The USN operational concept adds environmental missions to the ‘playlist’

The follow-on step in setting policy for the United States’ sea services emanating from the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower has taken place with the release of the Naval Operating Concept 2010 (NOC10).  The same collaborative approach has been taken with this document as with the strategy: it is signed by the service heads of the navy, coast guard and marines.

You can find the document here.  You can read more about NOC10 here.

The USN press release describes NOC 10 as: “the ways with which the sea services will achieve the ends articulated in the Maritime Strategy,” and “[it] guides implementation of the strategy and describes how, when and where U.S. naval forces will contribute to enhancing security, preventing conflict and prevailing in war.”

The major departure of the Cooperative Strategy from earlier documents was the listing of Disaster Relief and Humanitarian Assistance as missions for the sea services.  NOC10 appears to add another new mission: Marine Environmental Protection.  A number of entries in the document talk of the environment in a decidedly non-military fashion that will resonate with the public perception of the term, especially in light of the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

NOC10 refers to the sea services “good record of environmental stewardship” (p. 9) and connects understanding “the environment of a nation” with the concept of Maritime Domain Awareness (p.15.)  “Environmental destruction” is recognized as a threat (pp. 35 & 36) and “environmental response” is viewed as a necessary capability (p. 85).  “Maritime Environmental Response Operations” are laid out in the document (p. 46) and the concept of “Marine Environmental Protection” is entered as a collaborative undertaking (p. 91).

Because of the extensive presence of the environment in the document (eleven entries by my quick count – the term is also used otherwise in several military contexts) it is unlikely they were written in hastily after the BP catastrophe.  This appears to be another example of the effects of collaborative approaches to security planning ‘getting ahead of the game’ and identifying a ‘hot button issue’ before it became one.  As the scope of the of the oil spill disaster grows, and the eventual toll skyrockets, the ultimate consequences on force structure planning will likely be more profound that anyone could have imagined in the early stages of the strategy’s formulation.