Academic journal article Military Review

An Army Overseas: Expeditionary Maneuver through the Maritime Domain

Academic journal article Military Review

An Army Overseas: Expeditionary Maneuver through the Maritime Domain

Article excerpt

The paramount concern... of maritime strategy is to determine the mutual relations of your army and navy in a plan of war.                                                     --Julian Corbett 

An expeditionary Army is essential to American security. America has historically depended on expeditionary forces to defend worldwide security and economic interests. Today, increased globalization, along with the geographical dispersion of America's top security challenges (China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and transnational terrorism), make globally responsive expeditionary forces more necessary than ever. (1) The U.S. Army, however, is hard-pressed to meet these challenges for a variety of reasons. (2) The Army's legacy force-flow model (reception, staging, onward movement, and integration [RSOI]) depends on large airfields and vulnerable deepwater seaports. America's adversaries are increasingly positioned to exploit this weakness using anti-access warfare. (3) Even so, lulled by successes in the Gulf War (Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm) and elsewhere, the Army continues to rely on RSOI.

The Army must return to its roots as an expeditionary force to meet the challenges of today's security environment, particularly the challenges of anti-access warfare. The joint force needs Army forces capable of expeditionary maneuver; rapidly deployable land forces that can maneuver over strategic distances, transition to the offense quickly, and fight in austere conditions. Expeditionary maneuver will allow Army forces to attack at unexpected times and locations, creating multiple entry points for follow-on forces and creating multiple dilemmas for the enemy. (4) Expeditionary land forces can bypass enemy anti-access defenses emplaced to deny entry via airfields and ports.

Central to successful expeditionary maneuver is restoration of the Army's maritime expeditionary capabilities. Expeditionary maneuver requires the ability to sealift large, heavy Army formations, move them ashore, and rapidly transition to combat operations. For such a restoration of maritime expeditionary capabilities to be successful, certain joint capabilities need to be prioritized. This article outlines six joint capabilities required to enable expeditionary maneuver: sea control, using the sea as maneuver space, capable initial entry forces, rapid reinforcing forces, ship-to-shore connectors, and joint force integration.

A Brief History of Expeditionary Warfare

The whole power of the United States to manifest itself in this war depends upon the power to move ships across the sea. Their mighty power is restricted, it is restricted by those very oceans which have protected them. The oceans which were their shield have now become a bar, a prison house, through which they are struggling to bring armies, fleets and air forces to bear upon the great common problems we have to face.                                                 --Winston Churchill (5) 

America is a maritime nation; a strategic island bordered by two oceans and reliant on overseas trade. (6) Historically, maritime powers have depended on expeditionary forces to secure remote national interests, and the United States is no exception. During peacetime, expeditionary forces secure trade routes and global interests. In times of war, they allow maritime powers to use expeditionary warfare in an "away game" strategy (i.e., fight somewhere else other than on the homeland territory). By fighting abroad, expeditionary forces spare the homeland from destruction. (7)

Modern joint expeditionary warfare emerged at the end of the eighteenth century as a powerful strategic advantage. Moving land forces by ship had been part of warfare for thousands of years. But, in the late 1700s, advances in sailing technology allowed maritime powers to orchestrate campaigns using expeditionary sea and land power together as mutually supporting joint forces. …

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