Welcome to the new normal: climate change, energy shortages, burgeoning populations, food and water scarcity, natural disasters and disease. And where exactly does this Hobbesian brew of globalization’s dark side occur? Most frequently in the world’s littoral waterways, also known as the “fragile maritime neighborhoods,” according to a briefing by Rear Adm. Philip .H. Greene, director of the Navy’s irregular warfare office.
The good news, at least for the Navy, is that mounting troubles in the littorals represent a “growth marketplace,” and the services’ relevance is “growing exponentially,” says Greene’s brief, given at a conference on irregular warfare last month. The Navy is uniquely suited to provide “persistent engagement” in those trouble spots so that they don’t devolve into catastrophic failed states.
Greene says a new focus on the “brown” and “green” waters will require a shift to more “multi-mission” ships and forces. As the Navy’s newly released Naval Operations Concept 2010 (NOC) puts it, the service is “rebalancing” to better confront irregular threats, placing (slightly) more emphasis on brown water riverine operations, foreign training missions and maritime constabulary activities (counter-smuggling, piracy, etc.).
The Navy’s operational experience in irregular warfare is growing, Greene says. He points to the significant lessons learned from the accelerated deployment of the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS); the Fire Scout drone; the value of multi-missions ships such as the Vinson, Higgins and Bainbridge; the Africa Partnership Station; and ferried support to the Haiti relief efforts that will help shape requirements for the Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV).
Going forward, the general guidance from OSD is for the Navy to expand security force assistance, improve general purpose and special operations forces integration and increase the number of aerial drones and other sensors.
The Navy is making investment decisions to comply, Greene says, both in last year’s budget, the 2011 request and as the Navy builds its 2012 budget request that will include more helicopters for special operations forces, LCS mission modules and module enhancements, more JHSVs, more sea based mid-ranged aerial drones such as the MQ-8 Fire Scout and the Hummingbird technology demonstrator and tactical sea based drones; and more money for civil affairs type training.
Additional naval irregular warfare priority areas in future budgets include: data fusion for distributed small scale forces; better interoperability with other U.S. government and coalition partners; support for more P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft; more helicopters (MH-60S/R); the Scan Eagle drone: and improving the amphibious force structure’s ability to support irregular operations.