Leadership: The USN Tries To Leave the High Seas


December11, 2006: The U.S. Navy strategy of supporting the fight, anytime and anyplace, no matter how far from open water; has been a hard sell. Afghanistan proved it could be done, even with existing navy systems. Proposed new systems would make it even easier. But the Navy's having difficulty getting the message out to the public, Congress (who has to pay for it) and especially to the self-proclaimed pro-Navy lobby, constantly get in the way. The Navy League, veterans' groups, and, of course, the shipbuilding industry, basically don't get it – they want the traditional, "high seas" mission to prevail. They still think of the navy in terms of big ships (which are very profitable for the shipyards). This is one reason they keep harping on the Chinese "threat" – ain't anyone else out there to fight, at least on the high seas.

But in the meantime, there are numerous more immediate threats, both on the coasts, and inland. Navy task forces, usually with a battalion of combat-ready marines (and helicopters to move them far inland) along (on landing ships that resemble small aircraft carriers), prowl the world's oceans. The navy is still the service that can have some combat ready aircraft, and marines, to go anywhere, first. But there's more. The new naval infantry force (NECC, Naval Expeditionary Combat Command) already has 20,000 sailors assigned, and will eventually contain 40,000 troops capable of operating along the coast and up rivers. NECC units are already in Iraq, and ready to deploy anywhere else they are needed. But the new navy strategy still comes as a surprise to many people, especially many of those in Congress who get asked to pay for it.


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