From Preponderance to Partnership: American Maritime Power in the 21st Century

Publication Date: November 2008

Publisher: Center for a New American Security

Author(s): Frank Hoffman

Research Area: Military and defense

Keywords: Presidential transition; Naval policy; Maritime strategy

Type: Brief


Given the advance of globalization and the increasingly integrated economies that use the world's oceans as superhighways, the relationship between U.S. national interests and American naval assets should not be hard to grasp. Yet, the ongoing Long War against al Qaeda and the conduct of multiple counterinsurgency campaigns far from the sea have allowed our attention to drift. The next administration must resolve the apparent strategy resources mismatch that currently characterizes our present naval policy and capability, and link naval resources to our overall strategy. Accordingly, this report offers a way to close the strategy-resources gap, and identifies the requisite maritime strategy and forces to carry it out.

The first section of this report provides a detailed review of the latest national maritime strategy. This strategy reflects an acute appreciation for new parameters in the security environment and their potential impact on our interests. However it is not without faults; modifications to U.S. maritime strategy are offered that better support a sustainable and affordable grand strategy for the United States.

The most important element of any strategy is its relationship to resource allocation priorities and the development of the means of carrying out the strategy. Thus, the second section of this report details the current naval fleet and shipbuilding architecture. After presenting the current Navy acquisition plans, a range of alternative fleet designs is briefly reviewed to illustrate the range of options. This section concludes with a synthesis of these competing designs, and an argument for why this particular fleet better matches the sustainable grand strategy offered in the first section. The report concludes with a few general recommendations.