A New Arctic Strategy for an Emerging Maritime Domain

By Joshua Tallis

Coming on the heels of the new tri-service maritime strategy (“Advantage at Sea), the Department of the Navy has now released an updated framework for the Arctic region— “A Blue Arctic: A Strategic Blueprint for the Arctic.” The document is a marked improvement on the brisk 2019 Navy version. It is particularly innovative (as strategies go) in including the Marine Corps in a “Blue/Green” approach to the region and in its navigation of cooperative themes in a moment dominated by great power competition. Yet it also has room for growth, in particular on how to connect loftier concepts with operational realities.

As the title implies, the strategy leans into framing the Arctic as “blue” (as opposed to “white”). The “Blue Arctic” conceit is likely to be among the document’s most enduring legacies. Coming on the tail end of a Trump presidency, the strategy may not be officially in force for long. As a result, its rhetorical contributions could outlast any specific policy proposals. On that score, the Blue Arctic push might be a success. Given the realities of climate change, the real novelty that the Navy, Marine Corps, and US policymakers must wrestle with in the Arctic’s future is how rapidly its maritime character is changing. It makes sense to grapple with that reality directly, and to give it a moniker that the bureaucracy can grab hold of.

That maritime focus does not displace the long-term role of aerospace defense in the Arctic, as attested by the enduring US-Canada partnership through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Yet going back to documents from the Obama administration, like the 2016 implementation framework for the 2013 national strategy, it was clear (via tasking to the Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) that the maritime angle was rising in importance. Similarly, the Blue Arctic framing well highlights emerging challenges—climate change is the central factor reshaping Arctic geopolitics. Coming with an opening seascape is the greater likelihood for accidents at sea and the prospect of miscalculation that accompanies rival navies operating near one another. So, as a framework for thinking about what is strategically salient in the Arctic today, the Blue Arctic is a helpful construct.

Similarly innovative is the strategy’s authorship. Although the document is not fully tri-service like its recent partner, it is notable as the first modern joint Navy/Marine Corps Arctic strategy. This is not just a bureaucratic feat. The Marine Corps has long-standing operational requirements in the Arctic—as evinced by High North amphibious exercises off Alaska and Norway. 

Integrating Navy and Marine Corps operations is part of a bigger trend, as seen in the commandant’s planning guidance and the release of new operational concepts like Expeditionary Advanced Basing Operations and Littoral Operations in Contested Environments (LOCE). Some of these, particularly LOCE, also feature in the Arctic strategy. Yet considering those operational concepts were developed for a potential crisis in the Pacific theater, their reapplication to the Arctic warrants some further scrutiny.

Where the document is at its best, however, is in the focus on the US’s objectives in the Arctic. The document should be lauded—in a moment dominated by great power competition—for foregrounding stability, governance, and peace as the main political objectives guiding US engagement in the Arctic. The invocation of peace through strength is vague and opens the potential for a more confrontational approach to the Arctic, but it does not require that interpretation.

This pivot to stability can also be seen, if subtly, in the document’s treatment of Russia and China. The Department of Defense’s 2019 Arctic strategy, by comparison, references Russia and China in near equal measure. The new Department of the Navy strategy leans slightly more to Russia, which makes sense for an Arctic document. Qualitatively, the document probably also does better differentiating between the two countries compared to the DOD document. That is most evident in its treatment of the theme of cooperation with Russia, where feasible. The strategy is shy about saying so out loud sometimes, but such is evidently the subtext behind the “new partners” section on page 16, for example.

The recent Air Force and the Space Force Arctic strategy offers another useful comparison. That document is forward leaning on the theme of cooperation—but mostly in the context of allies and partners (it names Greenland and Thule frequently to reinforce the Arctic equities of the two services). The Navy/Marine Corps strategy names names too, but with a savvy eye towards domestic readers. Alaska is an obvious hallmark of US Arctic strategies and the Alaska delegation is the key constituency on the Hill for Arctic products. But the Navy document also elevates Maine to new heights, likely given the state’s burgeoning economic emphasis on ties to Greenland and Senator King’s co-chairing of the Arctic caucus.

The move to focus on stability and engagement is not a full pivot from competition. In fact, as in the new tri-service maritime strategy, day-to-day competition is a notable undercurrent throughout the Arctic document. As I’ve written previously, the question of what it means to compete day-to-day for maritime services can be split along two axes: positional and political competition. 

Positional competition means posturing forces to deter a conflict or, failing that, creating the conditions for success in the event of a fight. That boils down to a persistent need for basing, access, and allies. 

Political competition is about continued US security and economic leadership of an international order that reflects its interests and values. That invites a competition over global agenda setting, defending maritime norms, and not strictly a perspective on winning the big fight. 

The new Arctic framework hints strongly at political competition when it talks about the need to compete in “a way that protects vital national interests and preserves regional security without undermining trust and triggering conflict.” That is, I believe, the right approach, and those responsible for implementing the strategy should look to the new tri-service document for its extended treatment of the idea of day-to-day competition.

Presence typically rhymes with competition for the Navy, and it is no surprise that the strategy emphasizes that issue at length. As others have noted, the strategy takes a big picture view of the Arctic as one space for policy-making (a circumpolar perspective). That is understandable for a document that lives at the high altitude of strategy, but it challenges building connective tissue between the idea of presence and specific operational recommendations on where presence is most useful to pursue stability, peace, or rule of law. Strategy is ultimately about helping shape hard choices on the application of finite resources, and when it comes to where presence is most needed, an implementation framework is particularly critical to help translate the broad (and standardly Navy) idea into practice.

Then there is the question of presence with what? In the Arctic, that question has implications for whether the Navy buys different kinds of assets (ice hardened vessels?) or how it plans to compete day-to-day in an austere domain. Submarines commonly operate in the Arctic, but they are high demand, low density assets and are famously bad at overt signaling (by design). Aircraft carriers have gone north (see exercises Northern Edge or Trident Juncture) but are even scarcer and can be quite provocative. Destroyers are versatile platforms but constrained in operational range by the presence of ice in some regions at some times of year. Because service strategies can most directly influence service activities—staffing, training, and equipping the fleet—the issue of platforms is also one that an implementation plan should tackle directly.

There is a lot more to the new blueprint. It laudably addresses the need to plug data gaps for issues of weather modeling, for example, and it emphasizes the role of the professional military education complex in better preparing future military leaders for the Arctic’s political and strategic character. Yet its greatest innovations may be the ones that require the least digging. The subtle but evident broadening of cooperation, to occasionally include Russia, is a key feature of addressing stability in the Arctic and managing China’s rise. Most evidently, the framework clearly stakes a claim to the Arctic as fundamentally maritime and littoral. Following on that geography, it invites the Navy and Marine Corps to collaborate strategically where so far they have mostly done so operationally. That marriage necessitates more critical analysis about how Blue/Green operational ideas translate to the Arctic, but the underlying shift the framework represents is a notable achievement in its own right.

Dr. Joshua Tallis is a research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses and an adjunct professor at the George Washington University specializing in maritime security, polar affairs, and naval strategy. He is the author of the 2019 book, The War for Muddy Waters: Pirates, Terrorists, Traffickers, and Maritime Insecurity. The opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect those of CNA or the U.S. Navy.

Featured Image: Scientist carrying equipment on ice in front of RV Polarstern during the MOSAiC expedition in September 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

Bilge Pumps Episodes 31 & 32: New Year’s Resolutions for Navies and the Forward Presence Mission

By Alex Clarke

What can be said, Jamie is away. It is the Christmas/Summer holidays in Australia so he has family stuff to do. But don’t worry, Alex and Drach have done their best to still provide a couple of episodes for your delectation! One is on New Year’s Resolutions – for navies, on how they could improve over the next year. The other, it’s on Chinese drones, the new LCS operating, groups, and the presence mission.

#Bilgepumps is still a newish series and new avenue, which may no longer boast the new car smell, in fact decidedly more of pineapple/irn bru smell with a hint of jaffa cake and the faintest whiff of cork. But we’re getting the impression it’s liked, so we’d very much like any comments, topic suggestions or ideas for artwork to be tweeted to us, the #Bilgepump crew (with #Bilgepumps), at Alex (@AC_NavalHistory), Drach (@Drachinifel), and Jamie (@Armouredcarrier). Or you can comment on our Youtube channels (listed down below).

Download Bilge Pumps Episode 31: New Year’s Resolutions 2021

Download Bilge Pumps Episode 32: Geeks Alone Discussing Presence


1. Dr. Alex Clarke’s Youtube Channel
2. Drachinifel’s Youtube Channel
3. Jamie Seidel’s Youtube Channel

Alex Clarke is the producer of The Bilge Pumps podcast.

Contact the CIMSEC podcast team at Seacontrol@cimsec.org.

The Tri-Service Maritime Strategy: Reading Between the Lines

By Robert C. Rubel

The Navy routinely publishes capstone documents that serve as top-level policy statements and guidance for the Service. Some are either directly titled maritime strategies or are at least referred to as such, implying that they describe ways that naval forces will be used to achieve national objectives. In truth this cannot be the case because the Navy has no authority to determine such ways; that is the province of the joint chain of command that runs from the President through the Secretary of Defense down to the Unified Combatant Commanders, bypassing both the Joint Staff and the Services. If the Navy has no authority to engage in such strategizing, why issue such documents, the latest of which is entitled “Advantage at Sea” but is commonly called the Tri-Service Maritime Strategy (TSMS)?

The widely accepted strategic syllogism is ends/ways/means; strategy specifically constituting the ways. As previously stated, developing ways in which the means – the military forces – can be used to achieve the ends – national security objectives – is the business of the joint chain of command. The Services are tasked to provide the means, so any top-down document the Navy issues must be somehow connected to that responsibility. The context in which such documents are issued is commonly resource scarcity, which means that in some way the document either outlines a way for the Service to deal with that scarcity or pleads for more resources. When internally focused, the documents tend to be straightforward guidance for adapting the Service to existing conditions. When externally focused, the actual Service strategy is to get what it wants by publishing a “strategy” document that it hopes will influence its target outside audience, be it Congress, the American public, potential adversaries or friendly countries. This desire to achieve influence via a public document appears to be behind the TSMS thus requiring us to read between its lines to infer the underlying ways.

Strategies can be thought of as solutions to problems, and the TSMS contains a formal problem statement that says China’s and Russia’s “revisionist approaches” in the maritime domain threaten U.S. interests, undermine alliances, and threaten the global order. Moreover, their aggressive naval growth and modernization are eroding U.S. military superiority. Left unchecked this will leave the Naval Services unprepared to ensure U.S. advantage at sea (this last printed in bold). There are a couple of ways to read this, one being that the Naval Services must check gray zone operations, which, as discussed, is outside Service authority. The second is that Chinese and Russian naval growth, at least in relative terms, must be checked. Presumably this is the real problem that must be solved, a view supported by the paragraph preceding the problem statement, which lists challenges to building additional capacity, including increased costs and developmental timelines of systems and weapons, and continuing budget pressures; in other words, resource scarcity.

From all this we can infer that the basic strategy behind TSMS is to publish a strategy document to add to the momentum for building a bigger fleet that was created by the Secretary of Defense’s Battle Force 2045 plan. As such, a key element of the pleading purpose of the document is to articulate a persuasive utility argument – why the nation should invest more in its Naval Services – and the TSMS is full of such language. 

But the document also contains a more novel and dramatic element; it asserts that the three Naval Services will more closely integrate their efforts. In the face of resource scarcity it makes sense to try and find efficiencies and synergies, and to the extent that this is the motivation behind this part of the problem solution it is a brilliant move.

However, a close reading of the TSMS reveals a somewhat more problematic motivation and strategy. The document clearly colors outside the lines of Service authority by asserting the Naval Services will more aggressively confront Chinese and Russian gray zone operations even at the cost of incurring greater risk. In several places the document mentions the advantage the unique authorities possessed by the Coast Guard brings to the table. This implies that an underlying deal with the Department of Homeland Security has been reached to empower some anti-gray zone operational strategy. One hopes the relevant combatant commanders have been consulted, but in any case it seems to be an end run around joint authority and also appears to preempt policy making by the incoming Biden Administration. Aggressive and even risky forward naval maneuvers to intimidate an adversary was a key provision of the 1980s Maritime Strategy, which the TSMS seems to echo, but the times and the adversaries are different, and one wonders if such a frontal assault strategy is appropriate in current conditions. The document itself might be intended as a means of such intimidation since it articulates how U.S. naval forces would be successful in confronting and defeating the enemy, including the implication that U.S. forces either have or shortly will possess hypersonic weapons.

Beyond the motivations and underlying strategies just mentioned there seems to be a third element in the TSMS: relationships with allies. In a number of places the document calls for increased cooperation with international navies, especially at the higher levels on the spectrum of conflict. This echoes language in the 2015 Cooperative Strategy, but absent some kind of underlying strategy for achieving it, the words are only boilerplate. But giving the TSMS writing team credit for strategic thinking, such language can be interpreted as a move to counteract the Trump Administration’s confrontational approach to allies and partners. This echoes but is not the same as the approach taken by the 2007 Cooperative Strategy. That document portrayed the US on the strategic defensive and emphasized the peacetime uses of seapower to allay the suspicions of other nations concerning U.S. intentions due to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. That document was a part of an underlying strategy of courting international cooperation on maritime security that also involved extensive international consultation during strategy development and bringing international officers into the process. The document itself did not directly spell out any of this.

The TSMS appears to be anticipating a more internationalist policy and approach by the Biden Administration, but simply calling for more cooperation, especially in warfighting, is not an actual strategy for securing it, and other than envisioning increased exercises, the document gives us little indication of how it will be achieved. In fact, more aggressive confrontation of Chinese and Russian gray zone operations, or even their international naval engagement activities and perhaps instances of gunboat diplomacy, might serve to alarm potential partners and allies who do not want to be dragged into conflict by the U.S. In any case it is all a policy matter above the pay grade of the Services, so in the best case the TSMS will serve as an educational document for those duly authorized to make and implement such policies.

There is one element of the TSMS that is puzzling and harder to decode. On the one hand it calls for emphasizing future warfighting readiness over near term demand. On the other hand, the document calls for robust forward presence as well as conducting large fleet exercises. It is not clear how the Services will square this circle. Besides, the combatant commanders call the shots on what forces will be deployed where. Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, who had also previously served as Undersecretary of the Navy, attempted to establish a “supply-side” approach to force deployment and was unsuccessful. While integration of the Naval Services to achieve efficiencies is laudable, it is not clear that this in itself will relieve the pressure to send forces forward.

Finally, the TSMS may be a tool for mending organizational discontinuities within the Navy. For decades the resources directorate, N8, has operated in an insular manner, repelling any attempts by the strategy office, which had been in the N3/5 directorate but which now resides within the N7 directorate, to influence the Navy’s programming. N8 relies on a numerical, computer-based analysis process called campaign analysis to determine what kinds of ships should be built, what kinds of weapons procured, etc. The more qualitative ideas coming out of the strategy process cannot be easily accommodated by the campaign analysis process and have been therefore largely disregarded. The TSMS, in addition to calling not only for a new fleet design but also a new integrated Naval Analytic Master Plan, seems to be aiming to break the logjam between the two directorates – a good thing. However, it should be noted that the team that penned the TSMS was likely composed of N7 folks and it remains to be seen what effect the document will have on the flow of influence from strategy to programming.

The intent here is not to critique the TSMS, although I have done a little of that, but rather, understanding the true nature of strategy documents issued by the Navy, to divine the intent behind it. The Navy has not had a formal strategy process, most capstone documents being the products of an ad hoc effort, so it is never a routine occurrence when one is issued. Thus it is a worthwhile exercise to try and read between the lines of a new document. Hopefully this exercise will be of use to readers.

Robert C. Rubel is a retired Navy captain and professor emeritus of the Naval War College. He served on active duty in the Navy as a light attack/strike fighter aviator. At the Naval War College he served in various positions, including planning and decision-making instructor, joint education adviser, chairman of the Wargaming Department, and dean of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies. He retired in 2014, but on occasion continues to serve as a special adviser to the Chief of Naval Operations. He has published over thirty journal articles and several book chapters.

FEATURED IMAGE: ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 2, 2012) A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter prepares to land on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). For prudent planning, the Navy has begun to preposition Wasp, USS San Antonio (LPD 17) and USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) for primary assistance in the affected North East region if required by FEMA following the devastation brought on by Hurricane Sandy. San Antonio and Carter Hall got underway Oct. 31 from Norfolk, Va., and began transiting north to the affected areas on Nov. 1. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Markus Castaneda/Released) 121102-N-WI365-326

State of War, State of Mind: Reconsidering Mobilization in the Information Age, Pt. 1

By LCDR Robert “Jake” Bebber, USN

This article is part one of a two-part piece, drawn from a recently completed report by the author that was published by The Journal of Political Risk, and is available in its entirety here


Recently, American policymakers and national security thinkers have begun to recognize that revisionist powers in the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) and Russia have no interest in preserving the current liberal order, and instead have embarked on a course to challenge and supplant the U.S. as the world’s superpower. However, the United States is not postured to mobilize for long-term strategic competition or war with great powers. 

American policymakers’ assumptions regarding war preparation, prosecution, and sustainment are not aligned to the emerging 21st Century landscape dominated by three major trends: advances in understanding of neuroscience, dual-use technologies, and new financial business models. These articles take a holistic approach toward identifying how war mobilization in the 21st Century will look different from the industrial models of the mid-to-late 20th Century. Looking beyond the Defense Department, they explore economic, policy, social, technological, and informational aspects of planning and preparation. Part Two will identify why the intelligence and national security communities are not postured to detect or anticipate emerging disruptions and strategic latency. It will put forward strategies and recommendations on how to grow American power and create new sources of comparative advantage that can be rapidly converted into both kinetic and non-kinetic effects in all domains, not just military.

21st Century Trends That Will Shape the Coming War 

Three main forces will shape the 21st Century: advances in neuroscience, emerging dual-use technologies, and new financial business models. The convergence of these forces creates disruptions on a mass scale. Chinese and Russian operations, policies, and investment decisions, along with market forces and changing consumer preferences each play a part in the changing geopolitical landscape, threatening the efficacy of American assumptions in strategic competition, war preparation, prosecution, and sustainment. This requires rethinking how the U.S. considers strategic warning and intelligence during peacetime, the transition from competition to conflict, the resiliency and capacity of current forces to “weather the storm” of initial combat, and whether the country is postured to transition to other means of using force during a global war with a great power. Perhaps most important will be the means by which the U.S. sustains its economic power and the political will to fight. Right now, adversaries are conducting systematic attacks on U.S. and allied sources of economic power, reducing and eliminating what was once considered the principle advantage of industrialized democracies, while at the same time using non-kinetic means to deliver mass cognitive attacks, destabilizing political societies.

The Brain as the Battlefield

Over the past forty years, scientists have made significant advancements in the study of the human brain. James Giordano and others point to immense potential for neuroscience and neurotechnology to “study, predict and influence” human ecologies, potentially affecting human activities on individual, group, and population levels, and human relations on a local, regional, and global scale. These understandings will permit the U.S. and its competitors to develop capabilities to assess, access, and affect the human brain. It will come to influence, and perhaps dominate, the posture and conduct of national security and the defense agenda.

The growth in understanding of the human brain, from evaluating its components and functions, to accessing and influencing it, will be a central focus of strategic competition, not unlike the space program of the Cold War, but with perhaps even more profound implications — the weaponization of brain sciences. Neuroscience can be leveraged as a soft weapon to create economic advantages, intelligence capabilities, and advanced psychological influence operations such as narrative networks. More concerning is how neuroscience can help develop hard weapons that use chemicals, biologicals, toxins, and devices to have physical effects.

Neuroscientific advancement also has significant neuro-enablement application potential to enhance the performance military operators and intelligence officers. More broadly, these understandings can also be used to understand and shape public behavior.

Strategic competitors have invested considerable resources in the research, development, and fielding of neuroscience and biotechnology. China has announced initiatives to position itself as the leading power in brain science and is openly exploring the application of brain sciences to hard and soft power. Military writers and researchers in China argue that future battlefield success will depend on “biological dominance,” “mental/cognitive dominance,” and “intelligence dominance,” and are applying insights from neuroscience to exploit vulnerabilities in human cognition, to include the development of “brain control weaponry.”

Dual-Use, Radical Leveling, and Emerging Technologies

A key driver of strategic competition is the explosive growth in globally powerful “dual-use” or “dual purpose” technologies. These include mobile internet, cloud computing, the exploitation of “big data,” the “internet of things,” ubiquitous sensors, nano-materials, additive manufacturing, self-navigating vehicles, autonomous industrial and civilian robots, artificial intelligence and machine learning, advanced energy storage, renewable energy, and “do it yourself” genomics. Since the end of the Cold War, advances in these technologies have had a significant impact on military technology and operational concepts1 in areas as diverse as space and cyberspace operations, biological weapons development, precision guided munitions (PGM), the realization of transoceanic-range precision strikes, autonomous unmanned combat systems and platforms (to include swarms), directed energy combat systems, and enhanced and protected infantry.2

More profound perhaps is how existing and emerging developments in science and technology enhance power in non-kinetic engagements, creating mass disruptive “weapons” that “incur rippling effects in and across targeted individuals, societies and nations.” These actions “can adversely impact, if not defeat, an opponent …” without meeting the current legally accepted criteria of an explicit act of war. These engagements may cause immediate-to-long-term damage to popular stability, but because the perpetrator of these engagements might remain ambiguous, it is politically problematic for the victim to respond. These types of operations are exceptionally difficult to identify in advance as threats, or can evoke effects which “may not be easily recognizable or attributable to the technology or the actor(s).”3

Adversaries pursue these dual-use technologies as means to deliver effects on a population’s brains, or even its genetic code, through the use of the electromagnetic spectrum via radio frequency or directed energy.4 The increased proliferation of Chinese telecommunications hardware, platforms, and infrastructure may provide a way for the PRC to conduct surveillance, collect intelligence, and execute influence operations. It is also a means to use the frequency spectrum to deliver effects at the neurological and even genetic level.5 This would likely be done using mundane and ubiquitous technology, such as 5G networks, cell phone applications, or even music or video streams.6

Economic War Matters More

Investment decisions may telegraph human behavior and intent,7 and identify future asymmetric disruptions in ways superior to traditional strategic intelligence tradecraft. Investments can have multiplier effects that can move entire commercial sectors globally, with profound implications in a strategic competition where understanding future business models is more important than understanding future technology. 

For example, Chinese telecommunication firms can now exert considerable influence because they enjoy approximately 78% of the leverage in the $3.5 trillion global communications industry.8 These firms should not be confused with traditionally understood commercial firms in the democracies, however. The Chinese Communist Party has put in place a legal and political regime that effectively controls corporate operations. This influence began when a Chinese state-owned enterprise made the initial investment in Huawei, telegraphing the Party’s intent to influence the global telecommunications industry.9 The Party has translated its investment into geo-economic effects that create debt obligations among developing countries (“debt-trap diplomacy”) as well as provide entry to Chinese “techno-authoritarian” influence and control of communities and states outside of China.

American national security planners must consider how to build sources of economic power, and sustain that power in a time of strategic competition and conflict, when America’s competitors exercise significant leverage over American, allied, and global industries. The capture and control of key industries such as telecommunications or space systems will circumscribe U.S. power and force policymakers into more difficult trade-offs to sustain a conflict. Information is a strategic resource and should be treated as such.10


The strategic competition between the United States and Allies, China, and Russia, and how states attempt to create and wield power on a global scale will drive the future security environment. There are two broad competing visions of international order: the Chinese and Russian techno-authoritarian model of control, and the liberal model of broadly supported international rules. The chance of this strategic competition erupting into outright conflict is very real.

The fact that both China and the United States – and important powers such as Russia, Great Britain, India, France, Pakistan, and others – are nuclear powers shape the competition in ways similar to the Cold War. Each side will seek to achieve strategic effects while attempting to limit the likelihood of a nuclear exchange. However, as the balance between conventional and non-kinetic powers of each side fluctuate, the risk grows that competitors will see their options reduced to “go nuclear or surrender,” as President Kennedy famously suggested.

This competition, like the one with the Soviets, will require a national effort toward sustained power creation and planning toward the sustained conversion of power into wartime, crisis, and peacetime capabilities. The United States is in the early stages of evaluating its level of preparedness. There are also important distinctions between the current Information Age and how future technologies will reshape human behavior and our understanding of it, and what that means for power creation, sustainment, and rapid conversion. Theoretical frameworks drawn from the Cold War provide some broad insights, but new approaches will be required.

Ultimately, strategic competition, mobilization, and preparedness are still acts of political will, and no effort will be sustainable that does not have the broad buy-in from the American people. It will require not only engagement from senior leaders and elected officials, but also their bipartisan leadership in explaining, gaining, and keeping political support.

Part two of this article will outline what steps the U.S. and Allies should take. When the brain is a battlefield, American paradigms of conflict preparation and executions must change to meet the challenges of an increasingly connected world.

LCDR Bebber is a Cryptologic Warfare officer assigned to Information Warfare Training Command Corry Station in Pensacola, Florida. The views expressed here do not represent those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy or the U.S. government. He welcomes your comments at jbebber@gmail.com


1 Snow, Jen “Radical Leveling Technologies: What They Are, Why They Matter, and the Challenges to Come” Seminar Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Monterey, April 25, 2016.

2 Peter A. Wilson. “Concepts of National Mobilization circa 2036: Implications of Emerging Dual-Purpose and Military Technologies” prepared in support of the “Mobilization in 2030+” tabletop exercise played by the Long-Term Strategy program, (NDU Eisenhower School) March 30, 2016.

3 James Giordano, Joseph DeFranco & L.R. Bremseth “Radical Leveling and Emerging Technologies as Tools of Non-Kinetic Mass Disruption” Invited Perspective Series: Strategic Multilayer Assessment Future of Global Competition & Conflict Effort, February 3, 2019.

4 Markov, Marko S. ““Biological windows”: a tribute to W. Ross Adey.” Environmentalist 25.2-4 (2005): 67-74.

5 Ranzato, M.A., Boureau, Y.L., Chopra, S. and LeCun, Y., March. A unified energy-based framework for unsupervised learning. In Artificial Intelligence and Statistics. 2007. (pp. 371-379).

6 Adey, W.R., Brain interactions with RF/microwave fields generated by mobile phones. International Encyclopedia of Neuroscience. Third Edition. New York: Elsevier. 2003.

7 Rhemann, Maureen. Exploring Asymmetry to Detect Disruption 2018. Journal of Futures Studies 23(2), pp.85-99.

8 Rhemann, Maureen. “Disrupted. Space 2030”; Reperi Analysis Center (RAC). December, 2019.

9 USCC Research Staff, “The National Security Implications of Investments and Products from the People’s Republic of China in the Telecommunications Sector” (Washington, D.C.: U.S. – China Economic and Security Review Commission, January 2011).

10 Robert J. Bebber, “Treating Information as a Strategic Resource to Win the ‘Information War,’” Orbis Summer (2017): 394–403.

Featured Image: A naval honor guard at the in 2012 onboard the Chinese carrier Liaoning. (Xinhua News Agency Photo)

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas.