National Academies Press: OpenBook

Naval Forces' Defense Capabilities Against Chemical and Biological Warfare Threats (2004)

Chapter: 6 The Longer Term--Leadership to Sustain the Commitment

« Previous: 5 Medical Chemical and Biological Countermeasures: Specific Findings and Recommendations
Suggested Citation:"6 The Longer Term--Leadership to Sustain the Commitment." National Research Council. 2004. Naval Forces' Defense Capabilities Against Chemical and Biological Warfare Threats. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11034.
×

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.

Suggested Citation:"6 The Longer Term--Leadership to Sustain the Commitment." National Research Council. 2004. Naval Forces' Defense Capabilities Against Chemical and Biological Warfare Threats. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11034.
×

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.

Suggested Citation:"6 The Longer Term--Leadership to Sustain the Commitment." National Research Council. 2004. Naval Forces' Defense Capabilities Against Chemical and Biological Warfare Threats. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11034.
×

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.

Suggested Citation:"6 The Longer Term--Leadership to Sustain the Commitment." National Research Council. 2004. Naval Forces' Defense Capabilities Against Chemical and Biological Warfare Threats. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11034.
×
Page 134
Suggested Citation:"6 The Longer Term--Leadership to Sustain the Commitment." National Research Council. 2004. Naval Forces' Defense Capabilities Against Chemical and Biological Warfare Threats. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11034.
×
Page 135
Suggested Citation:"6 The Longer Term--Leadership to Sustain the Commitment." National Research Council. 2004. Naval Forces' Defense Capabilities Against Chemical and Biological Warfare Threats. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11034.
×
Page 136
Next: Appendix A: Committee and Staff Biographies »
Naval Forces' Defense Capabilities Against Chemical and Biological Warfare Threats Get This Book
×
 Naval Forces' Defense Capabilities Against Chemical and Biological Warfare Threats
Buy Paperback | $64.00 Buy Ebook | $49.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

U.S. naval forces must be prepared to respond to a broad array of threats. Of increasing importance are those from chemical and biological warfare (CW and BW). To help review its current state of preparedness, the Chief of Naval Operations asked the National Research Council (NRC) to assess the U.S. Navy's defense capabilities against CW and BW threats. In particular to what extent are they being developed to enable naval forces to sense and analyze quickly the presence of chemical and biological agents, withstand or avoid exposure to such agents, deal with contamination under a broad spectrum of operational conditions, and over what period will these capabilities be realized. This report presents the results of that assessment. It provides an overview of the potential threats, and an evaluation of the Navy's operations, non-medical programs, and medical countermeasures designed to confront those threats. The report also presents a series of general and specific findings and recommendations based on these assessments.

READ FREE ONLINE

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!