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U.S. Navy Year in Review

For the U.S. Navy, 2011 will forever be known as the year the service’s special warriors caught and killed Osama bin Laden and buried his body at sea less than 24 hours later.

But the Navy’s 236th year was much more, with operations that stretched from helping NATO and Libyan rebels fight long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi to combating pirates, as well as continuing to support troops on the ground in Afghanistan with air support from aircraft carriers offshore.

In September, the Navy got a new top admiral as the job of chief of Naval Operations (CNO) changed hands, with Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert relieving Adm. Gary Roughead.

But after finishing 2010 feeling fairly comfortable that it had weathered this latest drawdown, the economic crisis cast doubt over the Navy’s future. The service seems to be better positioned, after nearly a decade of gradual drawdown, than the other services that spent the last 10 years building up, but the end of combat operations in Iraq and the economic crisis at home have started a new budget process where officials say everything is again on the table.


A New Boss

After four years and 22 days as the chief of Naval Operations, Roughead retired and turned over the helm to Greenert, who became the 30th CNO in a ceremony Sept. 23 in Annapolis, Md.

In September, the Navy got a new top admiral as the job of chief of Naval Operations (CNO) changed hands, with Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert relieving Adm. Gary Roughead.

Greenert is the son of a steelworker from Butler, Pa. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1975 with a degree in nuclear power and spent the first part of his career rising to command the fast-attack submarine Honolulu (SSN 718) from 1991 to 1993.

USS Tucson

The fast-attack submarine USS Tucson (SSN 770) transits water surrounding Oahu, Hawaii, during a Koa Kai photo exercise on April 5, 2011. The submarine was followed by the guided-missile cruisers USS Lake Erie (CG 70) and USS Port Royal (CG 73). DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Logico, U.S. Navy

As a flag officer, he has served in multiple positions that have included chief of staff for the 7th Fleet in Japan, and Fleet Forces Command. Most recently he was the 36th vice chief of naval operations.

His first priority as he took office was to keep up the Navy’s ability to wage war if necessary.

“Warfighting is at the core of our existence,” he wrote. “We must maintain our ability to fight and win.”

Though his initial message wasn’t long on details, his written answers to advance questions for his confirmation hearing cast a little more light on some of his goals.

“I will continue to employ our Fleet Response Plan while seeking to re-establish a sustainable level of operations consistent with our force structure. We must adapt our deployment models to ensure the viability of both current and future readiness, which involves reaching the expected service lives of our ships and aircraft at reasonable cost.”

He also stated that he would maintain the Navy’s ability to operate forward, and already he’s said the service would now again consider using rotational crews.

Under the name “Sea Swap,” the Navy conducted pilot programs in crew rotation a decade ago. In the end, the concept was abandoned for large surface combatants, as studies showed it was too tough on the ship, and the crews had morale and retention problems.

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