In an exclusive interview, NAVSPECWARCOM Commander Rear Adm. Sean A. Pybus shares his perspective on some of the mobility, intelligence, operational, and other support issues facing the command.
Rear Adm. Sean A. Pybus assumed command of NAVSPECWARCOM on June 30, 2011. A career Naval Special Warfare (NSW) SEAL officer with a series of joint special operations duty assignments, Pybus commands NAVSPECWARCOM at a vital and interesting juncture in its history.
While the command has never been larger or more central to United States defense strategy, its prominence has also brought the occasional unwanted media spotlight to NSW. Meanwhile, serving personnel are strained by an extraordinary operations tempo that has lasted more than a decade, some of the command’s equipment is aging and needs replacement or improvement, and the command must simultaneously continue operations at a brisk pace in Southwest Asia while also meeting commitments worldwide, including the increasing emphasis on the Asia Pacific region announced by civilian leadership.
As with all USSOCOM elements, operational planning is taking place against a backdrop of budgetary uncertainties. In a recent edition of Ethos, the NSW command publication, Pybus reflected on the evolving budget environment, adding, “Regardless of the budgetary decisions that our government leaders ultimately made and will make, we can expect one thing: There will be impacts to what we do. More important is how we are preparing to preserve and protect our force and families and the capabilities we provide amidst a dwindling defense budget and ever-increasing requirements.”
Asked for comments on those and other challenges, Pybus generously took the time to respond at length, such that we decided to reproduce his answers here without comment or shading.
The Year in Special Operations: With the recent retirement of the Mk. V Special Operations Craft (Mk. V SOC), can you outline the future of your maritime surface mobility platforms?
Rear Adm. Sean A. Pybus: We have successfully leveraged USSOCOM’s [U.S. Special Operations Command’s] Strategic Planning Process via future POMs [Program Objective Memorandums] to replace most of our RIBs [rigid-hull inflatable boats] and the Mk. Vs, which left service at the end of FY 12, with the 60-foot Combatant Craft Medium [CCM] Mk. 1 and 41-foot Combatant Craft Assault [CCA].
The CCM Mk. 1 is currently in source selection and will reach initial operating capability in FY 15. The CCA will provide the transportability, agility, and fleet interoperability we don’t have in the larger CCM Mk. 1. While the RIB inventory will decline in proportion to the stand-up of the CCA and CCM Mk. 1 detachments, it will continue to serve an important SOF [special operations forces] role and remain in the NSW inventory over the long term, just in smaller numbers. The SOCR [Special Operations Craft Riverine] continues to meet validated requirements, and as we consider next-gen riverine craft, we’ll look to the Navy’s Riverine Assault Boat to leverage service-common applications.
Our boat inventory also includes Security Force Assistance [SFA] craft that align with partner-nation [PN] craft and support our training for theater engagement strategies. NAVSCIATTS [Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School] also employs them in training partner-nation personnel.
Improving our craft subsystems is a vital part of our craft modernization efforts, and we will continue to invest in proven subsystems to enhance the capability of combatant craft, as well as leverage service-common efforts.
Bottom line: As a result of our planning and programming efforts, we’ll see a gradual increase in combatant craft capacity over the next five years, enabling us to fill our capability gaps and work to sustain the forward theater presence demand.