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OCR for page 134
Naval Forces’ Defense Capabilities Against Chemical and Biological Warfare Threats 6 The Longer Term—Leadership to Sustain the Commitment The recommendations elaborated in the preceding chapters are aimed at institutionalizing the Navy’s approach to chemical and biological warfare defense and at improving the posture of the Marine Corps. These recommendations describe a number of fairly dramatic shifts in the ways that naval forces organize, train, and equip themselves to combat adversaries armed with chemical and biological weapons. They also promise a series of payoffs for the Navy in the short, mid-, and long term. These payoffs and anticipated gains in effectiveness will not be won through short-term interest from Navy leadership. This is a longterm problem requiring organization, focus, and commitment at the top that extends beyond the normal cycle of leadership turnover. This problem is more challenging than just staying the course. The Navy, like the rest of the nation, has a lot to learn about chemical and biological threats, risks, vulnerabilities, and responses. As naval leaders become better informed, they will choose to make some midcourse adjustments. There are, however, parts of the problem that are inherently uncertain—the tactics of asymmetric strategies and the unpredictable and potentially far-reaching nature of “attacks” as is the case with biological weapons that may not produce the immediately visible results associated with conventional forms of warfare. Moreover, even as the U.S. military gets smarter, so too does the adversary. Both state and nonstate adversaries are climbing their own learning curves about chemical and biological weapons. They will draw on rapidly evolving technologies widely available in the commercial realm rather than on the slowly evolving technologies in the defense industry. They will watch and learn from what the United States does, and vice versa. This interaction between defender and aggressor is inherently dynamic.
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Naval Forces’ Defense Capabilities Against Chemical and Biological Warfare Threats For the United States to come out on top requires more than simply staying the course—it requires an ability to learn and to respond in an agile way to new understandings of the problem. It is conceivable that a crisis will come along to galvanize this kind of sustained but agile leadership on the issue. Historically, the Navy has demonstrated a very strong capability to study mission failures for the lessons they yield. In this case, however, the Navy should not await a crisis or calamity with chemical and biological weapons to begin to learn the necessary lessons. Given the weaknesses in the current posture of naval forces and the utility of chemical and biological weapons in asymmetric strategies, such an encounter could be costly in terms of lives lost, missions compromised, and confidence to re-engage. There are sufficient lessons in the experience of the past decade to chart a more productive course to the desired posture than that so far being navigated. If the Navy implements this longer-term strategy, what payoffs can it expect in terms of the ability of naval forces to meet mission requirements in a chemical or biological threat environment? In other words— Can the Navy get better at chemical and biological defense? Absolutely. Existing efforts will generate incremental improvements to existing capabilities, perhaps at a more rapid pace in the wake of the concern generated by the attacks of September 11, 2001, and in the preparations for the recent war with Iraq. Implementation of the more comprehensive strategy elaborated in this study promises further progress in coming to terms with the chemical and biological weapons challenge. Does progress equate with success? As the Navy gets better, will it also get “good enough”? What is good enough? The answer would seem to be that “it depends” on the intentions and capabilities of U.S. adversaries. Against an adversary willing to make limited use of small quantities of chemical or biological agents largely in order to generate fear as a way to coerce or deter, “good enough” equates with an ability to sustain the warfighter in the face of such limited attacks—and also to reassure those made fearful, at least within the forces themselves. It would appear that even evolutionary improvements in operational capabilities will promise this level of performance. Against an adversary willing and able to use chemical or biological warfare aggressively in campaign-style attacks for its theater-strategic purposes, “good enough” requires a more elaborate description. It requires the operational ability to project power and prevail against such an adversary at casualty levels acceptable to the public and political leadership. It requires an ability to protect local U.S. allies and coalition partners so that they are not paying an extreme share of the cost and risk. All of these requirements can be met by U.S. naval forces, but they demand the comprehensive—and sustained—approach that this report has presented.
OCR for page 136
Naval Forces’ Defense Capabilities Against Chemical and Biological Warfare Threats Against an adversary willing, at the extreme, to exploit the full mass casualty potential of chemical and especially biological weapons to kill millions, “good enough” equates with an ability to sustain combat operations and to terminate those attacks before they reach that potential. The kinds of operational and other adjustments elaborated in this study do not promise this level of capability. An aggressor willing to wage a war of mass annihilation is an aggressor willing to confront the United States not at the conventional, but at the strategic level.
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