|Questions & Answers|
First, the ongoing global war on terror required us to rethink how we prepare to deploy and sustain our naval forces during this protracted war. Second, Operation Iraqi Freedom showed us that we may have to deploy significant fleet capability, on short notice, when access to facilities ashore for ground and air forces may be difficult to obtain.
Recall that just about one year ago, we deployed seven aircraft carriers, nine "big deck" assault ships, and a total of 182 ships in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF). This surge of navy capability, coupled with the reasons described above, taught us that the methodology used during the cold war for manning, maintaining, and training our fleet would not produce the surge readiness required in the 21st century security environment. In addition to presence and engagement in forward areas, we also need the ability to surge the fleet - to be ready to respond as we did in support of OIF is a necessity.
In Washington, FRP is referred to as the Fleet Response Plan. Navy "responded" to the requirements of the 21st century's security environment with a "plan" that includes the organization, manning, training, and equipping of our navy, CNO's responsibility under the law.
Our fleet commanders, on the other hand, responsible for the readiness of the fleet, have instituted FRP as the "program" to ensure its "readiness." Hence the term "Fleet Readiness Program."
Both names refer to the same operational construct. Call it FRP.
The FRp is designed to more rapidly develop and then sustain readiness in ships and squadrons so that, in a national crisis or contingency operation, the navy can quickly surge significant combat power to the scene. This requires us to rethink how we maintain our ships and aircraft between deployments, without spending more money for readiness or maintenance, or placing additional burdens on the shoulders or our sailors.
A key aspect of FRP is the notion of targeted readiness rather than assuming a requirement to achieve the highest readiness levels. In many instances, absent indications of imminent danger or war, intermediate levels of readiness are not only acceptable but a prudent use of resources. These are the types of decisions our leaders at all levels of the chain of command are increasingly making to ensure we balance our warfighting readiness with the judicious use of taxpayer money.
Currently, FRP involves primarily CSG's, submarines and, to a lesser degree, expeditionary assault shipping. As FRP evolves, its umbrella may be spread over larger portions of the navy. A highlight from the perspective of our sailors and their families is that, absent a crisis or contingency operation, FRP does not increase optempo or time away from home. While naval forces will be required to operate differently and have a greater number of units ready for deployment at short notice, this does not mean they will operate more often, deploy sooner, or deploy without notice unless there is an urgent need.
Under FRP, our goal is to be able to provide the nation six-plus-two Carrier Strike Groups (CSG); specifically six CSG'S deployed or ready to deploy within 30 days and an additional two CSG'S ready to go within approximately 90 days. Navy leadership will periodically review this six-plus-two CSG goal, adjusting it as required by the global political-military situation.
We develop this six-plus-two CSG capability through the use of the Fleet Readiness Training Plan (FRTP), a 27 month cycle that replaces the old Interdeployment Training Cycle (IDTC). The FRTP includes four phases prior to deployment: maintenance, unit level training, integrated training, and sustainment. The maintenance phase, which could vary from 9 weeks for a surface combatant to up to 10 months for an aircraft carrier, is followed by a period of unit-level training to achieve a level of readiness for the CSG to be considered "emergency surgable." The idea is to have the major prerequisites for a surge deployment (manning, maintenance, and basic training) completed so that additional tailored training can be completed quickly if necessary to surge the CSG due to a crisis or contingency operation. The integrated phase of training is tailored to individual ship and air wing strengths and weaknesses and concludes after completion of COMPTUEX and Air Wing Training at NAS Fallon. At this point a CSG is considered surge ready, meaning it could deploy on short notice if required. The sustainment part of the FRTP consists of a variety of training evolutions designed to maintain a CSG's readiness until it actually deploys, and might include a JTFEX.
The length of deployments under the FRP will depend on the needs of the combatant commanders and, except when required for contingency operations, will rarely exceed six months. There could be some shorter deployments and demonstrations of surge capability but the goal of FRP is to put in place an ability to surge significant combat power on short notice, if required. Additionally, as we retool our training and deployment construct, we're also working to meet the CNO goal of "presence with a purpose," employing CSG's in support of well defined missions vice deploying only for the sake of maintaining a presence.
The current global security environment requires that we provide the president and SECDEF with scalable options of combat capability. FRP and it's associated FRTP are designed to give operational commanders the flexibility to utilize naval assets in innovative ways to enhance regional deterrence, meet specific combatant commander requirements, including security cooperation activities, multi-CSG fleet exercises, and rotational forward operations while building a viable and credible surge capability.
In short, FRP is all about fleet readiness and the navy's ability to provide significant combat power in response to a crisis. It is not about keeping the fleet deployed longer or sending the fleet to sea without notice.