McGRATH: It is a harder-edged, more operationally
focused document than its predecessor, which was
exactly what was needed. The 2007 maritime strategy
document needed revising due to dramatic changes in
the strategic environment, namely the clarifying of the
competition with China and the lack of an appetite in
Washington to spend what is required on our defense
in the wake of the financial meltdown of 2008.
One major lacking in the new document is the absence
of a central idea upon which the strategy is hung. The
2007 strategy placed the defense of the global system at
its heart, the defense and sustainment of which American
sea power plays a dominant role. This document has lost
the global systems defense emphasis, without replacing it
with a central, animating idea. It is a weakness.
REVERON: Relative to the 2007 strategy, the revised
strategy is more comprehensive and provides guidance
to develop the sea services and shape future doctrine,
acquisition and training. For example, the strategy prioritizes cyber security of platforms and systems, but
also calls for a force that can operate autonomously in
information-denied or degraded environments.
The 2007 strategy was an important reminder to the
country why the sea services matter during the height
of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 2015
strategy provides an important framework to develop
the future force.
Does the strategy address the concerns that
you think it should?
CLARK: I believe the strategy acknowledges the correct
concerns in the strategic environment, such as fiscal con-
straints, Chinese and Russian aggression, and the prolif-
eration of anti-access capabilities. But it is not very effec-
tive in describing how the maritime services will address
these challenges. The forward presence section largely
describes what will be in each region, but not why, or
what those forces will do. And the section on maritime
functions describes what naval forces do, such as sea
control, power projection, all domain access, but not
how those functions will be used separately or together
to address security challenges or exploit opportunities.
The reason it is important to describe how the func-
tions and presence relate to the security concerns is it
helps establish priorities for those who would use the
strategy to guide investment and planning decisions. For
example, if presence in Europe is intended in large part
to address Russian revisionism, as Russia’s behavior
changes the kind and amount of presence would be
expected to change. And given the Asia-Pacific rebal-
ance, it would be expected that efforts to counter
Chinese assertiveness in the Western Pacific would be
higher priority than addressing Russia.
The strategy doesn’t provide the information that
would inform these kinds of deliberations. Therefore,
it is less a strategy than a communication tool that
could inform a strategy. The Navy is working on a clas-
sified annex to the strategy that I understand will pro-
vide much of this detail.
The classified annex, however, will need to reach a
wider audience than the normal Navy strategy document. There are thousands of decision-makers in the
Navy who should be acting on the strategy with their
budgetary and operational choices, and dozens of allies
and partners who want to complement the U.S. Navy’s
plans in their own. Unless these groups can read the
classified annex, they will not be able to implement or
align their actions with the strategy.
McGRATH: Generally, yes, but in a roundabout manner. One of the things that the strategy misses completely is the return of great power dynamics to the
international scene, and specifying the role American
sea power can and should play in the way America pursues its interests. China and Russia are treated, but
only as regional threats. There is no sense of a global,
systemic return to the dangers of great power conflict.
This was a missed opportunity.
REVERON: Since the sea services organize, train and
equip, and the combatant commands employ naval
forces, there are strong connections to joint doctrine
with a focus on developing capacity to conduct a large,
multiphased campaign in one region, while denying an
adversary’s objectives in another region.
Planned increases of naval presence in the Middle
East and the Indo-Asia-Pacific will certainly offset limited and declining defense budgets of America’s tradi-
The guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy, left,
and the dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Amelia Earhart
conduct a vertical replenishment in the U.S. Seventh
Fleet area of responsibility. The new maritime strategy
supports the positioning of 60 percent of the fleet in the
Asia-Pacific region and the recent positioning of a Marine
rotational force in Australia.