Dissecting the Influence Squadron Pt 1
One of most important authors in the fight for a New Navy for a New Century is Commander Henry J. Hendrix, USN. While the fleet is currently struggling with numbers and maintaining presence in a world where threats are increasing even as ship numbers continue to fall, he has given us simple answers to complex problems. In the April 2009 issues of USNI’s Proceedings magazine, Jerry gave us the important article “Buy Fords, Not Ferraris” introducing the world to the “Influence Squadron”. In a new post in the current April issue, he expounds further on the subject with “More Henderson, Less Bonds“:
Our Navy, larger than the next 13 international navies combined, can be compared to the highest-paid team in baseball. With its Barry Bonds super carriers, Mark McGwire cruisers, and Sammy Sosa destroyers, today’s Navy consists of all power hitters, with huge slugging percentages and salaries to match. But what if there were another way to build the team? Oakland’s ten-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion Ricky Henderson epitomized the ability to get on and get home by setting a career record for runs scored (2,295)-despite a .279 lifetime batting average-because he also held the career records for walks and stolen bases as well as a lifetime on-base percentage of .401. What if presence, the naval version of the oft-neglected on-base percentage, was actually the most critical naval mission?
There’s your analogy. I’m not a huge baseball fan, but most of you get the concept. I did see the Baltimore Orioles’ Cal Ripkin Jr. play his 2,131st game on September 6, 1995. Ripkin was known for “doggedly remaining in the lineup despite numerous minor injuries and for his reliability to “show up” to work every day.” He was dependable in other words, and having the ability to “show up” when needed is a life lesson, and important for a global naval force as well.
The international strategic environment that defines the backdrop for naval operations continues to evolve, with fewer support missions in the Persian Gulf but rising challenges in the waters of the Philippines and Indonesia, increasing agitation in the Caribbean and Central and South America, as well as growing threats along the shores of Africa. The rise of China as a Pacific naval power is defining the future test for the Navy.
…defense spending has decreased, and the naval shipbuilding budget has remained stagnant at or around $13 billion a year…One can only shove so many ships into a $13 billion procurement bag. The price tag for Littoral Combat Ships is $600 million. Ballistic-missile-defense Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers/San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships/Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines come in at $2 billion. Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine replacements cost $6 billion. And Gerald Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers set us back $10 billion. This continues to suggest a need for a new, cheaper, yet larger force structure.
The Navy has pretty much abandoned the larger fleet concept. Though they occasionally throw out the “313 ship Navy” mantra, more close to reality barring a dramatic increase in defense spending (good luck with that), more likely there will be decreases nearing the 200 ship navy mark. Most amazingly, even with this fantasy future military spending increase, it would only just sustain our numbers, not dramatically increase them!
So, as Jerry and yours truly often contends, buying only or mostly large exquisite Blue Water warships are not helping but hurting our seapower, as well as contributing to the decline of our “Influence” around the world:
It is a naval force tailored to missions both new and old. Harking back to the founding of the republic, Influence Squadrons will be numerous enough to combat piracy-the only naval mission actually enshrined within the U.S. Constitution-and strong enough to take on terrorists who smuggle weapons across the seas as well as interdict the drug lords whose products kill more Americans per month than al Qaeda has in its history. Larger numbers of platforms will also enable Influence Squadrons to both provide local medical assistance in the form of vaccinations and respond swiftly to natural disasters and thus prevent epidemics of such diseases as dysentery and cholera.
In addition, the simplified characteristics of the Influence Squadron’s platforms will help the Navy to build partnership capacity and perform security force assistance missions without over-awing local coalition partners with Aegis-level technology.
The Influence Squadron is a new way of thinking about sea control. Out of the powerful “kick down the down” mindset from the Cold War, really the last World Wars, it would be something entirely different, more focused. A thinking Navy as much as a doing one, where diplomacy and good will amounts as much as over-whelming firepower. That latter is good to have to but not for most of the problems of seapower.
Yet, it doesn’t neglect firepower either, but in the spirit of this Age of Precision, it promises to use our impressive fighting power more wisely. In today’s world, firepower is drastically more efficient, less massive retaliation to “one bomb, one hit”. The new squadron then becomes a smart bomb in the midst of pirates, smugglers, and rogue states. Most importantly, it will see the return of numbers, and the spreading of capability around the fleet, instead of concentrating it within a declining force of exquisite platforms.
Tomorrow-We open up the Influence Squadron for a peek inside!