By Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations
Reviewed by Francis P. Sempa, Contributing Editor
In a recent talk at the American Enterprise Institute, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert discussed how the navy is operating and planning in an era of declining resources. Budget constraints affect manpower, force structure, deployment, forward presence, and planning for the future.
He made clear that the future involves continuing to re-balance to the Asia-Pacific region. He noted the navy’s expanding relationship with Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, and Indonesia. Admiral Greenert also mentioned the evolving relationship with both China and Russia, including military-to-military contacts.
Strategy cannot help but be affected by resources. The navy, he noted, has about 630,000 personnel: 320,000 active duty; 110,000 reserves; and 200,000 civilians. The number of ships is down to 285, with an average deployment of 95 at a time throughout the world.
The navy’s mission, according to the Admiral, is to deter aggression, reassure allies, and ensure that U.S. interests are protected all over the world. There is a need to maximize forward presence; maintain adequate readiness; and increase asymmetric capabilities.
Missing from the Admiral’s talk was a geopolitical vision that should help determine our force structure and deployments. We are re-balancing to the Asia-Pacific region for a reason—the potential threats to our security are likely to emanate from there. The elephant in the room is China and the PLA Navy which is increasing its presence in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere in the world. Our resources are declining—the Admiral noted naval reductions of $11 billion in 2013 and $14 billion in 2014— China’s are not.
We have come a long way from the 600-ship navy of the 1980s. The United States is an insular maritime power and our defense resources should be apportioned on that basis. If China is to be “contained,” the navy will be our primary instrument of containment. Of course, that is a political decision to be made not by naval officers, but by their political leaders.