2020 World Operational Naval Highlights

The ten most significant naval news stories / trends / themes this year included:

  • The impact of the COVID pandemic upon naval operations this year, from the first at sea infections aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt causing it to suspend a deployment to the US Navy’s subsequent mastery of operations underway while under the threat of COVID. What lessons about living with COVID can the civilian world learn from the military world?

  • The catastrophic loss of the USS Bon Homme Richard to a fire while refitting. How could this have happened and how devastating will this loss be to the future operations of the US Navy?

  • The rapidly rotating leadership at the levels of the US Secretary of Defense and US Secretary of the Navy and the resulting large number of conflicting future fleet architecture studies published this year by the US Department of Defense, US Navy, and think tanks. Which one of these interesting studies – most notably the Hudson Institute’s study which begins to demonstrate the realm of the possible in regards to unmanned naval forces – will be the way forward for the US Navy?

  • The complete breakdown in trust between the leadership in the US Department of Defense and US Navy and the US Congress with Congress not trusting the Navy to design manned and unmanned ships or decide its future fleet architecture or budget responsibly for it. How can trust be restored between these entities during the incoming Biden administration so the US Navy can move forward with a coherent plan to meet the rise of China?

  • The continued slow rolling of the US Navy’s work on unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned surface vessels, and unmanned underwater vessels. When will the US Navy re-embrace the advice of Admiral Wayne Meyer and go back to “build a little, test a little, learn a lot” and move forward more vigorously in the unmanned domain?

  • The continued Chinese build-up in the South China Sea and the steady drum beat of the US Navy’s recent FONOPS in the South China Sea in response. Will the incoming Biden administration continue to keep up the pressure up on China?

  • While the Taiwan Strait remains on a slow boil as Taiwan begins to earnestly re-arm, tensions heat up in the East China Sea as well. Is China’s increased patrolling in the area a prelude to it actively challenging Japan’s sovereignty over the area?

  • The solid progress being made by the US Marine Corps in fleshing out its vision for Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations. Will the US Congress allow it to restructure itself and buy what it needs to accomplish this vision?

  • The increasing commitment of Western navies and Coast Guards to the North – in the Arctic and the Barents Sea. Will adequate budget dollars flow to fund these new commitments?

  • Wide-spread commercial undersea mining is about to get underway. What will be the consequences of this new industry for navies and naval forces?