A Two-Ocean Navy No More?
Image Credit: U.S. Navy

A Two-Ocean Navy No More?


A couple of weeks back, my first ship (briefly, from long, long ago), the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson – last seen hosting an NCAA basketball game on its flight deck in honor of Veterans’ Day, with the First Family in attendance – deployed overseas for seven months. It did so only five months after returning from its last seven-month cruise. Navy officials depicted the quick turnaround as part of the service’s “Fleet Response Plan” scheme designed to place more of the fleet at regional commanders’ disposal. Around a third of the U.S. Navy is fully combat-ready at any given time. The plan’s goal is to boost that to two-thirds.

Uh-oh. That sounds nice, but the devil’s in the details. At its inception back in 2004, the Navy portrayed the Fleet Response Plan as a temporary expedient, a way to surge additional combat power in times of trouble. In atypical times, in other words. The Navy flexed the new arrangement that year. Seven of the Navy’s 11 carrier strike groups took to the world’s oceans during Operation “Summer Pulse.” Summer Pulse constituted an impressive display of operational readiness. But even the maneuver’s title – referring to a “pulse” – indicated that such deployments were never meant to become routine.

This is a distinction with a difference. A hoary yet sound maxim holds that the Navy needs three hulls to keep one on foreign station. Under the standard rotation, a ship deploys for six months, undergoes six months of rest and major overhaul afterward, and then launches into six months of work-ups culminating in its next cruise. Lather, rinse, repeat. That’s a sustainable operating rhythm. It upholds operational readiness while keeping wear-and-tear on hardware to manageable levels and letting sailors, marines, and their families live bearable lives. The third of the fleet working up for deployment can absorb occasional short-term surges, as the Fleet Response Plan (as originally conceived) envisioned.

The Carl Vinson’s recent history indicates that this system is under stress. Upkeep, training, and crew R&R were crammed into less than half the time normally allotted, while the forward deployments bracketing that abbreviated down-time exceeded the usual length. At 284 ships – the fewest in raw numerical terms since before the First World War – the U.S. Navy fleet may simply be doing too much. The submarine force, for example, already fulfills only 50 to 60 percent of customers’ – i.e., regional combatant commanders’ – demand for its services. The story is largely the same in the surface and aviation communities. Ever-increasing demands on finite means generate a helter-skelter operating tempo. Ultimately, the demand may outpace available ships, aircraft, and human capital, wearing out materiel before its time while driving down recruitment and reenlistment rates. The quality of the fleet – measured not only in equipment readiness but in human standards of seamanship and tactical acumen – will suffer.

The chances of boosting the size of the fleet appear slim in austere fiscal times. It’s more likely to dwindle further. If it does, missions may have to contract with it to restore some equilibrium to fleet operations. Indeed, one gets the sense that the Navy’s “two-ocean strategy” of the past seven decades is being repealed – if not by conscious choice, then by dint of heavy demand, soaring shipbuilding costs, and the resultant downward pressure on the fleet’s size. Congress and the Franklin Roosevelt administration passed the “Two Ocean Navy Act” in 1940 in order to confront two hostile sea powers, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. In effect, the United States built a second navy so it could keep one self-sufficient battle fleet in the Atlantic Ocean and another in the Pacific. FDR & co. inaugurated a strategic approach that endures to this day yet looks increasingly perishable.

If the United States can no longer afford two navies, it may have to resurrect an older tradition for managing commitments, assets, and risk. Naval historian Alfred Thayer Mahan was a founding father of this tradition. Writing a century ago, before successive world wars and a Cold War impelled the United States to construct a “navy second to none,” Capt. Mahan urged Washington to base its naval strategy on a “one-power standard.” British history was his guide. During its imperial heyday, Great Britain sized its Royal Navy by a “two-power standard.” That is, it maintained a navy equivalent to the next two strongest navies combined. It did so lest powerful rivals combine forces, as they had in past conflagrations such as the War of American Independence and the Napoleonic Wars. British commanders trusted to superior seamanship and gunnery to make the difference in encounters with the likes of the French and Spanish navies.

May 6, 2013 at 03:36

I believe we should maintain a full 16 Carrier force

December 23, 2011 at 00:44

Darren P wrote:
I find it interesting that you defend China’s practice of theft of the Su-27 design by claiming that the Chinese copies are superior.

Liang’s response:
Darren P and many foreigners often demonize China for “stealing” foreign technologies. Much of this is simply due to the combination of basic hatred of China and ignorance of what patent laws are. Patent laws allow certain “inventions” to be patented and disallow others. Below is a quote from the given link about what can and cannot be patented.

The item 5 in the quote indicates anything that is an improvement can be patented. Many foreigners have accused China of reverse engineering their products and innovated something new and improved. They accuse China of having “stolen” their products based on the Chinese reverse engineering of their products. But this is a lie. China or anybody may reverse engineer anything and patent any new and improved invention so long as the new invention is not something immediately obvious. Since Chinese products are all significantly improved they are allowed to be granted new patents and therefore cannot be “stolen” from foreign technologies. For example, if China studied the CPU of some foreign design and then created a new CPU that is 2 times or more faster then it is a new invention and deserves to have its patent. Similarly with new types of jet engine, radar, avionics, missiles, space ships, etc. While China has studied these foreign products it has not merely copied these products but has created new and improved products in new and non-obvious ways. Therefore, China has not “stolen” anything from foreign technologies. And all such insults and denigrations are only mean spirited sour grapes of losers.


What can be patented ━ utility patents are provided for a new, nonobvious
and useful:

1. Process
2. Machine
3. Article of manufacture
4. Composition of matter
5. Improvement of any of the above

What cannot be patented:

1. Laws of nature
2. Physical phenomena
3. Abstract ideas
4. Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (these can be Copyright
Inventions which are:
Not useful (such as perpetual motion machines); or
Offensive to public morality

Invention must also be:
Adequately described or enabled (for one of ordinary skill in the art to
make and use the invention)
Claimed by the inventor in clear and definite terms

December 22, 2011 at 11:11

Professor Holmes: I’d be tempted to take you up on an argument on the usefullness of a Fleet in being, along the principles outlined by Corbett. Such a fleet was extremely capable in harrassing the Japanese in WWII.

However, a comment along those lines would be fruitless. For a force to open access against a top tier competitor in the waters surrounding them would take an enormous force. So yes, it is clear that a CVN force must be prioritized (more than it is today) to be placed in the Pacific if nothing more than for its own credibility. A 3.0 force presence would seem appropriate to be credible in the face of Chinese aggression. This would essentially require 9 CVNs in the Pacific. Facing a drop from todays numbers then then would mean that they all would have to be stationed the Pacific.

To avoid this would require a significant fielding of not yet production offensive weapons deployed on surface combatants and submarines with the aim at detering aggression. Such a force would have to be CREDIBLE at destroying mobile short duration targets like IADS (read short-medium range ballistic missiles, attriting large numbers of landing craft or the ships carrying them (read ballistic missiles and sub-launched torpedoes), a large number of armed UAVs launched from short runways in the region to patrol over water and detect/ID/attack Chinese anti-access threats like Houbei small craft and submarines.

December 22, 2011 at 07:59

Darren P wrote:

December 21, 2011 at 11:57 am

And China’s stated goals of conquering the Republic of China, controlling the Spratlys, and establishing even more of a presence in Africa differs how?
You’re the one who made the earlier comment “be nice to China, or else”. If you are representative of how the Chinese government thinks, then people around the world would be wise to be wary of China’s stated intentions…

Liang’s response:
Why is it so hard for Americans like you to get it into your head that Taiwan is not an independent nation. It is a sovereign part of China. You would show more knowledge if you argued that Taiwan has more legitimacy to exist as a government of China because it was elected by the Chinese people as a whole before it was overthrown by the CCP. But to simply insinuate that China is “conquering” an independent nation of Taiwan is simply ignorant. How can a nation conquer a part of itself? Can the US of A conquer California? That is nonsense. Arguing with you people is like talking to an animal that simply barks back at you. It cannot understand anything you say to it.

Nansha (Spratly) is also a sovereign part of China. So again China cannot invade and conquer a sovereign part of itself.

It is America who is doing all the threaenting to China. But America’s threats and the America’s brainwashed people’s ignorant and arrogant harangues are increasingly impotent. Why should China be frightened by your ignorant harangues if it doesn’t have any fangs to bite China with. If you want to be hostile to China then China must honor bound to throw the same hostility back at you. So if you want peace in the world then you must treat China with common respect and courtesy, or you will get back what you throw at it. America’s empty harangues is becoming worthless as it loses its overwhelming military superiority. America has lost its self-assumed moral authority to police the world. It has become a rogue that only attack others for its own benefits. There is no reason for America to commit aggression against China other than its own bigotry and greed. And lastly don’t confuse American prejudice with the view and sentiment of the world. Just because Americans hate China does not mean everybody else in the world will hate China. And the world has long ago come to be wary of America’s arrogant aggressions and are all happy to see its power wane so that they can feel safe again. And they are all rooting for China to increase its power to protect them from America the biggest rough in the world. America is not the protector of the world’s freedom and democracy. It is nothing more than a thug who robs others of their natural resources and support doctatorships like Saudi Arabia where women cannot drive let alone work outside their homes or vote. For a long time America’s best friends are such as Egypt’s Mubarrak and Libya’s Kaddafi. Even Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was America’s good friend against Iran until he ran afoul of America’s oil interest. Philippines’ Marcos, Panama’s Noriega, Chile’s Pinochet and many others were all friends of America who were all dictators.

December 22, 2011 at 01:04

Totally agree with the article. It is very possible the USN will go down to 8 CVN’s-or even 7-within a decade. The only solutiuon is consolidate the fleet and deploy it in the Pacific. Seven CVN’s-combined with the JMSDF’s new flatops-will provide decisive sea control capabilities in the Pacific. Throw in Indian assets and the natural island barriers… and there is little left to worry about. It’s a matter of making the tough choices and making it clear to NATO that they must pick up any security slack in the Atlantic/Med. BTW-LHA’s can be used very effectively in the Atlantic for local sea control operations if needed.

Jacky Chan
December 21, 2011 at 15:52

Ha Ha. Good one, Liang1a!

December 21, 2011 at 13:48

Darren P wrote:
I find it interesting that you defend China’s practice of theft of the Su-27 design by claiming that the Chinese copies are superior.

Liang’s response:
There is no “theft” of the Su-27 design. You are wrong to assume that China “stole” anything from other countries’ technologies. You should understand that “ideas” cannot be patented. Only specific designs can be patented and be protected by IPR laws. For example, that jagged edge engine nozzle has stealthy properties is an idea which cannot be patented. Only specific design of a jagged nozzle can be patented. Therefore, China can study the jagged engine nozzle of other countries and then design a new nozzle with unique dimensions and can patent that nozzle. So don’t be too quick with your obnoxious accusations of “theft”. You’d only expose your own ignorance of patent laws.

As I said before, China’s J-11B use only China’s own components that are superior to Su-27. China’s materirals, avionics, radars, missiles, engines, etc. all are uniquely designed by Chinese scientists and engineers with their own patent rights. You cannot find anything inside a J-11B that is identical to the version of Su-27 that had been licensed to China. Why should China copy Russia’s inferior Su-27 components when China’s own IPR components are superior?

John Chan
December 21, 2011 at 12:26

@Darren P,
You know nothing about Intellectual Property thieves. Americans are the worst and largest IP thieves. IP rights are supposed to reward the contribution and the hard work of the creators. Nowadays most of the creations are done by people on salary, all their creations belong to the organizations hiring them. The profits from their creations belong to their originations, and the greedy CEO and shareholders of their organizations enjoy most part of those profits. All the creators can get is meagre salary and some bonus if they are lucky; it is completely against the purpose of IP right original envisaged.

Those CEO, management and shareholder have done nothing in the creations but they pocket the most part of the fruit of the creators’ efforts, if you cannot call those CEO, management and shareholders IP thieves, what else can you call them?

Nowadays the fabrication processes are so complicated, it is nearly impossible to produce a product merely rely on IP theft. Even a fake DVD movie, the DVD is legitimate product, the duplicate machines are legitimate products, only the content is illegitimate. If the fake DVD is sold for $2, you only can say 20% of the fake DVD movie has violated IP right.

Without understanding IP rights, engineering and manufacturing, you smear China IP violation, it is simply bad faith and mean spirited.

Darren P
December 21, 2011 at 11:57

And China’s stated goals of conquering the Republic of China, controlling the Spratlys, and establishing even more of a presence in Africa differs how?
You’re the one who made the earlier comment “be nice to China, or else”. If you are representative of how the Chinese government thinks, then people around the world would be wise to be wary of China’s stated intentions…

Darren P
December 21, 2011 at 11:45

@Darren P,
Are you saying Homeland securities, CIA, FBI, the Pentagon, etc. are all boneheads? If you are insisting that China could pick up USA top military technologies in the USA unimpeded. USA security agencies must pay you a visit to see if you are connected to the terrorists that are there to discredit the capabilities of those security agencies to protect the USA.

The enmity between China and Japan is irrelevant, it is the security of the USA at the stake here, because USA wants a two oceans and two-power standard navy to protect itself, but hardware alone is not enough to protect itself, USA must clearly identify where the real danger lies, I just point out the real danger for the USA “A rearmed Japan is more dangerous to the USA, Japanese definitely has not forgot the two nukes they got from the USA, returning the favour is Japanese way of life.”

John, yes there were some security lapses allowing PLA front companies to be able to get in on the defense contracts. Look at the links I provided you in that other thread. I feel 100 percent safe saying that; the Federal Government isn’t going to kick my door down. I do NOT live in China.
And having a long viewof history is rumored to be the Chinese way. Considering that what happened in WW2 occured a few short decades ago, it is hard for me to buy your claim that the historical enmity between China and Japan is irrelavent. All nations bordering China have much more to fear from China than they do from the US.

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