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?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.
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?
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