Keeping up the momentum
We continue to implement the Air-Sea Battle concept in three main ways: compelling institutional change, fostering conceptual alignment, and promoting programmatic collaboration.
Compelling institutional change. The Air-Sea Battle concept establishes a "new normal" for integration between services so they are able to conduct successful cross-domain operations. This approach will require breaking down traditional service and community paradigms. Each of our services and each of the communities (e.g., fighters, bombers, submarines, surface ships, satellites, cyber operators, patrol aircraft, etc.) within our services have decades of established tactics, procedures, and traditions that may not align with each other. We will have to eliminate some of these differences to become a more integrated force able to operate across domains. For example, fighter aircraft may be used as surveillance platforms to support submarines attacking air defenses, or submarines may operate remotely-piloted aircraft to support Marine special forces attacking a radar.
This change will take sustained effort. We established a joint Air-Sea Battle Office (ASBO) with representatives from each service to lead day-to-day implementation of the concept. The ASBO sponsors war games and simulations, assists with service-level doctrinal changes, and advises on budget decisions. Most recently, in December, the ASBO hosted 150 personnel from all four services for the 2012 Air-Sea Battle Implementation Working Group. Representatives from U.S. Central and Pacific Commands, as well as their supporting components, played prominent roles during the discussions. The working group made significant progress in solidifying the habitual relationships Air-Sea Battle will require between the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.
Fostering conceptual alignment. The ASBO promotes incorporation of Air-Sea Battle concept elements in service concepts and assures the Air-Sea Battle effort stays consistent with and supports the overarching Joint Operational Access Concept. For example, Air-Sea Battle was incorporated into each of the services' war games during 2012. The Marine Corps' Expeditionary Warrior (March), Army's Unified Quest (June), Navy's Global (August), and Air Force's Unified Engagement (December) included objectives that explored Air-Sea Battle as a way to meet anti-access challenges. The Air-Sea Battle focus increased with each successive game, culminating with Unified Engagement 12, a "table-top" wargame including about 300 participants from a dozen nations. This was the first Air-Sea Battle war game to include participation by our treaty allies. Allied participation will remain a priority going forward, with the intent of influencing multinational military concepts, tactics, and doctrine.
Promoting programmatic collaboration. The ASBO assesses service programs and budgets and recommends specific solutions to address Joint Force shortfalls against anti-access challenges. To most efficiently deliver solutions, the ASBO's specific programmatic recommendations are coordinated between the services. Starting with the FY 2010 budget, application of the Air-Sea Battle concept has resulted in tangible investments to deliver the integrated, cross-domain capabilities required to defeat modern threats to access. Over the past two years these investments included the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile; Navy electronic warfare systems, such as Ship Signals Exploitation Equipment; and new data links for our fighters.
As part of its assessments, the ASBO is identifying redundancies across the services that can be eliminated. These efforts will be important as our resources become more constrained. For example, in the FY 2013 budget our services proposed reductions in Global Hawk unmanned vehicles, Air Force strike fighters, and Navy surface combatants. We will use the Air-Sea Battle concept to help integrate our force further and maintain our capability in the face of smaller budgets.
A challenge we can't ignore
Some will argue the United States can afford to retrench and "reset" following more than a decade of war, with decreasing resources and without an existential threat such as the Soviet Union. We don't have that luxury. Anti-access threats erode confidence in the freedom of the global commons that underpins our global economy. Nations are fielding and directly threatening their neighbors with anti-access systems. And potential aggressors are using these capabilities to assert that they can slow or prevent a U.S. response in order to undermine confidence in U.S. security guarantees.
The United States must sustain its capability to assure access when needed to counter these trends. Our services will continue to increase the integration of our training and improve our coordination in developing doctrine, operating concepts, new capabilities, and investment plans. We will need, however, the support of our partners in Congress and the Office of the Secretary of Defense to ensure this integration is implemented in our budgets and strategies. Through our combined efforts, Air-Sea Battle will assure continued U.S. freedom of action and with it our ability to deter aggression, maintain regional stability, dampen crisis, and assure our allies and partners.