Panel: Pace of Navy Freedom of Navigation Operations Stressing Force
Freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea puts stress on the fleet when the Navy could use that time more effectively “to train up for high-end conflict,” a national security expert who served in the Trump administration said Friday.
Speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies Forum, Elbridge Colby, former deputy assistant secretary for strategy and force development, said “there is a cost” to U.S. 7th Fleet in these operations that can be measured in lost time in “restoring our warfighting edge.”
The co-founder of the Marathon Initiative cited Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s recent remarks at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, where he unveiled the Battle Force 2045 plan. Esper said, “It’s more important to prioritize modernization and future-readiness over the demands of today.”
In an answer to a follow-up question, Esper said the “Navy also has an ambitious mission set that includes peacetime activities, competition activities – you have to demonstrate presence – forward presence, the ability to control sea lanes, the ability to work with partners and allies and do those things. So anyone day, we have nearly 100 or so ships deployed doing these things. …(But) you don’t build a force around a single scenario.”
Colby said the operations “really don’t stop anything,” like China’s militarizing of artificial islands.