Military strategy statements can be pretty boring. This one, for example, shows for the nth time there can be no such thing as an aesthetically interesting photograph taken of ships at sea. Nevertheless, these periodic statements retain some practical interest because they actually are used to establish military doctrine, operations, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities — all the things we taxpayers pay for.
In that context Advantage at Sea (published yesterday) is noteworthy in several respects.
One is the significant emphasis on China as a national security threat. This is not surprising in any logical sense, but it does represent a newly defined formal commitment.
Another is the warning that our naval services may well lose maritime superiority within a decade. Some may dismiss the warning as a plea for more funding, but what if it is merely true?
Most interesting to me, however, is this statement: “Activities short of war can achieve strategic-level effects. The maritime domain is particularly vulnerable to malign behavior below the threshold of war and incremental gains from malign activities can accumulate into long-term advantages. Rivals are exploiting new avenues to advance their interests, including weaponizing social media, infiltrating global supply chains, and using space and cyber as warfighting domains. We must compete in these spaces.”
This represents a significant, if nuanced, expansion of the maritime mission. Life was a lot simpler when our biggest fear at sea was only Russian submarines.
I’m generally in favor of us (U.S.) having the most advanced, capable and effective naval force on Earth. The strategies put forth in Advantage at Sea would pursue that goal by continuing existing trends in net-centric warfare, platform specialization, and joint operations. Except for the money, it looks like a fairly conservative plan.