From its fragile birth on the eve of American independence to its global reach at the dawn of the Third Millennium, the U.S. Navy has continuously adapted to new challenges and opportunities. The threat posed by imperialism gave way to fascism, and then to communism. The wind-powered man-of-war gave way to the steampowered ironclad, and then to nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines. The pace of progress at times may have seemed glacial, but looking backward it is clear America’s Navy has seen more change in the last two hundred years than military forces saw in the previous two thousand.
Today, the military threats that most concern policymakers are terrorism and the spread of technologies enabling mass murder. The tools of warfare that most captivate them are wireless networks and ubiquitous computing. There is no way of knowing how long these preoccupations will persist, because the current era of human history is characterized by an uncommon degree of uncertainty about the future. But the Navy and other parts of the joint force must still plan to secure the nation and its interests, no matter how ill-defined future needs may be.
The Department of Defense is currently engaged in a congressionally-mandated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) that is the most comprehensive and farreaching component of the military planning process. The purpose of this report is to concisely assess the biggest questions the Navy faces in the quadrennial review as it prepares for a future distinctly different from past experience:
1. What are the driving threats that the future Navy and joint force must counter?
2. What is the national defense strategy for addressing these threats?
3. What are the Navy’s core missions in the emerging global landscape?
4. What is the Navy’s plan for accomplishing its core missions?
5. What sort of information architecture will support these missions?
6. What is the optimum size and composition of the Navy’s oceangoing fleet?
7. What is the optimum mix of aircraft and other weapons in the fleet?
8. What role does the Navy play in enabling the rest of the joint force?
9. What budgetary resources are required for the Navy to meet its emerging needs?
The answers that follow are based on the content of Defense Department strategic guidance, Navy planning documents, interviews with senior Navy officials, and discussion among the members of the Naval Strike Forum. This report was written by Dr. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute staff and reviewed by the members of the Naval Strike Forum.
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