Cold War over, Navy changes its strategy 3rd World conflicts to draw its focus

October 02, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The Navy yesterday unveiled the first major policy revision of its national security role in a decade, shifting its emphasis from open-ocean conflicts toward development of naval expeditionary forces that would be used to fight regional "brush-fire" wars around the world.

The Navy's "white paper" is designed to respond to changes since the end of the Cold War, as well as to establish a stronger position for the Navy and Marine Corps in future contests with other military branches for missions and money.

It places new emphasis not only on the Marine Corps role in over-the-beach landings but on the Navy's ability to form groups of smaller warships to operate in coastal areas like the Persian Gulf.

The document also places a high priority on sealifts and minesweeping, two missions that were largely neglected by the Navy during its decade-long emphasis on preparing for warfare on the high seas.

"We've been trying for some time to come to grips with how the world has changed, and we've refocused from the idea of a global confrontation to how we can help operate with one foot on the sea and one on land," said Adm. Frank B. Kelso, chief of naval operations.

Most important, perhaps, the document appears to mark the end of the Navy's exclusive focus on the aircraft carrier as the centerpiece of its fighting forces.

The white paper envisions future battle groups that could be designed around amphibious ships, specially-equipped cruisers or even attack submarines.

Admiral Kelso said that several of the challenges the Navy has faced in the Persian Gulf focused the service on needed changes. He added that among the lessons the gulf war taught was the importance of operating in conjunction with Army and Air Force units, as well as coordinating more closely with the Marine Corps, which falls under the Navy's organizational umbrella.

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