28 August 2009

Sustaining Expeditionary Experience and Capabilities

Navy established Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) in January 2006 to lead and centrally manage our Expeditionary Forces.  Just four years later, we have a large and diverse group of Sailors at the leading edge of the fight with the demand signal for these forces steadily increasing.

When we discuss Navy's contributions to today's conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, NECC's forces are - and will continue to be - at the center of that discussion.  Our Sailors (Active and Reserve) have developed an extraordinary amount of experience and capability that we must continue to bring to bear to execute the missions our nation requires, today and in the future.

It is easy to create and manage a "single-purpose" warfare career field - like sub, surface, and air.  My question to you:  how do we best ensure that we institutionalize and take advantage of the extraordinary experience that we have gained in NECC over the past four years and will continue to need well into the future?


LTJG said...


Although I am just a lowly first tour divo, I find the study of bureaucracies fascinating. I seems to me that NECC should be combined with PCRON/MINERON and Special Warfare Command and elevated to become its own four star command. If the role of the CNO and Fleet Forces is to provide resources for the regional combatant commanders, then perhaps should NECC the equivalent of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. Those two commands largely consolidate our primary blue water forces. NECC consolidates our primarily brown water capabilities, ground troops (such as Seabees, EOD and other unites we use to support the Marines) and GWOT Support Assignments. It would also allow us to think about combining some similar and maybe overlapping capabilities, such as Riverines and Special Boat units.

In addition sir, I am curious as to your thoughts about the recent creation of the special SWO Expeditionary Warfare career field. While this specializaiton will create expeditionary warfare experts, will there still be enough room left for traditional track SWOs to experience a nontraditional tour? Is this a path a young JO should consider? Thank you.


EXFORFAN said...

ADM Harvey,
As you know, many capabilities in NECC are already institutionalized: Seabees, EOD, and Divers.
Institutionalizing NECC. Yes, there’s a new AQD for Expeditionary Warfare Officers in the SWO community, but numbers are limited, and in my humble opinion, NECC will always be robbing from the SWO community; just as we are robbing from all the other communities for IA/GSA assignments. Recommendations:
• The Commander should be a VADM to lead this important TYCOM, take NECC seriously.
• Give NECC professionals their own officer community, but the compensation should not come from the CEC and EOD officer community, don’t break what already works. In the interim, as LCS ships enter the fleet, assign at least one officer holding the new Expeditionary Officer AQD to the wardroom.
• Deploy LCS now, with blended NECC units on board for littoral warfare missions.
Sustaining NECC. Recommendations:
• When/if GITMO is closed, allow NECC to keep the Guard Battalion billets to increase capacity.
• NAVELSG does not need to do Customs missions. Give the mission to IA/GSAs; or even better, it’s a Homeland Security mission, not DOD.
• An EOD officer said they’re 1% of the Navy but 20% of Navy’s casualties for OIF/OEF. What are we doing besides putting a band-aid on them?
• Merge NECC ISICs to one (EODCOM, MESGCOM) as compensation for increased capacity.
• IA/GSAs are hurting the rest of the fleet. As Army/Marines grow, return sailors to our ships, boats, and squadrons.

Very respectfully,


Shipmate said...


I think that the "brown water" navy is critical to our future, but I also think that we have to balance the need for increased levels of experience in a wide range of areas. You NEED to have blue water and brown water experts and, frankly, the one-size-fits-all SWO who can go anywhere, do anything and always be on top of the game is a model that is no longer sustainable.

I belive that the AQD for officers is a good start but I would say that the Amphibious community and NECC should be linked. In the end, board precepts must be written to ensure promotion which, in turn, will attract (and keep) the specific kinds of talent that are necessary for this critical mission.

I do not concur with a new 4-star command or using IA/GSA to meet missions as others are advising. We need only to look at our past when we had an AMPHIBLANT and all kinds of competing TYCOMs to understand that additional flags in the mix may not be the most healthy way of doing things.

Alignments as they are currently set up are good. However, we really need to put our efforts into making sure that we have the right processes and procedures to make the entire "brown water" effort work. I submit that by making sure people promote and that meaningful processes are set up, ajusted, and then maintained (or thown out if they don't work) - the NECC cadre will maximize their end-to-end contribution to the fight.

Lastly, I do think that the ability to form a symbiotic relationship among the NECC group and the Amphibious mission areas is a natural fit and could provide a sea-shore rotation and viable career path that could even get people "joint" points for some of their missions. I am NOT advocating a merger but a viable career planning model that would cost nothing and would allow selection boards to see a wide range of contributions to the Navy mission. And the cost would be almost nothing. Just make board precepts that would ensure that the same level of promotion opportunities exist across CRUDES/AMPHIB/NECC communities for officers. And our enlisted selection boards could be educated to fully understand the NECC contribution. I do realize this is not as easy as it sounds but it is a near zero cost effort that would probably attract (and maintain) the right kings of people for a critical area.

Very respectfully,


Officer X said...

My comments echo and elaborate on some of EXFORFAN's--

I firmly believe that NECC will struggle to elevate itself to the next level of becoming a fixture within the institution of the Navy until two things happen. First, as a Type Commander, COMNECC must be elevated to the three star level in order sit on equal footing with the other Type Commanders (NAVAIR, SURFOR, SUBFOR, and CNIC) all of whom are VADM assignments. Secondly, there can be no institution of Expeditionary Warfighting unless there is an officer community to build around it. Other than CNIC, the other Type Commanders have their own officer communities that match their respective enterprises. NECC has only a marginally successful equivalent in the small community of EOD officers and those Civil Engineers serving in SEABEE assignments. The rest of NECC's officers are officers with no long-term stake in the future of the enterprise because their parent community (most often SWO) is aligned with a different enterprise. Thus, there will be very little opportunity to institutionalize the "extraordinary experience(s)" because the officers serving in NECC assignments are not required and often are not likely to ever return for another assignment within NECC. You simply cannot expect a culture of Expeditionary Warfare to bloom when there is no community of officers to cultivate it. This would be comparable to expecting a certain language to sustain itself when there are no people to speak it.

Derrick said...

I'm sorry...but I'm a little confused here. Why does the Navy need a separate NECC? Shouldn't carrier strike forces by default be expeditionary-ready? I mean, is it not conceivable a carrier strike force may have to remain in a theater of operation for a prolonged period of time?

Perhaps my question is: what is the difference between a naval expeditionary force and a regular naval force?

Warrant Diver said...

I'm in agreement with Officer X that a sustainable officer corps must be developed to keep NECC around for the long haul, but I think it can be done using the existing officer corps (air, surface, sub, etc.) if it is correctly managed.

A succesfull tour at a NECC command (successful would have to be defined, perhaps the EXW qual or something similiar) should result in an officer being assigned an AQD. This AQD (which could be assigned to any community, not just surface) could then be used by the detailers to identify suitable candidates for higher level NECC jobs. We have the power to ensure that multiple tours to the NECC are not considered as being OUTSIDE an officer's career development, we need to ensure it is considered PART of and officer's development. It is our Navy, we can influence this. In my community (Diving) an officer can go from "shoot, scoot, communicate, salvage" in NECC to "production meetings, manhour tracking, Quality Assurance training" at an IMA and then to another completely different job. It can be done for NECC as well as long as the Navy decides not to punish those who do it.

So: how do we best ensure that we institutionalize and take advantage of the extraordinary experience that we have gained in NECC over the past four years and will continue to need well into the future?

1. Establish an officer AQD that applies to all communities, and instruct NAVPERS to use it to screen officers when filling billets at higher echelon NECC commands.

2. Build NECC tours into officer advancement models, but don't punish those who don't get a NECC tour.

3. Same for enlisted personnel: build it into their advancement models.

4. Close-loop select NECC rates (for a certain period of time, not forever) to ensure that expertise is maintained in NECC.

Hoo Yah Deep Sea

Mid-South Sailor said...

As we continue to watch what is happening with the Information Communities and the establishment of FLTCYBERCOM, I can't help but see similarities. This is about two things:

1) Governance - The model VADM Dorsett has given us with a single Information Dominance Corps Sponsor overseeing the collective efforts of the Information Communities has franchising potential into the NECC

2) Authorities - Again, true change only happens at the 3/4 Star level. It is no accident that the significant progress enjoyed of late in the Cyber (Information Dominance) Arena did begin until a VADM was put in charge and appropriately empowered.

Respectfully recommend those communities associated with NECC seek a governance model similar to what has been recently put in place for the "Corps of Information Communities." We've witnessed PERS-46 fall apart, we see virtually no synchronization across FAO, PAO, CEC and other expeditionary aligned communities from a community management standpoint and nothing will change until we establish a singular Expeditionary Corps Sponsor and align Community Leaders under his/her leadership. Until we force Community Leaders to see themselves as partners focused on the strategic readiness of our Navy, vice individual community lobbyists, we will look more and more like the Space Cadre (what a mess!?) than a synchronized team of warfighting professionals (Expeditionary and/or otherwise).

lesea said...

Sir, as a Brownwater Navy vet with Patrol Officer quals and plenty of time on the river, I watched my combat hours be deleted from my AQD. That coupled with negative comments by blue water officers who had NOT served in-country told me what the Navy really thought about combat duty. So one bit of advice I would give is: require combat hours be recorded accurately and have them acknowledged in FITREPs.

In addition, I have seen the officer career path for EXW and it appeared to me to be a sham! not really valuing an officr's combat experience with a good career pattern.

I would require ALL EXW officers to perform patrols and u/w missions regardless of their unit level billet assignment. No patrols lesser evaluation.

ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr said...

Mid-South Sailor, very insightful comments. I agree with Shipmate that brown-water (and near-shore green-water)operations are critical to our future, particularly as we are increasingly called upon to deal with irregular challenges in the littoral. Given the enduring impact of expeditionary operations on our future, what you propose - a model of Expeditionary community management along the lines of what we're doing with the Corps of Information Communities - makes a great deal of sense to me.
Such a model would also help us get at the issue raised by Officer X and Warrant Diver regarding developing, sustaining and expanding expeditionary operations experience more broadly in the officer communities.
Thanks very much for the replies and all the best, JCHjr

landshark said...


Just found out about your blog through SailorBob. Thanks for all your effort to share your vision with the Fleet!

I have just completed my DH tours and all of my experience is in the CRUDES Navy. I would love to volunteer for some time in NECC - I think this is where I can make the best possible contribution to the War effort in the years to come. However, I don't have the EXW AQD, and I'm very afraid that trying to go to one of these XO/CO billets will make my life very difficult if I have any hopes of making it a career all the way to O-6.

I would love to be a part of NECC's future - is there any way we can help mid-career SWO's (who have followed the standard advice not to deviate from the conventional SWO tours) join the expeditionary fight? Maybe more billets in SCP or some sort of business rule for conventional career path SWOs to elect to be screened for NECC billets over CRUDES/Amphib billets? I think this would also help Big Navy get some O-5,6, and 7's with substantial EXW experience a lot sooner.

Thanks for your time, sir!