The mission of the Naval Studies Board (NSB), created in 1974 at the request of the Chief of Naval Operations, is to be a source of independent, long-range, scientific and technical planning advice for the Naval Forces. The NSB charter also was endorsed by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research and Development), and accepted without modification by the president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and chair of the National Research Council (NRC).
The Department of the Navy has been a major sponsor of studies since the establishment of the NAS in 1863. The NRC, at the request of the Department of the Navy, has maintained standing naval advisory committees, now represented by the NSB, continuously since 1946. The NSB, as it exists today, was formally established in 1974 and continues to draw its support from the Department of the Navy. During its 35+ years of operation, the NSB has accepted tasks involving virtually all of the scientific and engineering disciplines supported by the Department of the Navy and has conducted studies addressing the design and operation of satellites; C4I systems; stealth technology; atmospheric and subsurface sensors; ship, submarine, and aircraft architecture; weapons development; pollution control; human factors; and education and training. In addition, it has maintained within the NRC a resident expertise in all naval matters involving science and technology. The membership of the Naval Studies Board includes senior scientists and engineers who not only provide oversight, but also participate in leadership positions within the Board's studies. Finally, the NSB operates under the auspices of the NRC’s Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences.
In 1946, following a long period of ad hoc studies (from 1863 to 1945), the newly established Office of Naval Research (ONR) requested that the Academy establish a standing committee to advise the Navy on technical matters relating to submarine design and systems technology. The resulting Committee on Undersea Warfare drew its initial membership from the Subsurface Warfare Section of the wartime National Defense Research Committee. In 1955, the ONR again called on the Academy, requesting that it accept responsibility for the Mine Advisory Committee. That Committee, which had been established in 1951 under the administration of the Catholic University of America in response to the experience with the minefield that blocked the invasion of Wonson, Korea, in 1950, was responsible for advising the Navy on research for the development of mines and effective countermeasures to them.
These two proactive committees, composed initially of scientists and engineers, produced approximately 200 reports in the years between 1946 and 1973. In 1973, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) asked the president of the National Academy of Sciences to extend the charter of its naval advisory committees beyond the two existing warfare areas and form an advisory organization "to which [the] Navy could turn for advice on any area of its responsibility involving the interplay of science and technology with other national issues." In response, the Naval Studies Board, assuming the purview of both the Mine Advisory Committee and the Committee on Undersea Warfare, was established in 1974 and continues to operate today. Over the years its activities have reflected the language of the original request; to wit, its studies have dealt with the basic and applied science associated with virtually every area of the Navy's overall mission.
For the past two decades, naval strategy has been on an evolutionary path, influenced by “sea change” events but still based on force projection from the sea. After the end of the Cold War, the nation struggled to develop a new national security strategy to prepare for a post-Cold War world that would be less stable and less predictable. This need for change was echoed in the Navy and Marine Corps where the influential 1992 white paper entitled . . . From the Sea called for “a fundamental shift away from open-ocean warfighting on the sea toward joint operations from the sea” and implicitly recognized that sea control was a means to an end—namely, the projection of power ashore.
After the attacks of September 11, and driven by the Defense Department’s emphasis on force transformation and the nation’s response to the global war on terrorism, the CNO and Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) released their visions for the future of naval forces, Sea Power 21 and Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare, respectively. Both the CNO and CMC visions reflect the probability that future naval combat operations will frequently take place in the littorals, that is, close to shore, in order to project power ashore and to provide an umbrella of defense for forces ashore. The littoral battlespace presents a range of obstacles for Navy operations, such as mines, diesel submarines, swarms of small boats, and antiship cruise missiles. For the Marines, the littoral battlespace presents contested shore batteries, ground forces, and mines in the surf, on the beach, and inland. Moreover, the Navy, Marine Corps, and other Services, as well as special operation forces, will need to continue to project power despite anti-access/area denial challenges—one of the primary missions of the U.S. armed forces as provided by the Secretary of Defense at the outset of 2012.
A common theme between the CNO and CMC visions is the integration of not only naval and other Service capabilities, but national assets within the intelligence community and the Department of Homeland Security. In this regard, the 2007 unified maritime strategy—the first strategy of its kind by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard—articulated the envisioned future for naval forces regarding not only interface and integration among themselves, but also with our allies to achieve the common goal of protecting our homeland and winning our Nation’s wars, along with a corresponding commitment to preventing war. More recently, the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard articulated a naval operations concept for implementing its 2007 maritime strategy that “describes when, where, and how U.S. Naval Forces will contribute to enhancing security, preventing conflict, and prevailing in war.” With its breadth of experience and expertise from across these communities, the NSB, in focusing on the future role of naval forces, can provide naval leadership with the needed long-range, scientific and technical planning guidance to bring these visions of our naval forces closer to a reality.