SJS Readers,

Another great day on the Maritime Strategy front, including a great back and forth via email with one of the guys I respect most in this town who has some serious problems with the strategy, and some work putting together a series of briefings for flags to take on the road.

I continue to get pretty consistent feedback—professional Navy people (active and retired) and the defense intelligentsia/industry folks hate it—folks outside the beltway, not in the military/defense industry and interestingly enough, Air Force and Army officers—like it.

I briefed a group of senior Navy Intel Officers on the strategy this morning, and there were some tough questions.  Some of that discourse is contained in the criticisms below.

  • It just isn’t Joint enough.  This is one I hear almost exclusively from Navy people, who look really hard for the words “Army and Air Force” in the text.  Not there.  We talk about Joint operations, but this is not a Joint warfighting document.  It is a document designed to reinforce the links between Seapower and our national aspirations.  It goes beyond Joint, to interagency.  Very few people seem to pick up on that, and those that do, are from outside DOD.

  • Climate change continues to be a topic of interest, at least for a couple of posters.  I get the feeling that their own political biases are coming out, as they are reading things into the strategy that are just not there—one even suggested that the strategy cites human endeavors for causing “global warming”.  Not the strategy I was part of. 

  • The lack of personal hobby-horses continues to create enemies for the strategy.  Folks don’t see their particular pet issues dealt with (today, it was “sea-basing”), and they then are unable to see anything positive in the document.  If you have such a hobby horse, and don’t see it discussed, move one level of abstraction up.  If you’re a mine-warfare guy, and you’re mad it is not in here, go one level up to sea control.  Are you aware that From the Sea and Forward from the Sea basically walked away from Sea Control as a core element?  This strategy puts it back, front and center.  You don’t see “1000 ship Navy?”  What is it the 1000 ship Navy is supposed to do?  Cooperative Maritime Security.  Yep that’s there.

  • That’s actually good advice for reading this.  Throughout the process, folks have had the tendency to drive down from the strategic to the operational and tactical.  Resist the urge.  Stay at the strategic level.

  • Deterrence/prevention of war.  Continues to be a big issue.  The MS86 guys take issue with this strategy’s elevation of the prevention of war….they claim that deterrence did just that.  What they don’t seem to see is that preventing war is more than just credible combat power….it is a host of peacetime activities aimed at the root causes of war and other shocks to the global system.

  • Oh yeah, the global system.  Boy, do some folks hate that!  Sorry gang, we’re in one, and it is a HUGE part of our daily lives.  We’re really not out there alone and unafraid….we’re part of an incredibly interconnected world.

Enough for tonight.  Thanks as always for the great questions and insightful commentary.


  1. MR T\'s Haircut


    One good thing about the blogosphere, is the lack of sycophants.

    I hope the investment in the strategy does not cause closed ears and minds on the part of those who are so vested. I also hope the strategy is a “living document” and has the flexibility to be updated with the general concerns and view points good and bad, that you are receiving.

    I detect a defensive tone in your post, and rightfully so, and I trust that the drafters also expected some pretty stiff critique of the strategy. Don’t mistake the groans and guffaws with disloyalty. I am trying to see how I can support the strategy in my sphere of influence and to do that effectively I need to analysis it.

    I also hope once the strategy filters down that the conversations with the fleet and officers like myself are not “receive only”. We do have areas in the strategy that are in agreement and others where we will vehemently disagree. There are bound to be different camps. I am one of those outside the beltway. To complain because we are complaining will cause resignation in some.

    I will not harangue you with the “climate change” portion of the strategy any longer except to say that in my opinion, it was an unnecessary political charged point, that serves no true purpose in the strategy and serves to reduce credibility in the overall strategy. I understand the point of humanitarian relief, hospital ships and so on. I see the entire portion of that reference as “pandering”. Time to move on off that topic.

    I have a couple of more issues that I will be looking at and then I will discuss what I like about the strategy.

    – MTH

    “If you get the objectives right, a lieutenant can write the strategy.” – General George Marshall

  2. Strategy1

    MTH–Thanks for the attitude check. I’ll try and remain flat-lined as I read some of the vitirolic rants I’ve seen clearly designed to bolster the writer’s online “image”. We did expect criticism—and truth be told, what we’re hearing so far is about what I expected. I hope that you haven’t concluded that I am “complaining because we are complaining.” I am hoping to surface those complaints and address them, and I’ll try to do a better job.

    One question though….why would we want to update the strategy with “bad” view points?

  3. Strategy1

    By way of showing the “inside the family/outside the family” split I’ve seen in reactions to the strategy, here’s a link to a review that is pretty much in the center of mass about how I had wanted the strategy to be received.

  4. MR T's Haircut


    No Sir, I have not concluded that you are complaining because we are complaining. I do appreciate your time in the explanation and thinking in the strategy.

    I suspect from your post that you’re getting a good grilling. But it is good that we are getting a “belly button” to poke for feedback, and I do appreciate that. In a way we are getting an opportunity to collectivly put a footprint on the strategy, okay maybe a toe smidge, as you gather the feedback from the blogoshere.

    By “bad” view points I mean view points on the strategy that conflict or disagree. I concur that we would never want something bad in a strategy. But that is a subjective adjective.

    I will also never complain about anything I am not willing to change. And I hope I am not being too vitirolic in my discourse.

    Regarding online image, the problem with the internet is we all can sound as smart or as stupid as our keyboard will let us.


  5. sid

    “preventing war is more than just credible combat power….it is a host of peacetime activities aimed at the root causes of war and other shocks to the global system. ”

    I see this as the most significant departure from MS86, and the most prescient point of your work. Didn’t have a chance to listen fully, but this morning’s NPR’s coverage of Mullen’s address at Leavenworth touched on the difficulties of overcoming the beauracracy to make this happen as several students were discussing the issues.

    I would opine that an historical analogue would be the activities of the Asiatic Station.

  6. Strategy1,

    Thank you for continuing to make yourself available for questions. In your first post to SJS, you said:

    “I love the 80’s Strategy…it was what I came into the Navy under. We had one enemy, and we had deeply penetrated his councils. Smart folks determined that it was time for the Navy to take the strategic offense, and I find that they were prescient. But what is our enemy today? Is it terrorists? Does the Navy really have a big role in the terror fight? Do we really want to build our fleet around the terror threat? How about China? What direction is China headed in? Should be build a fleet to fight China and leave all that relationships/phase 0/engagement stuff to someone else? What I’m trying to say is that the world of the 80’s was complicated—but so is this world. No easy solutions apply in a multi-polar world where our interests are threatened by a wide variety of forces.”

    Can you offer any insight into why the Navy choose not to take a strategic approach to China as apart of the strategy? Why China was not included in the printed strategy? Was there intent to not name a country, and China got lumped in? I understand China isn’t the focus, and clearly there are inferences to China, it is just the absence of China is notable.

    The DoD (as a matter of law) must produce strategic documentation annually on China for policy consumption, but the Maritime Strategy did not name China by name.

    China isn’t everyone else, they are one of our nations (if not the top) most important economic partners, while at the same time our primary competitor in resources and economics. China is the reason for our declining role in the world as the dominant economy. China is the reason we are moving submarines and aircraft carriers to the Pacific. They are also producing a very large Navy behind their closed doors, at a rate we are learning that is far greater than our unclassified documents supposed just earlier this summer. China is leveraging their own soft power in ways that often fall well outside, if not counter to our interests. Clearly China is apart of the strategic thinking within the Navy, but not on paper…

    Is there any insight you can provide why the dragon in the china shop was not named?

  7. Ed T

    I’m from completely outside the “military – industrial” complex although I spent many years there building systems for the warriors in harms way. I’m also vehemetly anti-global warming, but SJS’s point about the reduction in ice cover affords both sides access to areas that were otherwise blocked makes perfect sense. Maybe one day the ice will be back but until then we have to keep our heads up about whats happening geo-politically from the changes in geography due to meterology. You can bet the Russians and Chinese are doing so. It’s not poltically charged or “PC” at all, it’s reality based.

    Now if you guys in blue, khaki and green can get you collective heads out of your pet peeves a** you’ll see he is talking sense. Placing your pet projects or local view above those that incorporate broader (yet sane) perspectives for National Defense in a Global Environment is not what I expect out of my military leadership. If you are at/above the Rank of O-6 I expect you to create and support approaches that solve the greater needs for the defense of our nation. Just because it doesn’t mention your project specifically, your service specifically, or your job specifically doesn’t mean it’s bad. As SJS says think one level up not two levels down and you may discover your project supports a key objective of the strategy.

    To “serve the greater good” is one reason why you guys signed up for your careers, right? So make good on that promise to yourself and your country, quit bickering and get to thinking big picture about how we should adjust our strategy to accomodate the curveball Mother Nature has thrown us.

  8. MR T\\\'s Haircut


    With respect. I joined to serve the United States. Not a “greater good”. I serve to defend the Constitution of the United States.

    And like Rickover, Patton, Nimitz and Burke stated, it is good that we do not all get along. When everyone is thinking the same, no one is thinking.


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