Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Three Hub Navy

This week's events along the northern edge of Africa remind us once again of the reality of our smaller Navy and the incontrovertible truth that one ship cannot be in two places at once.

I will not state here or anywhere else that had we a larger Navy, one which routinely stationed what was referred to in  "A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower" (CS21) as "regionally concentrated credible combat power" in the Mediterranean, our Ambassador to Libya would be alive today, or that the Embassy in Cairo would not have been rushed.

Additionally, I am aware that the "two hub Navy"--one in the Indian Ocean/Arabian Gulf and one in the Western Pacific--was formalized in the document cited above, with which I am directly and proudly associated.

I will however, assert that the lack of a Mediterranean hub limits our deterrence and response options.  Ultimately, we as a nation must decide whether those response options are worth paying for.

I have argued in this blog and elsewhere that much of CS21 has been overcome by events--or more appropriately--that much of that strategy can be clarified and specified based on changes in the strategic environment.

The two hub Navy is one of the ideas that must be reconsidered.  Again--the tragic death of our Ambassador to Libya does not in and of itself demand the presence of U.S. naval combat power in the Mediterranean.  Rather, this latest tragedy should be viewed against the backdrop of instability and uncertainty that spans the Maghreb, Egypt and the Levant, and our historic relationship with

Transits of CVBG's and ESG's through the Mediterranean on their way to CENTCOM can no longer be viewed as a sufficient posture for the United States to take given our interests in the region. Among those interests are:  1) the security of the State of Israel, 2) the surveillance of regimes in the region whose political aims are antithetical to American interests and security 3) preventing a strategic linkage between large, powerful state actors and terror groups.

And while forward stationed BMD assets are an encouraging step toward a greater presence in the region, they should be considered just that--a step.  As for the two Destroyers sortied to the Libyan coast, I consider this a rational signalling response, but I am dubious as to their purpose beyond that.

I have not run the numbers, but I suspect our current fleet would be incapable of executing a three hub Navy, and by that I mean 1.0 presence of CVN and LHD/A at each hub.  At some point, LHD/A with JSF could serve as a proxy for a CVN, but I am not sure whether even that is sustainable.  Add to this mix CENTCOM's continuing (perhaps permanent?) requirement for 2.0 CVN presence, and the prospects become even more dim.

The case for re-establishing the Mediterranean hub should also be considered in the context of China's rise, and the recent emphasis on the primacy of American naval and aerospace power in the Pacific.  It is interesting to watch the Chinese ratchet up their activity vis-a-vis disputed territories while we find ourselves occupied half a world away.

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