Maintaining Maritime Superiority…And What It Means to Supply Corps Officers

BY REAR ADM. PETER STAMATOPOULOS, SC, USN WITH LT. CMDR. MICHAEL KEY, SC, USN, U.S. FLEET FORCES COMMAND

On day one of the 2016 Navy Supply Corps Senior Leadership Symposium, Director, Fleet Ordnance and Supply, U.S. Fleet Forces N41, Rear Adm. Peter Stamatopoulos offered his perspective on the Navy’s Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority and its implications for the Supply Corps.

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For more than 241 years, the U.S. Navy has served as the first line of defense for America’s security and prosperity. American interests extend well beyond our shores. In a globalized world, made ever smaller by technology and trade, success abroad requires our Navy to maintain a world-wide presence. Naval leadership must be sufficiently present to recognize and appreciate changes in the strategic environment in order to maintain the levels of readiness and vigilance required to execute Navy’s mission to be organized, trained and equipped to conduct prompt and sustained combat incident to operations at sea.

For the past 20 years, the nature of our nation’s conflicts has driven the Navy to focus predominantly on power projection. But the strategic landscape is evolving rapidly. In order to ensure commercial, political, and military access on a global scale, we must now craft a balanced force ready to execute all five essential functions of sea power: deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security, and all domain access. This conceptual shift requires a battle fleet capable of succeeding in a fight, against our strongest “near peer” adversaries we are likely to encounter in waters where it matters most.

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The Navy has adopted the Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority in response to the changing strategic environment. This design is not a change to Navy strategy, which has endured since the days of Mahan and Corbett. Rather, it serves as a guide that will focus the Navy’s efforts to re-balance the force to meet the return of great power competition. This new approach does not necessitate a wish list for new weapons and ships, nor will there be any pleas for additional resources. It emphasizes smart choices and optimizes the return on existing resources by concentrating on what matters most. In short, as a Navy, we must decide where to compete, how and where to concentrate our energy and resources, what we intend to achieve, and how best to reach desired conditions inherent to maintaining our maritime superiority.

The Big Picture

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The Navy develops, integrates, tests, fields and employs capabilities through defense processes such as the Joint Capabilities Integration Development System, Joint Strategic Planning System, Joint Operational Planning and Execution System, the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution System (PPBE) and the Defense Acquisition System. These processes are primarily managed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint and Military Service Staffs and they queue the Provider Enterprise, which is charged with developing forces and executing acquisition programs to deliver capabilities to the Navy’s force providers – U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFF) and U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT), and ultimately to combatant commanders.

The resources for these acquisition programs are received through the PPBE system where the Program Objective Memorandum (POM) is created two years in advance of the execution year to facilitate both Presidential and Congressional approval. The PPBE system is the means by which the Navy makes tough resource allocation decisions and receives budgetary resources.

USFF and PACFLT are focused on building readiness and employing forces through the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (O-FRP) to support geographic combatant commanders with a 2.0 global carrier strike group presence and ability to surge 3.0 strike groups in a time of crisis. The O-FRP is a three-year cycle with an intense focus on manning, training, and equipping ships to deliver combat ready units to support global requirements; to facilitate planning, this process is mapped out for three full cycles (nine years) via the master O-FRP production plan. The O-FRP is designed to improve the Fleet’s readiness generation process. It aligns and synchronizes Navy-wide activity and resources to a stable operational cycle.

To generate readiness, USFF and PACFLT execute resources programmed two years in advance. The time gap between the development of the POM and the actual execution year occasionally results in misaligned resources and requirements, which further complicate readiness generation. USFF and PACFLT are engaging in the force development cycle to ensure the provider enterprise is focused on delivering the right capability to the right ships in order to enhance the effectiveness of Navy operating forces. The systems commands working closely with type commanders must plan, budget, and execute upgrades and modernizations to ensure ships, submarines, and aircraft have the weapon systems they need to maximize interoperability and achieve the highest levels of mission effectiveness.

The Supply Corps must be prepared to leverage its collective experience and talents to shape, influence, and develop the logistics concepts and doctrine needed to transform our current peacetime logistics capability into a distributed, agile, and maneuverable force; poised to deliver responsive and uninterrupted sustainment in austere and contested environments. With one eye toward future concepts, the Supply Corps must continue to refine and expand its expertise in supply chain integration and logistics concepts. We cannot afford to misdirect resources but must find a way to prioritize effectively and concentrate our efforts accordingly.

As a diverse community, the Supply Corps is uniquely positioned to influence the execution of the Navy’s new design. From echelons one through five, Navy Supply Corps officers are heavily integrated into all warfare communities. This robust professional network is essential to readiness generation. In order to maximize our contribution, it is vital that each and every one of us understands where we fit in the “Big Picture.” Through extreme ownership of our processes and products, we can better understand what we can influence and what influences us. This knowledge is crucial to maximizing our operational effectiveness.

Maximizing our effectiveness requires us to tap into the incredible amount of social capital that is inherent to the Supply Corps; our shared experiences, professional expertise, heritage, and traditions provide a common ground that links the community, whether you are serving at Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, a Fleet staff, systems commands, or program office; supporting the waterfront at a type command or Fleet logistics center; or forward-deployed on a Navy ship or a Navy component commander staff. This common bond can help break down inter-organizational barriers, expand individual learning opportunities, and facilitate communities of interest across the naval enterprise.

The Supply Corps is a small cadre of professionals, with an outsized contribution to readiness generation. To maintain our prestige and stature as a Corps, we must set aspirational goals for ourselves, our organizations, and our community. We need to understand our mission, the vision of our leadership and the purpose of our community. We must align our efforts to attain the highest standards, rigorously self-assess our progress, and always be “Ready for Sea.”

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January/February 2017