CNO puts warfighting first for USN

USS Gerald R Ford (right) and USS Dwight D Eisenhower (left)
The US Navy aircraft carriers USS Gerald R Ford (right) and USS Dwight D Eisenhower sail together in the Mediterranean Sea in November 2023. The ships were deployed, during the current Middle East crisis, to the Eastern Mediterranean and Northern Arabian seas respectively, bringing deterrent presence through warfighting capability. (Credit: US Navy)

The US Navy’s (USN’s) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) has reiterated that the navy must first and foremost be a warfighting navy.

Admiral Lisa Franchetti formally took over as CNO in November 2023. Adm Franchetti has taken the navy’s reins at a time of increased state-based competition, conventional war in Europe including at sea, and heightened tension at sea around the world including currently in the Red Sea.

Reflecting the need to continue developing the navy to meet this high-end operational challenge, Adm Franchetti told the Surface Navy Association (SNA) annual symposium in Arlington, Virginia on 9 January that the USN is “viewing everything we do through a warfighting lens”.

This focus is sharpened in large part by the warfighting threat the USN and its partners are facing. “Our adversaries are adapting new technology, working to undermine our critical strengths, [and] to expose any weaknesses they can, and are racing to develop their own warfighting advantages,” Adm Franchetti told the SNA audience. “In this environment, America’s warfighting navy … [its] sailors [and] marines … must be the best warfighters in the world.”

“We must have the best systems, weapons, and platforms that will deter – or defeat – any adversary, anytime, anywhere,” the admiral added.

Set against strategic challenges including financial restrictions, workforce shortages, and industrial supply chain limitations, the USN “must exercise strategic discipline to ensure we are the most ready, combat-credible force we can be”, CNO continued.

To meet this strategic requirement, Adm Franchetti committed to build on and accelerate the work started by her predecessor, Admiral Michael Gilday, by focusing on three priorities: warfighting, by delivering decisive combat power at sea; warfighters, by strengthening the navy team; and re-inforcing the service’s underpinning foundation, including infrastructure, resources, and readiness.

Here, CNO said, “Warfighting concepts must drive the design of warfighting platforms, capabilities, and strategy.” As regards building the warfighters, the USN will prioritise developing warfighting concepts and tactics – through exercises, integrated battle problems, and wargaming – to build and empower leaders who think differently and take the operational initiative to best leverage operational concepts and capabilities and to generate warfighting advantage and define fleet requirements in uncertain, complex, and rapidly changing environments, Adm Franchetti explained.

by Dr. Lee Willett