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Key U.S. Security Policy Issues

Continuing to Reorient Naval Strategy and Capabilities to Reflect New Missions
Ratifying the LOS Convention
Enhancing Inter-Agency Coordination on Oceans Polidy Issues
Shaping Evolving International Regimes Governing the Oceans

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Continuing to Reorient Naval
Strategy and Capabilities to
Reflect New Missions

The Navy has adapted its planning to conform with the new doctrine of near-shore engagement. Fighting in the littoral poses different challenges than blue water warfare. There are special problems in coastal areas with acoustic and electromagnetic sensing. The shallowness of the sea bottom, the changing temperature and salinity, and the radar impact of nearby land complicate surveillance, as does the dense maritime traffic and activity in near shore areas. Target identification becomes more difficult where numerous civilian and third country vessels and platforms are present. Weapons systems tailored to this more complex environment must be more discriminating, and defensive systems must be adapted to the shorter warning times that characterize littoral warfare. Capabilities must include defense against theater ballistic missiles, mine countermeasures, subsurface torpedo defenses, and anti-missile defenses.

Since the anticipated focus of naval operations is influencing the behavior of a regional actor on land, naval missions must be closely coordinated with the Marine Corps, Army, and the Air Force. While the Cold War maritime strategy relied on carrier battle groups as the basic operational unit to control the sea and project power ashore, the new strategy calls for smaller force packages. These Naval Expeditionary Forces will integrate amphibious forces, and are designed to work with other services and with other nations.

This major shift in Navy strategy has taken place at the same time as significant budget reductions. From the 600 ship Navy of 1988, the Navy has been challenged to reduce personnel and operating expenses by a third. By the end of the century, the Navy is planning for about 330 ships which would be a 40 percent reduction. While some savings may be achieved by better integration of forces with the other services, the bulk of savings are projected to come from the redesign of basic operations.

The international scene will remain unpredictable in the decade ahead. How broadly or narrowly U.S. interests are defined in the post-Cold War world will have major implications for the Navy. The challenge for the Navy is to stay flexible in preparing for current missions and adapting to new missions. Further, the Navy must retain the option to rebuild its forces quickly, as the political situation could change significantly on short notice. A dominant threat could reemerge. A regional power might acquire a deliverable nuclear weapon. Or the Navy might find its forces stretched thin if crises were to engage important U.S. interests in several regions of the world simultaneously.

The current U.S. advantage in sea control will not last indefinitely. But with or without this dominance, a stable law of the sea regime will be critical for U.S. naval strategy and operations.

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Ratifying the LOS Convention

A near-term issue is accession to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce are all solidly behind the treaty. Opposition by groups that continue to fear a seabed mining regime may decrease when the revised provisions of Part XI on seabed mining are more widely publicized.

A more difficult problem will be dealing with the concerns expressed in some quarters that the treaty represents a ceding of U.S. sovereignty to global organizations. In fact, it may well not be possible any longer for any nation, no matter how powerful, to independently secure its interests in the oceans. Furthermore, Washington is already enmeshed in a number of international agreements on oceans issues, to which the LOS Convention provides a framework. At the same time, the Convention can constrain others from taking actions inimical to U.S. interests.

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Enhancing Inter-Agency
Coordination on Oceans
Policy Issues

With Law of the Sea and ocean issues commanding renewed attention, the interagency coordination and public outreach mechanisms for managing these issues have gained prominence. Decisions taken within one agency on maritime issues typically have impacts on other agencies. The coherence of U.S. policy on the oceans might therefore benefit from regular and systematic exchanges and interactions among a core group of interested agencies, such as the State Department, the Defense Department, the NSC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Beyond the core group, an expanded group of all agency actors with an interest in oceans issues--such as the U.S. Trade Representative, the National Science Foundation, the Departments of Energy and Transportation, and the Office of the Vice President--might be briefed intermittently.

Equally important, in an era of renewed attention to the oceans, is the issue of an advisory committee structure. Private sector advisors might be drawn from all sectors of ocean industry, as well as non-government organizations--for example, representatives of the coastal and distant-water fishing and processing industries, offshore oil and gas interests, the shipping industry, the mining industry, the marine science community, and environmentalists.

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Shaping Evolving
International Regimes
Governing the Oceans

A coherent and well articulated U.S. ocean policy with a broad base of domestic support will facilitate U.S. efforts to garner broad international support for its objectives for resource management, navigation, maritime safety, and pollution. While the LOS Convention provides a relatively detailed framework, regimes for ocean resources--including fisheries, environment, and safety--will continue to evolve in different international fora. For example, the IMO will be of central importance to all regimes dealing with navigation. While IMO standards apply to civilian navigation, they reflect concerns that apply to all vessels.

To ensure that evolving international standards for safety and environment do not undermine naval claims to sovereign immunity, the Navy will have to anticipate public concerns. For example, nuclear propulsion will remain an issue, as will safety and pollution control. The Navy must factor in such concerns as it addresses its own ship construction standards and operations.

The emergence of a widely accepted law of the sea regime will be the United States's best protection against excessive coastal state claims. There will, however, be states that remain outside the treaty, or that choose to ignore or reinterpret some of its provisions. Therefore, the need for maintaining the diplomatic representations and naval operations of the Freedom of Navigation Program remains. Resources to carry out this program must be factored into reduced Navy and State Department budgets. However, U.S. adherence to the LOS Convention should diminish the costs of the FON program.

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