Building the Imperial Navy: Strategic Assumptions

Building-a-NavySo, up next for you, the first in our six-part series on Building the Imperial Navy, using the model outlined by David Weber and Christopher Weuve in various places, such as the afterword to House of Steel. For the details of the model, see the diagram at right.

In this first part, we’re looking at the Strategic Assumptions, the starting place that defines the context within which the IN operates. This is divided into two parts – the Security Environment (the general threats to be countered) and the Fiscal Environment (the resources available to pay for it).

Security Environment

Let us consider galactography. The Worlds are ~10,000 star systems scattered across a volume of space that contains perhaps ~100 million star systems in total. The Empire, by contrast, is composed of ~175 star systems sitting right in the center of said 100 million, plus another ~100 scattered through the ecumene, ~275 in total, further plus a number of sub-planetary exclaves here and there. At that, it’s the biggest polity in the worlds: its nearest competitors, the Photonic Network and the League of Meridian, are only 120-150 world polities. Most of the worlds is made up of a variety of polities from that size on down to multiple hundreds of single-system polities.

The Worlds, however, directly abut the Voniensa Republic, which contains ~8,000 star systems. Fortunately, the Republic has a considerable technological disadvantage (for reasons elaborated on elsewhere), but it does have a fleet befitting its size, and the same reasons behind its disadvantage also make it hostile. (One might have gathered from certain aspects late in The Core War some hints as to why exactly it needs such a fleet and why it has internal reasons not to throw all of it at the Worlds, but this is an area in which, well, spoilers.)

As for the worlds themselves, all the polities which make them up aren’t exactly unified (for a variety of reasons, from fundamental cultural and biological disagreements up to various efforts, the Empire’s not least among them, to spike any notion of evolving galactic governance). They vary in makeup from firm Imperial allies, through other major powers that are at least reliable (say, the Consolidated Waserai Echelons) down through a motley collection of malcontents and rogue states.

So what are the resulting security concerns?

  1. Hot war with the Republic.
  2. Hot war with major Worlds powers.
  3. Brushfire wars among the states of the Worlds, especially as they impact:
    1. Trade: the Empire has a huge merchant fleet, and disruptions of trade are most unwelcome;
    2. And the stargate network: which while it extends throughout the Worlds, is primarily owned by Ring Dynamics, ICC, an Imperial starcorporation.
  4. Piracy (likewise for its trade impact) and terrorism.
  5. Perversions erupting from inadvisable seed AI experiments.
  6. Internal-void threats: subluminal attacks from worlds not connected to the stargate plexus, such as the skrandar berserker incident.
  7. RKVs, relativistic kill vehicles, an appallingly dangerous planet-wrecking technology that even relatively primitive starfaring technologies can built, albeit with a longer time-to-kill.

Fiscal Environment

By and large, the IN – and the Imperial Military Service in general – does not have to worry about money.

It’s not unlimited, budget-wise – even a post-material-scarcity society can’t manage that – but the theoretical ceiling on its budget is so far, far above what they already spend to be basically irrelevant. The Imperial governance collects a 3.6% rake in the shape of the Empire Services fee (plus fines, donations, and purchases of titles of privilege); of that, the Admiralty gets maybe 12-14%. Of the Admiralty budget, the IN gets roughly 48%. Which is to say, in re these last two figures, that battleships are kinda expensive even when the majority of payout goes to personnel, outsourced services, and exotica.

The most relevant part of the former figure, on the other hand, is to say that the Empire, in time of war, can raise the Service Fee by a factor of five-and-a-half while still staying within the Imperial Charter’s previously agreed constraints on what’s permissible, So, yeah, there’s a lot of upside before running into a hard constraint.

(Unless, of course, the shit-fan convergence reaches the point at which the Council of the Star is willing to sign off on CASE ADHAÏC PARASOL, which turns the demons of autoindustrialism sleeping in the depths of Fortress’s well loose, thus allowing autonomous AI battleships to self-replicate and fork more and more autonomous AI battleships on an exponentially rising curve…

…while they have been carefully designed not to violate any of the rules – or indeed commonsense safety guidelines – where oopsing heggie swarms into existence are concerned, ADHAÏC PARASOL does skim close enough to the limits and other people’s nightmares about that sort of thing that it would take some real serious shit-fan convergence to be worth initiating it, though.)

Rather, the chief constraints are twofold: personnel, inasmuch as there are only so many sentinels looking to take up a Navy career during peacetime, and while the Navy does recruit digisapiences just as eagerly as it does everyone else, there is a limit to how much it wants to substitute with non-sophont AI. (CASE ADHAÏC PARASOL notwithstanding.) Fortunately, the IN has no trouble filling the ranks of its peacetime complement, because per the above, it has no trouble offering generous salaries, providing excellent training, and so on and so forth.

The other is “political”: on the one hand, the Empire’s firm belief that it isn’t, or at least doesn’t want to be, a giant military fist poised over everyone else’s face. It doesn’t have the self-concept of a military power – not for many centuries – and doesn’t particularly want to develop one, preferring to believe in its, really mostly justified, status as a neutral power that’s friendly with the Worlds, or at least that portion of the Worlds that isn’t 100% dicks.

On the other hand, it’s equally firm belief that si vis pacem, para bellum, or in less formal terms, that the way you ensure the peace is by being such pants-wettingly terrifying bastards that no-one this side of sanity would seriously consider attacking you.

It is the ebb and flow of this particular somewhat schizophrenic belief-pair that has had, historically, the most influence on the size and scope of the IN.

Technologically speaking, the IN can generally be assured of technical superiority over its opponents, for reasons which can partly be summed up as “moon-sized space brains” and can partly be summed up as “mad scientists gonna science madly”.

Indeed, the major issues faced by the Admiralty in the technical arena is ringmastering the tendency over at BuInnov to want to stick all their latest innovations on whatever the newest starship class is, and occasionally reminding them that neither ‘punching holes in the universe’ nor ‘cracking a planet in half and frying it like an egg’ is a currently desired tactical capability over at BuPlan.

7 thoughts on “Building the Imperial Navy: Strategic Assumptions

  1. I’m bit dubious about that claim to “technological superiority”: Others can, as well, possess their own moon-sized space brains and such technological edge can be so irritating that there will be civilizations willing to play russian roulette with Seed AGI:s if the payoff is denominated in transsapient technology. One would think that one of the Fleet’s (and Fifth Directorate’s) consistent nightmares would be one of the more aggressive outer-rim civilizations initializing a fast-burnoff singularity which leaves …interesting toys… available to such civilization. Things like a true FTL drive, Economy 2.0 or simple and practical matter-energy conversion torch.

    • Well, first up, note that I did say “generally”. 🙂

      In the really big picture, Outside Context Problems gonna Outside Context – which is exactly what ADHAÏC PARASOL, UNGUENT SANCTION, SKYSHOCK BLACK, GHOST WHISPERS, DEMIURGE ERRANT, NIGHTFALL EXIGENT, and various other codeword-classified operations with increasingly creepy-ass names are aimed at.

      But within the context of the security environment defined by known knowns and known unknowns, the empirical evidence suggests that insofar as you can draw a bell curve combining innovation, implementation, and the ability to dance in the fire and not get burned, they’re right over in the thin end of the right-hand tail.

      As for hard-takeoff singularities – well, let me put it to you this way. Often, what those civilizations that might be inclined that way are afraid of is not the failure mode (although given the evidence on that count, they probably should be, especially since it’s much, much easier to stumble into that than not), but rather the success mode.

      Even if everything works perfectly, and the post-hard-takeoff-singularity civilization ends up with all the shiny toys it ever wanted, there is no guarantee that the civilization that comes out the far side bears any resemblance to the one that went in. The politicians that might make such decisions, while gung-ho for the notion of “let’s do this so that big angelic powers might be ours” suddenly become much more leery when told that it’s much more likely that big angelic powers will accrue to the inconceivably different descendants of their financial instruments after the de facto extinction of their species.

      …of course, despite that discouragement, there’s still consideration (5) noted above, the occasional need for the IN to go out and put down, or at least contain, mad gods. Which is where it helps to have the backing of a sane one.

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