Infinity Journal Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012 - page 18

Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012
Infinity Journal
Page 16
The Myth of the Post-Power Projection Era
Frank G. Hoffman
We need to rethink the problem of modern amphibious
warfare and reassess the benefits that accrue to
amphibiously agile states. History, as Liddell Hart once
intoned, suggests that this strategic capability has enormous
strategic utility if not outright necessity. DoD’s leadership has
given clear indications that the Nation faces challenges in
ensuring that U.S. security interests can be met far from its
shores. The Pentagon realizes that potential adversaries can
easily acquire new systems or enhance legacy systems and
platforms to radically enhance their combat power.
As noted in the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) of
2010, these capabilities will increasingly be used to deny us
access to regions where our interests are threatened. The
QDR stressed the importance of overcoming the anti-access
challenges as a major mission area with the clear objective
of being able to “Deter and defeat aggression in anti-access
environments.”[iv] Thus, the priority of the mission is clear but
the solutions have not yet taken form.
Defense Planning Crisis?
Faced with potentially crippling budget reductions and
number of analysts have proposed strategy-driven choices to
reshape America’s military for what many, without any irony,
call an Age of Austerity.[v] America allegedly faces a“perfect
storm” in defense planning, saddled with an extended
range of threats but a narrowing defense budget.[vi] After a
decade at war, there is a serious need to reset priorities and
narrow the yawning gap between policy ends and security
means.Numerous reports are calling for “hard choices”given
the need to reduce America’s deficit spending levels, which
will no doubt impact the Pentagon’s budget.
Should amphibious capabilities be reduced or increased?
This is a perfectly logical question. U.S. taxpayers should
not be expected to support missions and expensive
capabilities that do not have relevance to projected U.S.
security demands. Even the Marines do not want to retain a
mission purely for nostalgic reasons or because they simply
have sharper uniforms. But the logic of strategic capabilities
needs to get past the surface level, so as to explore the true
historical record and assess the strategic implications if
truly hard choices must be made. Hard choices will have to
consider hard facts.
If onesimplydismissescapabilitieswithstrategicoroperational
value based on their usage over the past several decades,
one could just as easily discard Intercontinental Ballistic
Missiles and nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines, as
neither of them has been launched for the past 70 years
either.The United States is prepared to invest more than $100
billion to recapitalize its nuclear submarine fleet in the next
decade, and another $85 billion to modernize its nuclear
infrastructure. Eliminating that requirement would make a
large dent in the Pentagon’s projected budget crunch. But
those capabilities are being retained and modernized not
because they were employed recently because they are
presumed to have a strategic effect on the behavior of states
and contribute to deterrence. This same argument can be
made plausibly to amphibious and other conventional power
projection capabilities. Moreover, in addition to deterring
bad behavior from potential aggressors, amphibious power
projection capabilities have strategically positive effects
such as reassuring allies and underwriting stability and crisis
response operations, including humanitarian and disaster
Of course, one cannot gainsay the fact that the CNAS report
is correct if it meant that the United States has not had to
conduct a large, fiercely-opposed landing across a beach
head in recent history. But the United States has conducted
over 108 operations with amphibious assets employed
over the last 20 years (since 1991) according to statistics
maintained by the Marines. In fact, the usage of amphibious
capabilities has doubled since the end of the Cold War.[vii]
Some operations, like the deception operation poised by
embarkedMarines offshore of Kuwait in 1991,were valuable in
pinning down numerous Iraqi divisions. Other operations, like
the amphibiously-based Task Force 58 led by then Brigadier
General James Mattis, did launch combat forces from the
sea deep inland into Afghanistan as part of Operation
Enduring Freedom in late 2002.[viii] Those same capabilities
were used to respond to tsunamis in the Indian Ocean, to
hurricane Katrina in the United States, to Haiti’s humanitarian
disaster, and to Japan’s more recent tragic earthquake and
subsequent relief operations.[ix] Arguably the United States
could have found other means to transport its civilian and
military assistance to these crises. Yet while the human toll
of all those disasters was high, but they would arguably
have been higher without the strategic reach and mobility
afforded by amphibious ready groups and the skills of the
Sailors and Marines that man them.
For these reasons, the U.S. defense policy community is
acutely aware of how valuable the amphibious and other
expeditionary components of the U.S. Navy fleet are. They
appear to recognize myriad strategy and operational
advantages gained by a state’s possession of versatile
amphibious forces.
Strategic Advantages
A robust forcible entry capability affords any nation numerous
strategic advantages.These include:
Produces credible deterrent
. The capability of conducting
powerful joint entry operations at a time and place of our
choosing produces a credible deterrent against would be
We need to rethink the problem of
modern amphibious warfare and
reassess the benefits that accrue to
amphibiously agile states.
The United States is prepared to
invest more than $100 billion to
recapitalize its nuclear submarine
fleet and another $85 billion to
modernize its nuclear infrastructure
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