NAPLES, Italy — The Navy needs to focus less on specific rivals, such as Russia and China, and more on operating in an increasingly complicated world, the service’s new boss said Tuesday.
Re-examining fleet designs and developing concepts for operations that fall short of conflict are among the Navy’s future priorities, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson wrote in a 10-page “strategic guidance” document, his first effort to craft a vision for the service since taking command in October.
Titled “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority,” Richardson’s plan offers few specifics, and it doesn’t address one of the major questions facing the Navy — how best to allocate a limited number of resources among commanders in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Those details will be laid out in future budget documents, Richardson said.
The guidance instead attempts to separate American naval strategy from specific threats, such as those posed by Russia and China, by calling for a broader response to a changing maritime environment. Those changes include the widespread availability of cheap technology, the increased networks and connectivity that make it easier to operate that technology from a distance, and the diverse amount of traffic at sea, from growing navies to merchant ships and migrant populations.
Richardson said the Navy must give commanders more options at sea that fall short of conflict, while managing escalation on favorable terms and defending against precision-strike missiles — weapons whose proliferation continues to concern Navy planners.
Richardson’s plan emphasizes decentralizing Navy operations and exploring new manned and unmanned systems. Modernization of the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine, which is capable of carrying a nuclear payload, will remain a Navy priority, he said.
Leaning more heavily on technology to train sailors and continuing the personnel reforms mapped out by the Navy in recent years are also emphasized in the plan. Budget issues will remain a concern, Richardson said — the Ohio modernization program alone is estimated to cost $100 billion — but must inspire creativity.
“Our competitors are moving quickly, and our adversaries are bent on leaving us swirling in their wake,” Richardson wrote.