The three sea services—the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard—just released their new, joint maritime strategy titled Advantage at Sea: Prevailing with Integrated All-Domain Naval Power. The document reflects the realities of an international environment dominated by great-power competition, most of which is conducted below the threshold of overt conflict. The strategy stresses the importance of peacetime operations and crisis responses to U.S. economic, political, and national security interests. Today’s new challenges demand an expanded role for the Coast Guard.
The U.S. government has identified China as the main competitor, what is often termed the “pacing threat.” But Russia, too, and even lesser players such as North Korea are seeking to undermine the security of the maritime domain. The Maritime Strategy declared that “China’s and Russia’s revisionist approaches in the maritime environment threaten U.S. interests, undermine alliances and partnerships, and degrade the free and open international order,” the document states. “Moreover, China’s and Russia’s aggressive naval growth and modernization are eroding U.S. military advantages. Unchecked, these trends will leave the Naval Service unprepared to ensure our advantage at sea and protect national interests within the next decade.”
China’s ambitions to dominate the Indo-Pacific region is undeniable. It is also clear that Beijing is using its massive fishing fleets and Coast Guard to extend the regime’s power in the area. This simultaneously undermines long-established tenets of international law and threatens U.S. friends and allies.
The United States needs an integrated, all-domain naval force that can protect U.S. interests in peacetime, deter conflicts if possible and defeat threats from China and others if necessary. The force must be capable of meeting lesser threats as well as dealing with a host of challenges from piracy to overfishing, human trafficking, drug smuggling and environmental crimes.
The Tri-Service Strategy declares that “We must operate more assertively to prevail in day-to-day competition as we uphold the rules-based order and deter our competitors from pursuing armed aggression.”
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