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The U.S. Navy and the 21st Century: Uncharted Waters?

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Research paper

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The U.S. Navy today is faced with the challenge of defining its role in American society. Its principal opponent, the Soviet Navy, now lies largely in port, rusting, inadequately manned, and serviced by no coherent doctrine. At the same time, the recent changes in U.S. defense organization wrought by the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act are placing new demands on the Navy to cooperate and operate with the other services. Long a go-it-alone service focusing on global naval warfare -- on winning command of the sea -- the Navy now faces a period in which command of the sea is largely assumed. In the emerging regional context, the Navy must now focus its energies on operations within the littoral and on the projection of American national power across the surf line. This fundamental change is having a profound impact on American naval strategy. The purpose of this paper is to explore some of the strategic implications of the changes that are transforming the world. Much of the debate in the literature today is concerned with the operational-level impacts of change, and very little attention is being paid to the long-term strategic landscape. For those operational and force structure discussions to hold validity, an assessment of the strategic changes must be made. Therefore, this essay will delve only briefly into some operational issues, and then only to illustrate some of the implications of the changing environment for the Navy. To begin the journey, a brief look at a historical example will illuminate some of the challenges the U.S. Navy faces today.

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  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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