In my last blog I talked about “Warfighting First,” the first of my three tenets Warfighting First, Operate Forward, and Be Ready), laid out in Sailing Directions. “Warfighting First” is about what we do. “Operate Forward” is our mandate—it’s about being where it matters, when it matters. Our Navy, with our Marine Corps partner, is uniquely qualified to immediately respond to crises, build partnerships, assure allies and deter aggression.
When America needs a rapid response the Navy responds to the call. Think back to your past deployments. You can probably recall a time when you were steaming toward one operation when, suddenly, you got the call to head in a different direction and respond to an urgent, unexpected mission. Those missions range from counter-piracy and humanitarian assistance to precision strikes and missile defense. Every ship and aircraft that operates forward provides more presence and faster response to events in their part of the world.
Our Navy is most effective when operating forward and history demonstrates that time and again. In times of conflict, such as the War of 1812, being bottled up in port not only damages our forces but can severely delay our response time. Yet operating forward in times of peace has proven, possibly, even more valuable. Starting with the Great White Fleet in 1907, the U.S. Navy has proven it can protect American interests without having to fire a shot in anger. The more the Navy is “out and about” around the globe, the more we can achieve our nation’s needs.
We operate around the globe using bases such as those in Hawaii and Guam, but also, more importantly, through places such as in Japan, Singapore, Rota, Djibouti, and Bahrain that our partners and allies allow us to use. These bases and places allow us to rest, repair, refuel and resupply while staying forward and engaged. So by using the lens of “Operate Forward” how can we achieve more forward presence more efficiently? One way is to put more operational units forward. It typically requires at least four ships from CONUS to keep one forward: one ship is deployed, one is returning, one is on its way forward and one is in deep maintenance. For example, today we designate about 10 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers deploying from Norfolk and Mayport to provide two in the Eastern Med for missile defense to our European allies. In a few years, we will cover the same mission with four destroyers based in Rota, Spain, and, therefore, free up six destroyers to deploy to other regions of the world. This is much more efficient than rotationally deploying ships and aircraft from CONUS. Similarly, we will soon homeport another SSN in Guam, providing the same presence as four deploying from the West Coast. In Bahrain we will expand our forward-based forces with more PCs homeported there and in the Pacific we will be operating Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) out of Singapore by mid-decade – starting with USS FREEDOM, which arrives in April 2013. In addition to operating more forward through bases and places, we also can use different manning models to gain more presence. Using rotating crews to man LCS and our support vessels, like Afloat Forward Staging Base USS PONCE (AFSB-I), means they can remain forward nearly continuously.
America’s global interests demand a global Navy. We respond where it matters, when it matters. When we have the right units where they need to be we Operate Forward providing the most effective and efficient Navy our country needs.
JONATHAN W. GREENERT
Admiral, U.S. Navy