Forward ... from the Sea - The Navy Operational Concept
Admiral Jay L. Johnson, U.S. Navy
Chief of Naval Operations
The Navy and Marine Corps published ... From the Sea in 1992 as our combined vision for the 21st century. Since then, we have been constantly checking our bearings to ensure we stay on course. We refined our direction in 1994 with Forward ... From the Sea. These two documents continue to drive the on-going process of innovation that is rapidly transforming the Navy into a 21st century force.
I have expressed my vision for the Navy in four guiding stars: operational primacy, leadership, teamwork, and pride. This paper promulgates guidance on operational primacy – the ability to carry out swiftly and effectively any naval, joint or coalition mission and to prevail decisively over any foe that may oppose us. It directs how we operateForward ... From the Sea across the three components of the National Military Strategy: peacetime engagement, deterrence and
conflict prevention, and fight and win.
This paper sets our direction for operational primacy in the next century. Emerging technology and innovative operational concepts are creating new opportunities for employing naval forces in support of national strategy. We will have an integral role in future joint operations, including those described in Joint Vision 2010. In the 21st century as today, the most important contributions we make to national security will exploit fully the advantages we gain from operating on, under, above and from the sea.
The Navy's unique contributions to national security stem from the advantages of operating on,
under, above and from the sea. This is the message of Forward ... From the Sea. The primary purpose of forward-deployed naval forces is to project American power from the sea to influence events
ashore in the littoral regions of the world across the operational spectrum of peace, crisis and war. That is what we do. This paper describes how we do it today, and how we will do it in the future.
The roles of America's armed forces are defined by the three components of the National Military Strategy: peacetime engagement, deterrence and conflict prevention, and fight and win. Although national policy changes as the strategic landscape evolves, there will be continued emphasis on using the armed forces across this spectrum. Operations in peacetime and crisis to maintain regional economic and political stability are traditional roles of the Navy-Marine Corps team. These roles are rooted in our fundamental ability to maneuver independently of political constraints and fight and
win. A key operational advantage of forward-deployed naval forces is that we provide on-scene capabilities for executing simultaneously all three components of the National Military Strategy, and do so without infringing on any nation's sovereignty. This advantage exists because we operate in
international waters. Our hallmark is forward-deployed forces with the highest possible readiness and capability to transition instantly from peace to crisis to conflict. This flexibility positions us to fight and win early, or to contain conflict. More importantly, our presence may prevent conflict altogether. By any
standard or measure, peace is cheaper than war.
Our forces are optimized for this forward role in national strategy. As we enter the 21st century, we will continue to develop and adopt innovative concepts and technologies to remain the force on the cutting edge of our nation's defense.
How the Navy Operates
Forward...From the Sea provides the basis for a simple, yet powerful, operational concept of how we will operate to carry out expeditionary operations. We conduct forward naval operations both to ensure unimpeded use of the seas and to project American influence and power into the littoral
areas of the world. Expeditionary operations achieve U.S. objectives across the spectrum of the National Military Strategy. They are a potent and cost-effective alternative to power projection from the continental United States and are suited ideally for the many contingencies that can be deterred or quickly handled by forward-deployed forces. Expeditionary operations complement, enable and dramatically enhance the effectiveness of continental power-projection forces when a larger military response is needed.
Our attention and efforts will continue to be focused on operating in and from the littorals. The landward side of the littoral can be supported and defended directly from the sea. It encompasses areas of strategic importance to the United States. Seventy-five percent of the Earth's population and a
similar proportion of national capitals and major commercial centers lie in the littorals. These are the places where American influence and power have the greatest impact and are needed most
often. For forward-deployed naval forces, the littorals are a starting point as well as a destination. Tactically, the distance we reach inland from the sea depends on terrain and weather, the contributions of joint and coalition forces, the potential adversary's capabilities, and the nature of our mission. The
mission may require us to exercise our considerable reach and operate far inland.
We will deploy carrier battle groups and amphibious ready groups with embarked Marines to provide naval expeditionary forces for the Combatant Commanders. When required, we deploy separate units — such as for maritime interception force operations — but each remains capable of being
integrated into a larger naval expeditionary force. We train carrier battle groups and amphibious ready groups together to ensure immediate readiness for a wide range of contingencies. Once overseas, we disperse the force and maintain a dynamic presence posture. Our forces are constantly in motion to make their capabilities visible throughout the theater while carrying out numerous simultaneous missions in support of U.S. interests. We can operate individual units — such as submarines —
independently or completely integral to the force. We link dispersed units as an integrated force with command and control networks. When necessary for a specific crisis-response operation, we rapidly assemble elements of the force into a mission-tailored task group, such as a surface battle group. We
rapidly converge from our forward deployment hubs to the scene of a potential conflict to deter aggression or to project power should deterrence fail. We take advantage of the reach of our sensors and weapons to project power over vast areas from a dispersed, networked force — concentrating combat power rather than our platforms and delivering firepower far inland when required by the mission. We are on-scene and ready for peacetime engagement, deterrence and conflict prevention, and
fighting and winning.
The Navy's role in peacetime engagement is to project American influence and power abroad in support of U.S. efforts to shape the security environment in ways that promote regional economic and political stability. Stability fosters a sense of security in which national economies, free trade
practices, and democracies can flourish. Democratic states, especially those with growing economies and strong trade ties, are less likely to threaten our interests and more likely to cooperate with the United States. This stability and cooperation, which our peacetime engagement promotes, assists in meeting security threats and promoting free trade and sustainable development. We execute peacetime engagement by staying constantly engaged abroad as a visible tool of U.S. foreign
policy and by supporting U.S. coalition-building efforts.
Naval forces are constantly engaged abroad in peacetime as a visible tool of U.S. foreign policy. Our global presence ensures freedom of navigation on international trade routes and supports U.S. efforts to bring excessive maritime claims into compliance with the international law of the sea.
When disaster strikes, we provide humanitarian assistance, showing American compassion in action. Our forward deployments always include a wide range of diplomatic activities, such as:
sending Sailors and Marines ashore as representatives of the American people; bringing foreign visitors onto sovereign U.S. naval vessels; and carrying out a wide range of community relations activities. These efforts promote American democratic ideals abroad, enhance mutual respect and understanding with the peoples of other countries, and demonstrate U.S. support for friendly governments. Our forces support U.S. diplomatic efforts aimed at shaping the security environment, such as improving
relations with former adversaries or reducing tensions with potential adversaries. We take advantage of our mobility and sovereignty at sea to extend the reach of U.S. peacetime engagement efforts to countries not readily accessible by other forces.
Our forward-deployed forces support peacetime coalition building efforts. We exercise and train frequently with the naval, ground and air forces of friendly nations, improving our ability to operate together and increasing mutual understanding, confidence and respect. These exercises allow us
to explore means of coordinating the operations of diverse forces to achieve maximum combat power. We build confidence in U.S. security pledges by demonstrating our ability to ensure that land-based forces deploying from the continental United States will have ready access to the region in a crisis.
Deterrence and Conflict Prevention
Signaling with military forces is an important element of deterring aggression and preventing conflicts, and forward-deployed naval forces are a superb means of signaling U.S. capabilities and resolve to friend and foe alike. Credible military presence in areas of long-standing interest or immediate
concern reaffirms the U.S. leadership role abroad, reassures allies with tangible proof of U.S. commitment to their security, and helps prevent potential sources of instability from generating crises. We deter by putting potent combat power where it cannot be ignored, and by serving as a highly visible symbol of the overwhelming force the United States can deploy to defeat aggression. We enhance the credibility of conventional deterrence by demonstrating our combat capabilities in live-fire training
and in exercises with friends and allies.
In peacetime, we position the wide range of capabilities inherent in naval expeditionary forces where they are readily available for any contingency. Operating in international waters, our forces are sovereign extensions of our nation, free of the political constraints that can hamper land-based forces. We put the right capability in the right place at the right time. We possess the unique capability of responding to ambiguous warning that either would not justify costly deployments from the continental United States, or might be insufficient to persuade nations in the region to host U.S. forces on their soil. When a visible presence might be provocative or foreclose U.S. military options, we can position
submarines covertly to provide on-scene surveillance capabilities and firepower. Rotational deployments allow us to maintain our forward posture indefinitely. We spread our surveillance and
reconnaissance capabilities across a wide area, providing detailed coverage that improves our knowledge and understanding of the region. We maintain combat readiness during forward
operations by training and exercising regularly for potential contingencies. As we carry out peacetime tasks in distant waters, we often are laying the groundwork for a crisis-response operation or joint campaign that has not yet even begun.
Ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) deterrence patrols will continue to be an essential element of U.S. strategy for deterring a wide range of potential threats. SSBNs are central to U.S. nuclear strategy due to their stealth and survivability, the reliability and security of their command and control systems, and the accuracy and flexibility of their weapons.
Forward-deployed naval forces rapidly bring a wide range of capabilities to bear in crisis response operations. We can take direct action to protect American lives and interests, to prevent an unstable situation from deteriorating further, and to control or even resolve a crisis. In recent years, naval crisis response has included landing Marines to reinforce endangered U.S. embassies, non-combatant evacuation operations, maritime interception operations to enforce international sanctions, show of force operations to counter intimidation and deter aggression, escort operations to protect
shipping endangered by a local conflict, and air and missile strikes against transgressors. We provide on-scene command and control capabilities for rapidly executing joint crisis response operations. Our self-sustaining endurance allows us to remain on scene as long as necessary to stabilize or resolve the situation. When required, we rapidly redeploy — without incurring additional expense or political debts — to deter a potential aggressor who might exploit U.S. involvement in a major contingency elsewhere.
Naval deterrence and crisis-response operations prevent aggressors from achieving a fait accompli. Having combat-credible naval forces on scene shapes the battlespace and demonstrates our capability to halt aggression early in a conflict, well before the aggressor can achieve his objectives.
These efforts to deter aggression and resolve crises, while prudent, do not always succeed — but our efforts make a profound difference in how we think about our role in a potential conflict. Our ability to shape the battlespace well before a joint campaign commences is vital because even small changes in
the early stages of a conflict can have a major impact on its outcome. We focus on halting aggression early in a conflict. We enhance the credibility of deterrence by thwarting the potential aggressor who hopes to prevail by delaying or disrupting the U.S. response.
Our organic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities augment national sensors, enhancing U.S. awareness of a potential aggressor's activities. We can do this overtly — with surface ships and aircraft — signaling U.S. interest in the situation and covertly — with submarines and Naval Special Warfare units — learning what we need to know without being provocative or tipping our hand as
to our future intentions.
On-scene naval forces begin shifting the strategic and operational situation in the favor of the U.S. and its allies by forcing a potential aggressor to consider our combat capability when formulating his plans. We make it exceedingly difficult for an adversary to target us and deny him the option of pre-emption by keeping our forces dispersed and moving, by operating unpredictably or covertly, and by employing deception. The wide range of options we provide for immediate response to aggression leaves a potential aggressor uncertain of the intended U.S. course of action. This uncertainty keeps him
off balance, disrupting his ability to formulate a coherent campaign plan and eroding confidence in his ability to effectively execute operation plans. Uncertainty may compel a leader to redeploy forces from his main objective to hedge against our wide range of capabilities. Our sensors can monitor
such redeployments to detect weaknesses or gaps we can exploit. U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations in the Arabian Gulf during Desert Shield demonstrated these advantages by pinning down
significant Iraqi forces on Kuwaiti beaches during Desert Storm.
We extend our protective shield over allies, potential coalition partners, and critical infrastructure ashore to enhance the effectiveness of deterrence. Our emerging theater air and missile defense capabilities are particularly important elements of our shield. We create a sanctuary that neutralizes a
potential aggressor's attempts at intimidation and encourages the perception that he is powerless to prevent the U.S. from reinforcing our allies. This reality may cause him to alter campaign plans, forego use of certain forces or weapons, or focus efforts on more limited objectives.
Fight and Win
We will take advantage of our robust command and control systems and the reach of our sensors and weapons to concentrate combat power from dispersed, networked forces and project power far inland. In contingencies of limited size and duration, we project power with decisive impact ashore. In larger conflicts, we are an integral part of joint operations to fight and win. We have a vital role throughout a joint campaign, from beginning to end.
Forward-deployed naval forces have a vital role in halting aggression early in a conflict. The United States normally enters a conflict in response to aggression against an ally or vital American interest. Consequently, U.S. and allied forces are usually on the strategic defensive early in a conflict. Our ability to deliver a wide range of naval firepower and generate very high aircraft sortie rates can have major impact on the course and outcome of a conflict, especially during this critical early period of a joint campaign, when continental U.S.-based forces are just starting to arrive in theater. We can
use submarines, lurking covertly in littoral waters, to deliver naval fires or special operations forces where the enemy least expects to be attacked. Our forces also take offensive action to hold enemy centers of gravity at risk and seize the strategic advantage. We degrade and destroy enemy defensive systems with uniquely naval offensive operations, including suppression of enemy air defenses, leaving opponents vulnerable to sustained attacks. While we are crippling enemy defenses, we hit his
offensive forces hard to disrupt important campaign objectives and to achieve a quick fait accompli.
Initial operations by forward naval forces are critical for enabling the joint campaign. We ensure access to the theater for forces surging from the United States by supporting coalition forces to keep them in the fight, by seizing or defending shore bases for land-based forces, and by extending our
defensive systems over early-arriving U.S. joint forces ashore. Our ability to dominate the littorals, including the undersea environment, allows us to operate with impunity in the face of enemy area denial threats while taking initial action to defeat those threats and prepare the battlespace for follow-on forces.
By defeating enemy area denial threats and keeping vital sea and air lanes open, we ensure an uninterrupted flow of reinforcements into the theater. We provide highly capable afloat command and
control capabilities to launch initial combat operations without delay. For example, we lead early efforts to gain air superiority and take the war to the enemy by initially taking charge of the joint air battle as afloat Joint Force Air Component Commander. Our forward-deployed fleet flagships and carriers can provide fully equipped afloat command centers for the Commander Joint Task Force, as we did when USS MOUNT WHITNEY served as afloat JTF headquarters in Operation Restore/ Uphold Democracy in Haiti. Our afloat systems allow joint forces deploying from the continental United States to "plug" into on-scene networked command and control systems.
Our counter to the aggressor seeking to prevent the United States from bringing in overwhelming forces is to disrupt and exploit enemy efforts to target U.S. and allied forces. Area denial threats to joint air, ground and maritime forces include enemy tactical and theater ballistic missiles, weapons of mass destruction, air threats, and sea denial capabilities. They also include enemy use of ground or special operations forces to seize or destroy vital en route and on-scene infrastructure ashore. Area denial threats are becoming more lethal, increasing U.S. force vulnerability. These threats cannot defeat us, but they can delay our response, prolong the conflict and increase the cost of thwarting aggression. Our ability to counter enemy area-denial threats effectively with potent information warfare, power projection and force-protection capabilities increases our decisive impact early in a joint
campaign. The more an enemy depends on denial capabilities to achieve his objectives, the greater our impact when we defeat those capabilities.
Naval operations continue throughout the joint campaign. Naval operations include delivering precision naval fire, conducting naval operational maneuver, providing protection for joint and coalition forces ashore, keeping the seaborne logistics pipeline flowing, and remaining on scene after
the joint campaign to enforce sanctions and maintain regional stability.
We deliver precision naval fires to accomplish strategic, operational and tactical objectives. Precision means having the desired effect on the enemy, limiting collateral damage, lessening the risk to our forces, and achieving maximum impact with our combat resources. We can deliver all naval fires
— strike, interdiction and fire support — with the degree of accuracy required to accomplish the mission. We exploit the tactical depth we gain from our weapons reach to attack the enemy throughout the battlespace. Precision includes smart targeting, so that our ordnance is directed against key targets
for greatest impact, and rapid, accurate battle damage assessment. New systems, such as unmanned aerial vehicles and afloat mission planning systems, are essential elements of smart targeting. Precision also includes extremely accurate delivery of "level-of-effort" munitions. We must organize our
forces and focus their efforts to rapidly and decisively accomplish campaign objectives. Precision encompasses how we employ Naval Special Warfare forces and Marines, as well as naval fires. In some tactical situations, such as operations on urban terrain, a SEAL or Marine with a sniper rifle may be the optimum precision weapon.
The closely related concepts of naval operational maneuver and speed of command define how we employ naval combat power to have decisive impact ashore. Naval operational maneuver means using the advantages we gain by operating on and from the sea to establish operational and strategic advantage over enemy forces ashore. We do this by defeating enemy sea denial efforts and gaining maritime superiority, thus providing unimpeded use of strategic sea lanes and freedom of operation in littoral waters. We take advantage of our maritime superiority by operating in the fluid manner
described earlier — dispersed, yet rapidly concentrated; constantly moving and ever changing; appearing to be a distant threat far over the horizon, then suddenly striking the enemy where he felt secure. Our simultaneous ability to attack the enemy throughout the battlespace with precision naval fires and Marine combat power generates an inescapable tactical quandary. Not knowing when or where we will strike, the enemy must either concentrate his forces where he guesses we will attack, or spread his forces to defend as many potential targets as possible. In either case, the enemy exposes weaknesses we can exploit.
Our superior speed of command enhances the advantages of operating from the sea. Speed of command is the ability to rapidly collect information, assess the situation, develop a course of action, and immediately execute with overwhelming effect. Just as in the modern high-tech market place, speed of command achieves disproportionately larger returns for relatively modest, but precisely placed, initial investments. This capability is characterized by extraordinarily high rates of change that lock out enemy solutions, while locking in our success. We use speed, deception and surprise to create
and exploit enemy vulnerabilities, to seize rapidly fleeting opportunities, and to shift the tactical and operational situation to our advantage. We apply combat power in a high-tempo continuum, vice in incremental steps, to keep the enemy disoriented and reactive, unable to take the initiative or carry
out a coherent plan of action. Our actions foreclose enemy options to reverse our gains or alter the ultimate outcome of a conflict, and develop powerful self-fulfilling expectations of victory that demoralize the enemy while increasing coalition and domestic support.
Naval forces can provide sustained protection for joint and coalition forces ashore, creating a sanctuary from which they can operate at will against the enemy. We support joint and coalition forces ashore, securing vital sea and air lines of communication, establishing battlespace dominance in the
littoral, and providing defensive capabilities, such as air superiority and theater ballistic missile defense. Just as important, we use offensive operations to protect forces by countering threats at their source, placing the enemy on the defensive, and degrading his ability to employ his forces
As we have always done, we keep the vital seaborne logistics pipeline flowing throughout the joint
campaign. During the 1991 Gulf War and every other large-scale conflict in this century, more than 95 percent of all material, supplies, and equipment sent to the theater went by sea. We protect strategic sealift and afloat prepositioning ships and logistics facilities critical for large-scale joint operations.
Finally, naval forces can remain on scene after the joint campaign concludes to enforce sanctions and to maintain a U.S. presence for regional stability. We prevent the need for yet another joint campaign by taking advantage of our self-sustaining endurance to keep combat credible forces in the region. Our most significant contribution well may be to prevent the next conflict entirely through our forward presence for engagement and deterrence.
Our Course for the 21st Century
Forward ... From the Sea emphasizes that projecting influence and power ashore requires naval forces shaped for joint operations. Joint Vision 2010 provides the template for joint combat operations in the 21st century and envisions future joint combat operations leveraging information superiority to execute dominant maneuver, precision engagement, full-dimensional protection, and focused logistics. These operational concepts were anticipated in large measure by Forward ... From the Sea. In many areas the Navy is at the leading edge of Joint Vision 2010 capabilities. We will
continue actively to develop and implement a wide range of technological and operational innovations. Our Fleet Battle Lab experiments will be a process by which we make vital contributions to these efforts. The fleet is our battle lab. We will test new ideas and equipment every time we deploy or get
underway for a significant exercise.
Our innovation efforts will examine operational concepts and doctrine, how we organize and command our forces to carry out our missions, the capabilities of future systems and platforms, the manner in which we provide maintenance and supply support, and the education and training of our people. We will focus our innovation and modernization efforts in the following areas.
Naval forces will be able to provide sea-based overt and covert surveillance, reconnaissance, and information warfare capabilities for joint forces, and sea-based command and control up to the Commander Joint Task Force level. Our forces will be integrated into networked command and control systems that provide a common tactical picture of the battlespace to all commanders and are fully interoperable with joint command and control systems. Our Cooperative Engagement Concept will provide an unprecedented level of battlespace awareness and combat power by linking the sensors and weapons systems of an entire force into a highly integrated network. We will achieve faster speed of
command, closer joint integration, and enhanced means of ensuring the warrior has the right information in the optimum display for immediate action.
We will be a full partner in developing new amphibious warfare concepts and capabilities for implementing the Marine Corps concept Operational Maneuver From The Sea (OMFTS). OMFTS emphasizes using the sea as a secure area from which to conduct ship-to-objective movement. We will have a vital role in OMFTS-style operations as part of a highly integrated
sea-air-land combined-arms team. We will provide enhanced naval fires, force protection, command and control, surveillance and reconnaissance, and logistics support for Marines ashore — enabling the high-tempo operations envisioned by OMFTS.
We will be capable of providing every type of joint fire the nation requires, throughout the battlespace and with the precision the operation dictates. We will deliver precision naval fires fully integrated as an element of joint combat power. Navy innovations, like networked command and
control systems and cooperative engagement, are a significant step in this direction. We will be able to deliver a large volume of firepower through new ways of achieving very high aircraft sortie rates and new weapons and platforms for delivering joint fires. Emerging precision and information capabilities rapidly
are making traditional views — that specific platforms (air, surface or subsurface) and specific types of ordnance (missile, bomb or shell) have specialized roles — obsolete. We will deliver integrated joint fires with enhanced range, lethality, accuracy and timeliness from aircraft, ships and submarines for
any type of mission.
Building upon our already robust information, air and maritime superiority capabilities, we will provide integrated protection for joint and coalition forces. Naval defensive capabilities, such as theater air defense and ballistic missile defense, will be integrated with joint systems for maximum protection of the joint force. Our defensive capabilities will complement land-based systems and in some situations may be the only U.S. capabilities readily available, particularly in the opening phase of a crisis or conflict. We will enhance the range, lethality and joint integration of our force-protection
capabilities and enhance our ability to defeat sea-denial threats and dominate the littoral battlespace.
We will increasingly be capable of providing secure afloat joint logistics support. Our logistics innovation efforts will enhance strategic sealift and seaborne logistics. These efforts also support Department of Defense initiatives to improve logistics support, such as the total asset visibility
system and "just-in-time" logistics. We will seek alternatives to maintaining large quantities of spares and explore ways of enhancing the joint and commercial commonality of system components.
The Navy's course for the 21st century set by Forward...From the Sea has proven to be the right one for executing our critical roles in all three components of the National Military Strategy and for conducting the future joint operations envisioned in Joint Vision 2010. We will maintain our on-going process of technological and operational innovation that has put us on the cutting edge of future warfighting capabilities. Our Navy people — well-led, working as a team, and taking pride in our Navy — will be the source of these innovations. The imagination and initiative
of individual Sailors have given our Navy a rich heritage of innovation. Our people will keep us on a steady course toward continued operational primacy as we enter the 21st century.