Our Navy’s Mission: How the Surface Forces Fit In

June 16, 2017

The country and people of Sri Lanka were devastated when heavy rainfall brought by a recent monsoon led to massive flooding and landslides throughout the country. Nearly half and million people were displaced from damaged homes and buildings, or flooded areas. In the wake of this disaster that shattered many regions of Sri Lanka, USS Lake Erie (CG 70) arrived in Colombo, June 11, to provide humanitarian assistance in support of relief efforts. Because of the long-standing friendship between the United States and Sri Lanka, and the Navy’s forward presence throughout the globe, Lake Erie was able to respond quickly with critically needed capabilities. This is just one of many functions of your Surface Navy: to be where it counts, when it counts.

What mission guides all actions of the Surface Navy?

“The mission of the Navy is to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.”


How is this mission achieved?

Sea control means total control of the seas for the free movement of all. It means control of set air, surface, and subsurface areas, when and where needed. Sea control is crucial to national strategy. It allows the Navy to use the oceans as barriers for defense and as avenues to extend influence and assistance where it is needed. Well suited for strategic placement the world over, the surface force employs hundreds of units with advanced capabilities to achieve this function.

Power projection is the ability to use sea power throughout the world in the timely and precise manner needed to accomplish a goal. This covers a wide area. This is accomplished by using a broad spectrum of offensive naval operations. These operations include the tactical employment of carrier-based aircraft and these of amphibious forces and naval gunfire support forces. They also include the strategic nuclear response by the fleet ballistic missile forces. The functions of sea control and power projection are closely related. Depending on the type of force at play, there needs to be some degree of sea control in the sea areas from which we are to project power.

The Navy developed the surface force’s capability to project power largely as one means of achieving or supporting control of the seas. To fill this very broad and general mission statement the many functions of the of surface forces include nuclear deterrence; maintaining forward presence; keeping lines of communication open, safe and secure; leading enhanced training missions with ally and partner navies to exchange and train tactics, techniques and procedures; providing and assisting in regional security and stability; controlling and maintaining the freedom of the seas; reconnaissance and intelligence missions; at-sea rescues; medical programs for ally and partner nations in need of aid, care and training; and assisting the EPA and other government and non-government organizations with marine cleanup.


Naval Presence means more than being at the right place at the right time to combat and deter aggression, it means maintaining an operationally ready forward presence to train with ally and partner nations to enhance interoperability and responding at a moment’s notice to provide humanitarian assistance, as demonstrated by Lake Erie’s presence in Sri Lanka. Other ships like USS Sterett (DDG 104) and USS Dewey (DDG 105) who are part of the second “Third Fleet Forward” Surface Action Group and are currently maintaining presence in the Western Pacific while operating with regional navies to conduct routine patrols, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation activities to enhance regional security and stability in the region.

Common interests among the maritime partners allow allied naval forces to implement and sustain economic security assuring safe and secure commerce on the world’s oceans. It also creates and sustains bonds between nations that make responding at a second’s notice to an ally in need, second nature. Ship like Lake Erie assisting Sri Lanka, or the Sri Lanka navy assisting USS Hopper (DDG 70) in an emergency medical evacuation Sept. 30, 2016. Navy officials called on the partner navy to assist Hopper, who was over 165 miles from shore and didn’t have an embarked helicopter aboard nor were they in close range to available U.S. air assets. Within hours, Hopper was approved to enter Sri Lankan territorial waters to conduct the medical evacuation via small boat. The medical team provided continuous care for the patient while Hopper made the best speed to get closer to Sri Lanka.

Surface Warfare is the integrator in today’s warfighting disciplines from the tactical to the theater level. The focus of visible U.S. military power and presence is the combat–ready warship operating forward. Therefore, the success of U.S. military power hinges on surface combatants. Prioritizing #WarfightingFirst, creates a strict hierarchy of readiness goals (combat, material and personal) that ensure these many surface combatants are fit to fight. Ships like USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), who was awarded the Spokane Trophy, an annual award presented to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s surface ship with the highest level of operational readiness in areas ranging from coordinated air warfare, surface warfare and undersea warfare operations. #BeReady

The U.S. Navy has the distinction and responsibility of being the world’s leading naval power – complete with the surface combatant ships most commonly associate with naval power. America’s Navy is a force as significant today as it has been since 1775. In an increasingly globalized and ever changing world, new challenges will continue to arise and threats will transform and grow more resilient. The multifarious nature of the vast expanse of sea makes the requirement for a robust naval presence all-the-more indispensable. Now, more than ever, the value of a strong and capable Surface Navy is something to be cognizant of, thankful for and necessary for our continued success.

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