Infinity Journal Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012 - page 17

Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012
Infinity Journal
Page 15
“We may in fact be entering what could be called the
post-power projection era in which traditional modes of
power projection may no longer be as viable as they’ve
been in the recent past. It’s going to be harder for us
to operate once we’re there, especially in traditional
modes of operation.”
A leading American strategist, James Thomas of the well-
respected Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
(CSBA), has suggested that one of the foundations of U.S.
primacy, its incomparable reach and power projection
capability, is crumbling. He has gone on to suggest the
emergence of a “Post-Power Projection era.”[i] Mr. Thomas
was not suggesting that American power projection
capabilities, in their broadest meaning, were less important.
Power projection can include long-range missiles, bombers,
and strikes from aircraft carriers.The interpretation that I, and
others, took away from his remarks was that the introduction
of ground maneuver forces by amphibious means were
going to be harder if not impossible.This short essay explores
the potential strategic implications of such an emerging
Thomas is not alone nor the first to point out that several
regional powers are acquiring capabilities that appear to
be designed to target U.S. naval and aerospace assets and
their supporting bases with greater precision and lethality.
This difficulty has been echoed by earlier comments made
by Dr.Andrew Krepinevich, also from CSBA. He noted that the
Defense Department was overly invested in “wasting assets”
based on outdated operating concepts including those for
power projection and amphibious landings.[ii] Much of this
assessment is based on the growing anti-access threat in
general and the diffusion of precision missiles in particular.
Such commentary, in the midst of the Pentagon’s efforts to
make budget priorities in an era of declining resources, has
led to recommendations that would reduce if not eliminate
the amphibious component of the U.S. power projection
arsenal. One such comprehensive report, conducted by
the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), suggested
that one of the targeted areas for defense reductions could
be amphibious warfare since the United States had not
conducted an opposed landing for 60 years.[iii]
These reports all contribute to the conception that future
power projection operations will be hotly contested. There
is little doubt that technological proliferation is a reality
and that strategists should be acutely aware of evolving
trends. The same strategists need to be alert as well to the
introduction and dissemination of disruptive technologies
and countering operational concepts. Military history is
littered with the detritus of empires slow to recognize powerful
forces of change.
At the same time, however, warfare is always evolving in
character, and new technological shifts often produce
offsetting changes in concepts, doctrine and maneuver.
The rifled musket and smokeless powder, in the U.S. civil war
or in South Africa, did not make infantry attacks impossible,
just different or harder. The introduction of the machine gun
and barbed wire further complicated ground combat, but
did not make it obsolete despite the horrific consequences
in Flanders’ fields. Radar was a fascinating new technology
and arguably invaluable in winning World War II, but it did
not make the airplane a wasting asset. Likewise, sonar made
the stealthy depths of the sea less opaque, but did not force
the submarine to go the way of the chariot or trireme. The
dialectic we know as war is a violent exercise of continuous
and interactive action/counter-action.So toowill the dynamic
between power projection and anti-access capabilities.
Frank G. Hoffman
NDU Press and Institute for National Strategic Studies
National Defense University,Washington D.C.
Frank Hoffman is currently a Senior Research Fellow at
the Institute for National Strategic Studies and Director,
National Defense University Press.
To cite this Article:
Hoffman, Frank G., “The Myth of the Post-Power Projection Era”,
Infinity Journal
, Volume 2, Issue No. 2, Spring
2012, pages 15-19.
The Myth of the Post-Power Projection Era
designed to target U.S. naval
and aerospace assets and their
supporting bases with greater
precision and lethality
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