Academic journal article Naval War College Review

EASTERN EXIT: Rescue ". . . from the Sea"

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

EASTERN EXIT: Rescue ". . . from the Sea"

Article excerpt

Throughout the decade of the 1990s, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps spent considerable time and energy attempting to define their roles in a new security environment created by the end of the Cold War. The decline of Soviet power, accentuated by large cutbacks in military spending and a withdrawal from Central and Eastern Europe, left the United States without a peer competitor-politically, diplomatically, or militarily-on the world scene.1 As ideas and concepts churned throughout the Department of Defense, the Navy and Marine Corps issued a series of strategic and operational concept papers that defined the new security environment along with the roles and missions of the sea services. The Department of the Navy issued the most relevant of these documents during the first half of the 1990s.

Perhaps the most important paper to address post-Cold War security concerns was the September 1992 document entitled ". . . From the Sea: Preparing the Naval Service for the 21st Century." This concept paper clearly identified a new direction for the naval services and defined a combined vision for the Navy and Marine Corps.2 Unlike some earlier efforts, ". . . From the Sea" became widely influential within the naval services and throughout the Department of Defense.3 Among Other things, it expressed the expeditionary nature of the post-Cold War mission for both the Navy and Marine Corps while capturing the Strategic temper of the time. It also reiterated the Uncertainty that existed Within the Operational environment as leaders attempted to recalibrate their thinking.4 But if uncertainty existed at the operational and strategic levels in the minds of some, ". . . From the Sea" clarified the direction for the sea services during that period and for the near-term future. It unequivocally directed the Navy and Marine Corps team to provide the nation with "Naval Expeditionary Forces-Shaped for Joint Operations-Operating Forward from the Sea-Tailored for National Needs." Its strategic message emphasized the shift "away from open-ocean warfighting on the sea toward joint operations from the sea."5 The word "from" constituted the key term in this new naval concept statement and thereby elevated the role of the U.S. Marine Corps within the larger naval mission of the time.6 Yet even as naval thinkers codified in their policy statements the concepts of littoral-focused expeditionary warfare and sea-based forward presence, the Navy and Marine Corps embodied these concepts through numerous incursions in Somalia, on the Horn of Africa.7

Among other things, ". . . From the Sea" emphasized the importance of unobtrusive forward presence-as opposed to the forward defense concept of the Cold War-and the flexibility of sea-based forces. That meant that naval expeditionary forces could not only come from the sea and return to the sea but also be sustained from the sea. This approach offers policy flexibility, because sea-based expeditionary forces can project either power or assistance ashore yet do not encroach on the sovereignty of nations while at sea.8 Once ashore, naval expeditionary forces present a relatively small "footprint," because their support is based at sea, thereby reducing exposure, vulnerability, and host-nation resentment.9 By concentrating on the littoral regions of the world and recognizing the importance of power projection and maneuver from the sea, ". . . From the Sea" reinforced the importance of the Navy and Marine Corps team as an integrated element of sea power.10

In January 1996, the Marine Corps issued a document that augmented ". . . From the Sea"; it was entitled "Operational Maneuver from the Sea," or, as it became known, simply OMFTS. Although the paper was published after the last American incursion in Somalia, its ideas and concepts expressed were greatly influenced by those operations as well as other actions occurring in the early 1990s.11 Many officers within the Navy and Marine Corps contributed to the development of these various concepts, but one of the earliest inputs to OMFTS resulted from the experiences of Major General Harry W. …

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