The Surface Force: Owning tomorrow’s fight today
ARLINGTON, Va. - The U.S. Navy has “the premier surface force in the world—second to none—that controls the seas and provides the nation with combat naval power when and where needed.”
That was the message Vice Adm. Richard Brown, commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF), delivered to naval leaders, government officials, and members of private industry during the first day of the 32nd annual Surface Navy Association (SNA) Symposium in Arlington, Jan. 14.
The professional development event provides an opportunity to highlight the Surface Navy’s vision for the future. Brown drew on U.S. Naval heritage, current initiatives, and future lines of effort in support of the theme of this year’s symposium: “Owning Tomorrow’s Fight Today.”
“It’s all about readiness to fight,” Brown said. “We are once again in Great Power Competition, and that competition requires us to operate forward, control the seas, and always be ready. To do that we must own tomorrow’s fight today.”
Three Lines of Effort Toward the Future
During his address, Brown outlined three major lines of effort for the Surface Force in 2020. They are:
Current readiness of the force will always be our collective number one priority.
“Combat ready ships and battle-minded crews are the products that the Surface Force provides to the numbered fleet commander,” said Brown.
Enhancement of mariner and warfighting skills emphasizing professionalism will continue.
“With the help of the Congress and Navy leadership, the Surface Force made substantial and lasting mariner skill investments over the last few years,” Brown said. “While we are not declaring ‘mission complete,’ the pace of the enhancements—coupled with their initial results—are cause for optimism.”
A few examples include committing $3.8 billion to individual, watchteam, and strike group training; enhancing bridge and Combat Information Center (CIC) simulators; building state-of-the-art training facilities, such as the Maritime Skills Training Centers; building the Combined Integrated Air and Missile Defense and ASW Trainers (CIAT) in San Diego and Norfolk where watchteams of specific AEGIS baselines train with the exact system and tactical program with real-life environmentals; and delivering On Demand Trainers (ODT) pierside in San Diego and Norfolk where watchteams can continue tactical training during availabilities or combat systems upgrades.
Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) leads the Maritime Warfare Officer Tactical Training working (MWOTT) group.
“This group is charged with determining the skills required for each tactical milestone in a Surface Warfare Officer’s career and how these skills will be trained to, developed, and assessed in order to fully-prepare officers and warfare commanders for tomorrow’s fight, today, creating a maritime warfare training continuum second to none,” Brown said.
Building on Navy Legacy
Brown told the story of the crew of USS Johnston (DD 557) and their fighting captain, Ernie Evans during the landings of the Leyte Gulf campaign of World War II.
“Ernie Evans was a fighting captain who had prepared his ship and his crew for the fight, and they owned it that day! That is our legacy,” Brown said.
Current initiatives and policies are in place to build on that legacy, Brown shared, in order to generate combat ready ships and battle-minded crews.
“Our presence in contested areas of the ocean must be coupled with credible, combat effectiveness,” Brown said. “As peer competitors advance in capability, we must take action to remain a step ahead. We cannot go backwards. We must identify our future warfighting needs and take action with urgency to deliver them when needed.”
New Warfighting Concepts and Capabilities
One initiative to help identify future warfighting is Surface Development Squadron (SURFDEVRON) One. Established by CNSF in May 2019, SURFDEVRON One supports fleet experimentation to accelerate delivery of new warfighting concepts and capabilities to the fleet.
“To ensure we remain the premier surface force, we are investing today for tomorrow’s fight. Flight III DDGs, FFG(X), a full inventory of SM-6, SPY 6, Maritime Strike Tomahawk, integrated combat systems, large and medium unmanned surface vessels, and lasers on ships. SURFDEVRON One’s charge is to figure out how best to employ these new systems and capabilities,” Brown said.
In addition to SURFDEVRON One’s future experimentation, Brown outlined current efforts already underway to increase lethality as fast as possible.
“For example,” Brown stated, “USS America (LHA 6) completed her (Composite Training Unit Exercise) last year with 13 embarked F-35 aircraft, and she can carry more than that. I don’t think those 13 aircraft are just there for defense of the amphibious task force. A big deck with that many F-35s is beginning to look a lot like an aircraft carrier to me. Any other country would call it an aircraft carrier, and it is part of the Surface Force.”
Brown added, “The Surface Force is already moving out on Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger’s direction for the Navy and the Marine Corps to stop cooperating, stop interoperating, stop coordinating, and start integrating!”
Brown concluded his address by reminding the audience of our legacy of overcoming obstacles in historic battles, such as Pearl Harbor, Midway, and Guadalcanal, in order to own the fight.
“Think of the battles yet to come against some very real opponents. When they come, we will own those fights,” Brown said. “And we will own those fights because today the people in this room–active duty and retired, uniform and civilian, military and industry–know that we can do no less; that the eyes of the heroes that built our proud legacy are upon us, and the hopes of future generations are with us.”
The SNA symposium continues through Jan. 16. View the symposium live stream on the Navy Live blog and join the conversation on social media using #LiveAtSNA2020.
Read Brown’s full address on the Surface Forces website.