Bending the Curve


From Commander, Military Sealift Command

Over the past several months I’ve been speaking to various groups including military leadership, industry representatives and our own workforce, providing a one-year assessment of our work at MSC and some thoughts on where we are heading over the next two years.

At each of the talks, I use the phrase, “Bending the Curve,” to represent our comprehensive multi-year plan of action to adapt to the changing operational environment.


The phrase is meant to help us visualize where we are now in relation to our competition, where we need to be, and the work required to get us there. Bending the Curve is about wisely and effectively using our resources, solving problems with innovative solutions, and making a commitment to our fellow workgroups and taking ownership of the job we do every day.

Bending the Curve explains the “what” and the “how,” but it is important to understand the “why.” Simply, the Navy is changing.  Decades of sailing the maritime commons at will have ended.  Recent events, such as missile attacks against U.S. Navy ships while sailing in the U.S. 5th Fleet have forced us to think differently about how we operate.  With the rise of near-peer competitors, we can no longer presume dominance in space, cyber, air, sea, and undersea domains.  These recent and on-going maritime actions confirm that our Navy is operating in a contested environment.  We must prepare ourselves to operate in this environment.  This will require us to think differently, to act differently, and to work differently.

A not-too-distant example from our nation’s past provides us with significant lessons learned that we can apply to our work today. If we go back in time to World War II and the Battle of the Atlantic at the beginning of the war, the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans were a killing field for our merchant marine.  In the run-up to the war we failed to calculate or observe what was going on with the German submarine threat.  The Germans attacked our supply chain and we lost hundreds of ships and sadly, thousands of mariners.  We did not provide our mariners the tools to succeed in a contested environment.

Eventually our military planners focused on the problem set at hand and developed strategies to avoid and defeat the German submarine threat: convoys, coastal defense systems, anti-submarine warfare, emission control measures, tactical sailing, survival skills and a better understanding of the enemy’s pattern of life.  The point here is that we learned, we adapted, and eventually defeated the enemy, but at great cost, losing 9,000 mariners.

 The lesson for us is that we need to prepare now so that our mariners can operate in a contested environment and to ensure we continue to empower the joint warfighter. And while we are the best in the world at delivering maritime logistics today, we are instituting a number of actions to better prepare our efforts to mitigate the risk to sealift and adapt to the changing environment in which we operate.  Our plan has four Lines of Effort:

– Training Wholeness: Ensuring our mariners have the skills to mitigate emerging threats across all five dimensions;

– Holistic Readiness: Ensuring the modernization and readiness of our platforms;

– Capability Alignment: Ensuring we remain aligned with the Fleet and Joint Forces; and

– Experiential Learning: Ensuring that we are learning as fast as possible.

Bending the Curve is about focusing on and committing to improve the many programs and processes associated with these four lines of effort. Everyone at MSC has a role to play within these areas and is capable of contributing to Bending the Curve.

Now is our time to prepare for the future. We can make a difference.  We hope that we don’t see an operating environment like that in the Battle of the Atlantic.  But if we do, we want to be prepared.  The high-quality, team-based work we are doing today will enable MSC to provide global assured logistics, sealift, and special services to the joint warfighter in any environment we may encounter.

Thank you for the work you are doing every day at MSC.

United We Sail,

Rear Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne, USN

Commander, Military Sealift Command

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