NEWS | April 13, 2021

Design, Train, Mobilize: Transforming our Navy Reserve for Great Power Competition

By Chief of Navy Reserve Public Affairs

A graphic created to display the three aspects of the Navy Reserve Fighting instructions; design, train, mobilize. (U.S. Navy graphic by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Stephen Hickok)
SLIDESHOW | 1 images | 210413-N-YU482-0001 A graphic created to display the three aspects of the Navy Reserve Fighting instructions; design, train, mobilize. (U.S. Navy graphic by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Stephen Hickok)


Over the last twenty years the Navy Reserve has accomplished much, all the while optimizing reserve equities to thrive in a post-9/11 conflict. And yet today we recognize that expecting to fight tomorrow’s conflict with today’s tactics, force structure and assets is a fool’s errand. To that end, we are now, and will remain, unambiguously focused on warfighting readiness as outlined in the Navy Reserve Fighting Instructions. 
 
To ensure the force’s focus on Chief of Navy Reserve John Mustin’s singular priority, warfighting readiness, he released the Fighting Instructions, which reaffirm the Navy Reserve’s strategic alignment with the National Defense Strategy, the Tri-Service Maritime Strategy: Advantage at Sea, and the CNO’s Navigation Plan 2021.  
 
The Fighting Instructions detail necessary overhauls to transform the way we design, train, and mobilize our nation’s nearly 50,000 Selected Reserve Sailors.  This requires a significant shift in mindset, effort, and deep structural and operational change. While such change is never easy, it is absolutely necessary, and timely, and every Reserve Sailor, in one way, shape or form, will play a role. 
 
We are moving out with a sense of urgency in order to achieve a conflict-ready posture, emphasizing traditional Navy missions, and prioritizing contribution to combat power over administrative roles. And while these necessary changes are substantial, history has proven for over a century that the Navy Reserve is designed with the inherent resiliency and tenacity to evolve with changing global realities. 
 
THE CURRENT REALITIES OF OUR FORCE 
 
To get started, we must accept certain assumptions and realities. First, everything we expect to accomplish can be delivered without an increase in the number of Reserve Sailors. However, to enable the Navy Reserve to scale capability in critical areas and to build new warfighting capability, capacity, and readiness without an increase in end strength, we must divest lower-value capabilities and administrative support roles. As such, the force will eliminate those things that distract from, degrade or fail to contribute to warfighting readiness. Simple actions include deactivating some units to enable the establishment of new units or grow existing ones, consolidating existing units to remove duplicate functions across multiple smaller units, and shifting billets from primarily administrative roles to those with a more direct warfighting alignment. 
 
Second, the Navy Reserve has recently been empowered with oversight and ownership of its budget, something very different than the way its business has been handled in the past. As some of you may know, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations assigned resource sponsorship responsibilities to CNR’s office in August 2020. This is a major shift in terms of our ability to ensure our Reserve force is aligned with the Navy’s multi-domain warfighting priorities.  
 
Third, while for the past two decades the Reserve force has emphasized operational support, even at the expense of strategic depth. Given the current security environment, we must restore the Reserve force’s focus on strategic depth, particularly in maritime domain capabilities. And, further, we recognize the need for the optimal delivery of lethal mission capability, surge capacity, and scalable combat-power should we transition along the continuum of military operations into conflict.  
 
DESIGN OUR FORCE 
 
To compete and win against motivated peer and near-peer challengers requires a natural advancement of our thinking, our training, and our force structure. The challenges we face are structural and executional. In defining our approach, the sequence, and the levels of effort, we will assess and prioritize the relative impact, time and cost of any proposed change — assigning a low priority to incremental improvement to existing processes and a high quotient to revolutionary change with a projected output multiplier effect. Therefore, the following items have the attention of our Reserve leaders. 
 
First, we will increase the breadth and depth of our Operational Level of War (OLW) capabilities and capacity, specifically in supporting Fleet Maritime Operations Centers (MOCs). Our Fleets depend on Reserve support to fully man these organizations and execute their missions. MOC functions are mission critical, and much of the Fleet’s OLW depth and expertise resides in the Navy Reserve. We will grow this capability, formalize the training continuum and standardize competencies to ensure permeability between Fleets, geography and areas of responsibility. 
 
Second, we will explore expanding our expeditionary logistics capability. In addition to supporting U.S. Marine Corps Commandant and CNO Gilday’s Naval integration commitments, this capability evolves our warfighting skills in and around our Marine Corps partners, and particularly the implementation of Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations and Littoral Operations in a contested environment. We generate a tangible multiplier effect for combat power in providing this capability, which concurrently supports a critical contribution to sea control. 
 
Third, we must develop our Navy Reserve Surge Maintenance (SurgeMain) enterprise. We recently mobilized over 1,300 SurgeMain Sailors to public shipyards to reduce maintenance backlogs when a portion of the shipyard workforce was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. These mobilizations accelerated the turnaround times for getting our aircraft carriers and submarines back to the Fleet for operational tasking. As our Fleet grows, we will need to further develop this capability to provide additional production capacity. 
 
Fourth, in addition to performing force protection and preventive maintenance to get and maintain ships at sea, the future may include restoring seagoing ratings and afloat operations in the Reserve force. Afloat platforms with concepts of operations that make interesting business cases in terms of capability, utility and cost span from hospital ships, to ambulance ships, to the Light Amphibious Warship, to Littoral Combat Ships and more. A Reserve afloat capability would provide an additional strategic benefit by freeing up active duty assets to focus on high-end missions strategically aligned with GPC. For example, important counter-narcotics operations in U.S. Fourth Fleet/SOUTHCOM could provide opportunistic missions for RC personnel, freeing high-value, multi-mission combatants to focus exclusively on Fleet tasking. 
 
Lastly, a series of other “new capabilities” with great potential also have the Navy Reserve leadership’s attention as we seek methods to leverage technology in removing humans from the critical path of mundane, repetitive tasks. Included in this category are employment of unmanned autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, data visualization, predictive analytics, as well as cyber and space operations. Reserve personnel bring expertise in all of these areas from their civilian experience, and we are exploring how to better leverage this talent as we seek to build new cutting-edge capabilities within the Navy. 
 
TRAIN OUR SAILORS 
 
We are implementing a “MOB to billet” training approach across the force, wherein every minute and every penny of operational support, including drills, Annual Training (AT), Active Duty for Training (ADT), recalls, etc. must prepare, enhance and sustain our Sailors for their mobilization billet and the associated generation of strategic depth. Understanding the certification, qualification or credentials associated with every mobilization billet is critical to this effort. 
 
The Reserve force is, by design and necessity, a force that must be “ready to win.” That phrase is far more than a sound bite - it is a commitment to our nation that our force is trained, available, and ready to win the instant each Reserve Sailor arrives on station. We will relentlessly train our Sailors for the requirements of their billets to prepare them for a future conflict. Our Reserve force will be ready to think creatively, operate boldly, and generate a leveraged force multiplier to enhance our nation’s combat power upon arrival. That is our commitment to the nation. 
 
In the pursuit of this vision, we can do many things, but our challenge is to identify what we must do – including pinpointing what we will no longer do. This effort requires us to prioritize ruthlessly to ensure we are working on high-value, consequential challenges that generate the greatest value to the service.  
 
Also important to this endeavor is the conscious effort to deliver and train to active duty Navy requirements – that is, the capacity and capability needed most from the Reserve force will be tied to explicit Navy requirements – while scrupulously avoiding the trap of delivering legacy RC capabilities or those of questionable value “because we’ve always done it that way.” Now squarely in the era of GPC, we must avoid being perceived as the best proverbial buggy whip makers at the onset of the automotive era.  
 
We also recognize that failing to make the necessary hard decisions in this process is itself a decision, and that we must be singularly focused on what matters most. Outcomes that make a quantifiable difference are our only metrics of success – not activity, level of effort, or inputs. 
 
Critical to building the Navy Reserve the nation needs is the effort to infuse the force with a strong sense of character in line with our core values of honor, courage and commitment. Diversity in all its forms — age, gender, race, culture, national origin, sexual orientation, education, rank, designator/rating and service, to name a few — makes us stronger. The Navy Reserve culture will honor individuals and embody dignity and respect in our interactions. And we will remain resilient —to outwork, outlearn and outlast any enemy. These qualities make the force the best possible warfighting team and will provide us a decisive advantage against our adversaries. 
 
MOBILIZE OUR RESERVE UNITS AND SAILORS 
 
Reserve forces are an insurance policy, delivering surge capacity in a national emergency while offering operational support in real time. As such, our nation expects Reserve forces to deliver the strategic depth it may need — including the entire Navy Reserve force if necessary — on a moment’s notice. 
 
Today there are many stakeholders involved in the processes necessary to activate, deploy and deactivate our Sailors. And bringing Sailors on and off of active duty remains procedurally and administratively burdensome, and slow. While quantum improvement is on the way with the launch of the Navy Personnel and Pay System (NP2) in FY22, current mobilization processes are centralized, and optimized to address the rate of mobilizations necessary to support annual IA Global Force Management requirements. But to be ready to compete and win against a peer adversary, we must be able to mobilize our entire Selected Reserve Force — within a month. The solution rests in distributing the mobilization process, procedurally and geographically, to gain volume and efficiency. We call this Distributed Activation (DA).  
 
To bring this capability to bear, the Navy Reserve has partnered with the Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Adm. John Nowell, to collaboratively simplify current processes, workflows and ownership, and to remove inefficiencies, ambiguity and choke points. We will incorporate and scale those improvements via enrollment of the Navy Reserve Forces Command, specifically Reserve Component Commands and large Navy Operational Support Centers, to substantially increase activation speed and throughput.  
 
Though we declared the Initial Operating Capability of DA in January 2021, it was in fact exercised nine months ahead of schedule during two real-world events in the last year — the COVID-19 pandemic medical response and SurgeMain recalls — many in less than 48 hours, and with many lessons identified and incorporated into future processes. Several times in FY21, we plan to demonstrate the ability to execute a mass mobilization, at a scale roughly equivalent to the entire Reserve population, on short notice. 
 
LET’S GET BUSY 
 
The initiatives described above are achievable, and underway. We are beginning this journey from a position of strength in that our Navy Reserve is the best-trained, equipped, and capable Reserve force in the world. But we’re not resting on our laurels. We will hone our singular focus on warfighting readiness to design, train and mobilize a force that is ready to contribute tactically, operationally and strategically on day one, should the nation require it. Our tasking is clear, and we are on the right glideslope to deliver the future strategic depth and warfighting readiness the nation demands, and our taxpayers expect.  
 
In closing, our Sailors are doing superb work in every domain, in every theater on the planet, every day. Our Navy Reserve has much to be proud of, and yet we have much to do. We are tackling with urgency the hard, systemic, and structural issues that constrain our flexibility, responsiveness and lethality. We recognize that the new capabilities and capacity we develop will increase Reserve force value and contributions to combat power exponentially. No challenge is too complicated, difficult or burdensome to pursue if it efficiently delivers resource-informed RC combat power to the nation. 
 
The time is right for transformation. We will deliver a Navy Reserve that is fit for its purpose and its time. Our taxpayers, our Navy and our Citizen-Sailors deserve no less.