13 October 2011

What is Readiness?

Readiness has been a very hot topic throughout my tour and I’d like to share some thoughts with you on this very important topic that is at the very core of all we do at USFF.

Our point of departure for this discussion must be the Sailing Directions recently promulgated by our Chief of Naval Operations, ADM Jon Greenert. If you haven’t yet read the CNO’s Sailing Directions, and read them carefully, you should because they are going to drive our approach to dealing with the very challenging times ahead.

Our CNO makes several central points: we must be ready to fight and win TODAY; we will continue to operate forward; and sustaining our force to fight and win in the future is one of our fundamental responsibilities. CNO’s guidance to us is clear and direct; our response to that guidance must be equally direct. For me, delivering ready forces today is JOB #1, followed in importance by sustaining today’s force to be ready tomorrow.

So let’s dive into this readiness issue a little deeper. My primary reference for what follows is my own experience in the past two years and a truly remarkable book titled “Military Readiness: Concepts, Choices and Consequences” by Richard K. Betts.  I’ve summarized much of what Betts developed in his book around the three essential readiness questions he postulated – Readiness by When? Readiness for What? and Readiness of What?

Military readiness pertains to the relation between available time and needed capability. Readiness represents, essentially, the variance of deployable capability with mobilization and alertment time.

A nation, and its Navy, is militarily ready as long as the time needed to convert potential capability into the actual capability is not longer than the time between the decision to convert and the onset of conflict. Thus, readiness exists when there is a match between the military capability a nation could have, given enough time, the capability it needs to prevail in conflict, and the capability it does have whenever it suddenly needs it. Conversely, a nation proves not to be ready when a gap between its actual and potential capability causes a gap between the available supply of capability and the immediate demand for it.

Readiness then depends on the impact of time on two ratios: first, the relation between the supply of combat capability and the demand for it, and second, the relation between actual and potential capability.

The first ratio concerns requirements: the relative military power needed to fight successfully. The second ratio concerns conversion: the difference between forces available to fight immediately and those that can be made available after significant preparation. Neither ratio alone can determine readiness.

Below are the key questions that must be answered to have a coherent discussion regarding our readiness:

Readiness by WHEN? What can we assume about the time available to generate combat readiness for a particular mission or deployment?

Readiness for WHAT? How much potential capability is needed to accomplish the assigned mission or set of missions?

Readiness of WHAT? What are the time requirements for deploying the various elements of our overall combat capability?
For Navy, getting clear answers to those questions is a very complex process due to our current global strategic framework. With the end of the Cold War and the passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1987, our nation’s global strategy came to be expressed as very broad goals with primacy of place given to independent regional commanders, our geographic Combatant Commanders (CCDRs). Each CCDR developed plans and executed operations with the minimal required cooperation between them (except when operations occurred at regional boundaries). While this process made sense given the generally regional nature of security threats of the post-Soviet world, it had the (unintended?) consequence of separating the development of plans and execution of operations around the globe from the design, development, preparation, and apportionment of the necessary resources and capabilities required to support operations.

Under this system the CCDR is king – the “warfighter.” The CCDR assesses his theater based on the broad national military goals provided to him and then requests the forces and resources necessary to execute those plans. While there is global guidance for plans and resources (Guidance for Employment of the Force – GEF), in reality, force apportionment is developed by a negotiation among the CCDRs, the military services, the Joint Staff, and OSD leadership. CCDRs do not come to the table with resource constraints in mind, but with operational requirements to be filled. Six separate geographic plans and three separate functional plans register force requests first – that is, nine different sets of answers to the three essential questions: 1) Readiness by WHEN, 2) Readiness for WHAT, and 3) Readiness of WHAT. The global forces apportionment “bargaining” process referred to above generates a lowest common denominator solution that reflects a series of compromises between the services, the force providers, and the CCDRs (the force employers) that results in no COCOMs’ force request being fully met while potentially leaving each of the services over-extended…an inherently unsatisfactory situation.

Dealing with those different, and often competing, answers to the essential readiness questions is the job of the services, the force providers. The services not only man, train, and equip the force, but are also the principle “bill-payers” for the CCDR’s operations. Accordingly, the Navy must look beyond the needs of just one CCDR and ensure our deploying forces are relevant to the demands of multiple theaters in terms of the type of forces (Readiness of WHAT?), how they are postured (Readiness by WHEN?), and what they are trained to do (Readiness for WHAT?). The services are also responsible to look to the future in developing and fielding the capabilities necessary to answer the three essential readiness questions for as much as 20-25 years in the future, a very tall order indeed. Thus, a unitary assessment of needs based upon a clear sense of the nation’s strategic priorities is required.

While OIF and OEF certainly increased the demand for all forces from every service, the end of those operations do not promise a return to a more sustainable optempo, as our CNO stated in his Sailing Directions, “As ground forces draw down in the Middle East, the Navy will continue to deter aggression and reassure our partners – we will have the watch.”

For Navy to successfully stand the watch, to meet the great challenge of our times, we must be resourced to meet the tasks we have been given. Our Navy, in partnership with our primary Joint partner – the U.S. Marine Corps – will be expected to meet simultaneous demands to support multiple regional engagement plans, deal directly with small/mid-sized crises, and prepare for higher intensity conflicts in various regions of the globe. To do all that is now, and certainly will be in the future, expected of us requires a clear delineation of national military priorities so that we can develop coherent answers to the three essential readiness questions. We must then be given the required resources to turn those answers into the forces necessary to be ready to fight and win today while developing the ability to win tomorrow.

Strategic clarity in the determination of our current readiness requirements and the proper resourcing of those requirements will enable our Navy to answer the three essential readiness questions and deliver the force our nation needs today and will need tomorrow.
All the best, JCHjr


Anonymous said...


Are you aware that there is no policy from Big Navy/ OPNAV or USFF concerning Force Deployment, Planning and Execution?

Currently, the Navy relies on an almost seemingly ad-hoc conglomeration of NAVSUP logistics policies, JOPES volumes, NTTPs regarding Strategic Mobility, as well as antiquated systems used by the Army. Earlier this year, NECC recently had a Force Mobility Conference that I attended and I was surprised to see how the lack of policy for deployment of expeditionary forces can impact readiness. I would not want the job of deploying forces within the navy given that there is absolutely zero guidance to do so from Big navy, unless you embark abord a surface combatant like an amphib or and a helicopter aboard.

With all that said, now is a perfect time for Big Navy/OPNAV to come up with a FDP & E policy that takes mobilization of people and associated cargo and illustrates it into a policy so that not only the unit can understand the process, but also the four star level staff. Why is it perfect? I suspect that as the wars wind down, there will be a force reset; a perfect time to wrestle policy when the force is still.

Readiness can also be measured/determined by how fast you get to the fight. For the Navy to further disassociate itself from the joint world and/or itself regarding logistics and relying on policies that are only for self deployers (read ships), I would say that the Fleet, if you consider the Fleet everything under your control and not just the waterfront/ships, is not as ready as it should be.

Anonymous said...

Readiness is really about performance!
Trending those three: For What, with What, and When would enable a more comprehensive view.
Just the current snapshots from DRRS and DRRS-N lack this capability.
Sage and Jensen (2000) developed a set of guidelines for (hold your breath) an "Enterprise" Performance Management System. They laid out 11 Essential Elements:
1. Communicate performance facets essential to organizational success.
2. Communicate how individual efforts contribute to mission success.
3. Communicate current organizational progress to all.
4. Provide historical documentation for improvement and legal use.
5. Align business activities to goals and objectives.
6. Provide info to set goals based on current performance.
7. Provide info to ID problems and risks.
8. Provide means to check success of initiatives.
9. Assist with visualization of the mission and its contributors/ progress.
10. Standardize organizational performance data for accuracy and consistency.
11. Provide info for strategic, capital investment, and other decisions.

We are making good progress along those lines in DRRS and DRRS-N.

Anonymous said...

DRRS and DRRS-N are impressively useless programs that do nothing to interpret the timely readiness of a ship. I would rather cash these million-probably billion dollar programs in and replace them with a simple phone call to the accountable CO. Too many equipment redundancies, unpublished policy caveats, inconsistent subjective decisions by delegated personnel for the "reader" to have any confidence in what the "writer" is saying. If I asked someone about the readiness of a platform, I put more credence in a phone call with the ACCOUNTABLE CO than what the over-engineered, over-costly and dated(?) DRRS report reveals. Let these programs follow the same path another over centralized, exceeding span of control program called DIMHRS!! How much maintenance dollars could the Fleet gain by cashing in these software programs!!
V/R, A steam engineer who once walked the waterfront for a $50.00 sheet of garlock gasket material because the ship was out of money!!

Anonymous said...

Once again we try and do high level determination of just what is Readiness. Simply put, when a theater CDR needs an asset to fill a warfare mission, do you have one ready to fill the bill?
So you scan the ships CASREP board (Assuming they really have reported any/all broken equipment) to ensure he can get U/W, has the necessary ordanance onboard and the folks know how to use it for the specified mission. We keep developing all new programs for the ship to use to report stuff, but rarely do we seem to see a focus and "can they actually do it"? Guns, for instance, may not have a casrep so you you see a big green ball on your morning stoplight chart and the mission calls for probably use of the gun. Off goes the ship who has only had an NCEA of 40 rds per year to practice...given a normal PAC fire of 5 rounds he had enough to check his gun 8 days out of the year...really comforting as the receiving CDR who may need ordanace on target.
You can develop any number of new fancy tracking programs, but if ships rarely get the chance to exercise weapons these days, it's easy to see an all green stoplight chart...haven't exercised it yet, so we don't know if it's broken or if in proper cal...but the tracking program will be really neat.
Reading this article and the SPY maintenance article, I'm not sure if we really are focusing on blue water elements of war anymore and the actual ability to receive that call to arms at 3 AM and be able to deliver as advertised.
"Quick Draw, Quick draw, Quick Draw..."
Retired 0-6

Phil Ridderhof said...

I agree with you that the new CNO’s guidance is written simply and directly. However, as your readiness discussion demonstrates, the devil is not in the details, but the basic assumptions and definitions attached to critical words such as “readiness” and “warfighting.” I understand the basis for the tenets of “warfighting first,” “operating forward,” and “being ready,” but these tenets are not necessarily complimentary. Operating forward, especially at the pace the Navy does today, comes at potential cost to near term readiness. If it limits the amount of time for maintenance, upgrades, and experimentation with new equipment and tactics, then it comes at cost to future readiness as well. Warfighting is a good term, but if you took a poll in DoD as to what “warfighting” will entail in the future, you will get a variety of answers. Is it the high end A2AD threat? Is it the “hybrid threat” of mid-level rogue nations and non-state actors? Can “warfighting first” be equally applicable, and result in equivalent readiness, for these possibilities?

I applaud the CNO's effort and focus. For it to be meaningful, however, it has to propel a discourse within the Navy, and within the naval services, to arrive at some agreement on the three questions of readiness you list above as well as what warfighting exactly is.
Col. Phil Ridderhof USMC

NVYGUNZ said...


Granted we have many masters to serve (COCOMs), we as a Navy still have long-held or enduring naval principles to upkeep. Where do they fit into these questions of readiness? I am referring to our long-held tradition of “command of the sea”. Holistically, we have command of the sea, but for how long? Are we always keeping a keen eye or watch on our fundamental naval (and national) warfare objective and our (presumed) foes?

Theory best articulated by Sir Julian Corbett, but summarized in modern context by Adm Sir Cyprian Bridge: “Command of the sea—enables the nation which possesses it to attack its foes where it pleases and where they seem to be most vulnerable. At the same time, it gives the possessor security against serious counter-attacks, and affords to his maritime commerce the most efficient protection that can be devised. It is, in fact, the main objective of naval warfare.”