove nothing and prepare for only routine occurrences. Mission model training is as realistic as possible, unscripted, large scale, and stressful. If we're going to fight with 4-carrier groups then we'll train as 4-carrier groups.

      Fight like you train, TRAIN LIKE YOU FIGHT.

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    5. "I think it's a stretch to say the OFRP is "predicated on rigid adherence to planned deployment schedules."

      Of course it is and you know it because you then immediately describe the rigid schedules!!!!

      "The OFRP cycle for aircraft carriers consists of a 7-month maintenance phase, a 7.5-month training phase, a 7-month deployment phase, and a 14.5-month sustainment phase."

      That's as rigid as you can get. In fact, the very first time it was attempted, the first carrier failed to deploy and the entire system crashed BECAUSE THERE WAS NO FLEXIBILITY!!!!!!!!!

      IT'S AS RIGID AS YOU CAN GET! That was its supposed strength - it's rigid adherence to an utterly predictable schedule.

      Come on, this is the entire foundation of OFRP.

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    6. So OFRP is one more thing that you have an intense, emotional dislike for. Got it.

      What is your background exactly? Your sources are almost as sparse as your profile information and your claims are often backed up only by your "authority." I'm increasingly wondering what that "authority" is.

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    7. In that I believe deployments are a waste of time, I have no use for a OFRP system that tries to enhance deployments. If you read the post carefully, you noted that I have an initial, cautious, limited approval of the DFE, depending on how it's further implemented, if at all.

      As far as sources, I provide a reference for nearly every major post premise and any piece of key information I present that is not common knowledge. Given the limited length available for a post, that's quite a bit of sourcing and far more than most blogs!

      I claim no "authority", whatever you mean by that. My work stands on its own. Read the post, refer to the references, and accept the work or not. This blog is an educational and informative offering I make available to you, the reader, with no conditions or claims other than that the work is based on facts and logic. I also limit myself to public domain information.

      Sorry, but given the prevalence of nut cases on the Internet I don't provide any background information. Similarly, I won't ask about yours. This protects both our privacy.

      If my thoughts are good then my background doesn't matter and if my thoughts are bad then my background doesn't matter. The writings stand on their own.

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  3. Just looking at the previous schedule of the Truman shows it went into refit phase in Sep 2016 and that was 'completed' at end of July 2017. Thats was a year ago, so the 3 month deployment was preceded by a 9 month training phase. So the previous phases were roughly in line with the 'rigid sytem' I though there might have been some major issues with maintenance but doesnt seem so. So maybe the ME situation was stable enough to avoid deploying for the sake of it and maybe some lessons have been learned from the crewing of the DDGs, just having waivers isnt good enough and pulling back and letting crew do some proper qualification training while ashore.

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  4. Just maybe this has nothing to do with flexibility. The Navy maybe anticipating a period in the near future in which they will need most assets available to engage a peer level foe. For example, maybe Taiwan will be recognised as an independent country , maybe a showdown in the South China Sea is about to happen ( it is certainly overdue).

    By the way I hate buzzwords and the meaningless drivel that comes out of the bureaucracy.

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    1. If the country were anticipating a peer level conflict, they'd be assembling a LOT more assets than one carrier. I think it's safe to say that's not the explanation.

      With you on the buzzwords!

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