SJS Readers,

Good morning, and sorry I didn’t post last night—I let my personal life get in the way of this new-found hobby. (ed. Careful – it does have a certain addictive nature about it.  – SJS)  It will probably happen again.  The last few days have been very interesting and educational. I’m beginning to see a bit of a new trend developing, and that is, within the Navy Officer ranks (including retired), there is a “split” in acceptance/regard for the strategy along age lines.  All things considered, if you’re over 40, you’re probably more likely not to like this strategy.  This concerns me, as there are a lot of really smart and experienced people over 40.

My reading of the blogs, my email conversations, and my phone calls reveal the following issues as worthy of discussion/elucidation:

  • “This is not a strategy.”  This is a recurring theme, and some very influential and intelligent people (they are not always the same) have leveled this charge.  It seems though, that there are as many definitions of a strategy as there are those attempting definitions.  “Beat Germany first” was a strategy.  This is also a strategy.  It is not a strategy if your definition demands detailed implementation and resource plans.  These are for the three Services to discern.  It is not a strategy if you believe the strategy must fixate on the GWOT/Long War.  It is not a strategy if you believe a strategy must address, mine warfare, amphibious ship numbers, sea basing, LCS, follow-on Trident or any of a number of programs.
  • “Why was China not included in the printed strategy?”  Wasn’t it?  I thought it was.  I thought we addressed great power war.  I thought we addressed the competition for resources and influence.  I thought we emphasized Sea Control.  I thought we spoke of credible combat power in the Western Pacific.  I thought we addressed a rising maritime interest in Africa. I thought we stated that we would maintain our competitive combat advantage over any other power. I am confident the Chinese know they were considered in the strategy.  There was serious and thoughtful debate at the highest levels in our Navy about how to approach China and other strategic challenges in this document.  I cannot discuss those deliberations in any real detail—though this is an unclassified document, the debates—verbal and otherwise—on this subject are not.  It all boils down to this.  China is not the Soviet Union, this is not the Cold War, and Goldwater Nichols has really changed the playing field since MS86.  Syria, Iran, North Korea.  Again, not named by choice.  But they are there.

Thanks again for great topics to chew on!


  1. rickusn

    “It is not a strategy if you believe the strategy must fixate on the GWOT/Long War. It is not a strategy if you believe a strategy must address, mine warfare, amphibious ship numbers, sea basing, LCS, follow-on Trident or any of a number of programs.”

    I agree with that as shown by my qualification of the question I asked on LCS.:

    “I know this isnt a basic strategy question and I may be being far to specific.

    This doesnt mean you have to be and I would understand why.

    But you did respond sort of in a way that irked me a bit So I tried to press you a bit.

    And then said this:

    “But without a guide to proper means a strategy document is empty rhetoric IMHO.”

    I didnt mean it to be criticism of the new strategy(although for me I didnt see anything new) or any strategy but that from my perspective the USN hasnt presented a clear and concise report of what tools, much less justification of those tools, are needed to achieve the goals of its strategy.

    Sorry for any misunderstandings on my part as I much appreciate your making yourself available to us.

    You are right everything is there. Although as Ive read many criticise on how you presented it.

    So I conciouslly decided not to get bogged down in a sematics, terminlogy, politics debate so I wished to ignore that and move to the “means” because I am in fact a force structure “nut”.


    On the 1986 strategy:

    “”In some ways, the fleet size gave birth to the strategy, rather than the other way around. Anyone who believes that it is the role of this document to lay out an argument as politically charged as fleet size just doesn’t understand how quickly something like this can die in this town. ”

    “Now this is very true as Ive related before in particular “Fleet size” driving “strategy”. ”

    Thats why LCS is an important issue.

    Is LCS driving the strategy or will the strategy drive LCS?

    If the latter then LCS may still well turn out OK what IMHO the USN doesnt need is another warship like the Knox and OH Perry class frigates that had severe limitations based on cost/size but were in fact actually employed far too often at the tip of the spear for which they were in some ways ill equipped. This is not to say they didnt serve well and do yeomans work. I have alot more to say on this issue but in the interest fof brevity Ill stop.

    Also because again this probably isnt the best forum to discuss the tools that will implement the strategy.

    Thanks again for your time, commentaries and/or any further thoughts.

  2. rickusn

    Maybe Loren Thompson makes my point clearer.:


    “The Navy needs to settle now on what warships it wants for the future…”


    ” and start building them at a much faster rate;… ”

    and specifically again

    “otherwise it will lack the tools to carry out all its high-minded strategic concepts. “

  3. MR T's Haircut


    I am curious what the viewpoint is regarding Officer Development to support the strategy. The strategy has NECC written all over it. How do we plan to develop Junior Officers to grow into Senior Officers and having cut their teeth in the new strategy. How does the Leadership, plan to overcome institutional obstacles, like detailing vacancies in own community that prevent detailing to NECC? Is the plan to relegate the Reserve Component to the majority of the NECC / MCAG missions? and if so how does that fit the strategy? Are we going to develop a true community to grow and keep these officers?

    Is there a plan for Flag level sponsor to grow these officers? What should the educational requirements be?

  4. Strategy1

    Galrahn’s post on his website (linked to above) is fantastic–very well thought out and extremely eloquent. To this point–clearly as a defense mechanism–I have tended to think that the articles and blogposts that support the strategy were much better reasoned and written than those that don’t. 😀 This work causes me to discard that defense mechanism wholesale, as his view is entirely reasonable and well-supported. I suspect that if I were to scratch the surface of 90% of the critics of the strategy, this view would be what I would find–they are simply unable to articulate it as well.

    His view–to paraphrase, is that the strategy (which he accepts as a strategy) reflects a mindset in the Navy of acceptance of US decline. That the very “cooperative” nature of the strategy signals a comfort with and acceptance of the erosion of US primacy in the world. I am drawn to his criticism primarily because it questions the very foundations of the strategy–a meaty criticism worth thinking about and responding to.

    And after thinking a great deal about it, I believe he is generally correct in his thinking. This strategy would clearly have been inappropriate to promulgate in 1992 (which is I think when “…From the Sea” came out). That was a vision of Primacy–a Navy that had gained pretty much total dominance everywhere, and so had turned its attention full bore to the littorals and supporting the land battle. It was a vision/strategy for a world hegemon, a “hyperpower” as the French would put it, and it fit well with the post-Cold War unipolar world.

    Problem is, we don’t live in that world now. The fall of Communism and the rise of the internet helped unleash potential throughout whole new parts of the world. At the same time, the world’s sole remaining Communist super-power decided to learn from the mistakes of its crumbling older brother in the Soviet Union by harnessing its planned economy to the yoke of world capitalism rather than fighting it. So where are we now? We have a rising China that some believe will bypass us economically sometime this century. We have a powerful bloc of European nations increasingly ceding their own power to a regional structure. We have an unsteady Russia, gifted with natural resources and cursed with low-birth rate. We have India moving aggressively into major power status, and Brazil thinking quite a bit about what being a world power would be like.

    The result is that we live now in what some international relations theorists call an “unbalanced multi-polar” world. Many realists (which is where I fall in the International Relations spectrum) believe unbalanced multi-polarity is the most dangerous state of international affairs. The question, and the central question I think for me when I review Galrahn’s work, is what we should have done about it. In order to produce a strategy consistent with what I assume Galrahn’s assessment of our rightful place in the world is, we would first–as a nation–have to actually start to act like we actually want to assume that place; and unlike Galrahn, I see little evidence of that. We are the most powerful nation in the world–I believe Americans continue to want that. I don’t think that they want that position to be gained by some kind of strategy designed to hold down the emergence of others on the scene. And I certainly don’t think they are willing to undertake the sacrifice necessary if we were to seek to create a unipolar world again. Putting that aside for a second, I truly believe that while we certainly weren’t shying away from exerting upward pressure on national policy with this document, it clearly is not the place of the maritime services to create national Grand Strategy. What Galrahn is pointing to is a yearning for a Grand Strategy designed to return the US to a position of unquestioned world dominance across the spectrum of power. Were there ANY evidence that this is where the nation was headed, I agree that “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower” would be inappropriate. There just isn’t any convincing evidence.

    I agree with all the things Galrahn says about the American people–but I would also add that they are pragmatic, and they are innovative. They stole capitalism from their masters and made it the way of the world. They studied democracy where it had been before and created a democratic government upon which no one has improved. I think that they want us to be pragmatic and innovative about how we work to protect, sustain, and extend our position in the world. I believe this strategy does just that.

  5. Strategy1

    Mr. T—I am only marginally capable of speaking to what is actually in the strategy. I am thoroughly unqualified to comment on the detailed implementation of inferred ramifications thereof. I feel pretty confident that CNO realizes that the kinds of questions you pose are going to have to be answered, and OPNAV and others are going to be pretty busy in the months ahead doing just that.

  6. rickusn

    October 22: Bob Work, an analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the maritime strategy is not really a strategy document but a listing of competencies and priorities for the Navy. The document emphasizes the importance of seapower in a globalized world and establishes goals such as developing “mission-tailored force packages” and maritime domain awareness. “Listing those types of things does not constitute a strategy,” he said. “For example, it says cooperative security is very important — a strategy would tell me what are the concrete steps that I’m going to take to make that happen.” Analysts Question Navy Assertions About New Maritime Strategy, Inside the Navy

  7. I don’t disagree with the American people being pragmatic or innovative, in fact I specifically said innovative.

    I’m not sure I buy that this strategy reflects a pragmatic approach combined with an innovative approach though. It is pragmatic in that it addresses the causes and effects of wars large and small, and sets a coarse in prevention of them but only by dealing with the causes other than human competition (humanitarian). I do not agree the Navy doesn’t have a role in contributing to addressing the roots of energy demand, the Navy already trains the vast majority of the nations nuclear experts.

    Additionally, none of the approaches are innovative, even the new discussion on soft power is only acknowledgment of what the Navy has already been doing. It may be in the classified doc, but the unclassified version is searches for innovation in approaches and methods, it doesn’t define a single innovative purpose or process.

    I’d argue the Navy should have taken a pragmatic approach based in innovation in the strategy, and I predict that someone like Bob Work named above is going to produce an alternative strategy concept in the next 12 months that illustrates my point.

    My case is flawed, I give the impression more ships is a requirement for extending superiority, but I don’t think more ships has to be. The historical presidence for our position today in the Royal Navy after 1815, and they reduced ships while extending their superiority. I don’t see the new MS building on the lessons of history in its approach to the new strategy.

    Either way, as you can tell, I’m just being critical at this point, we have what we have and now its time to look for best approaches to implement, I thank you very much for your insights over the last week.

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