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CFAR 2019 Winners Announced for July 16 Event at CNA

The votes are in and CIMSEC members have chosen the top authors they want to present at CFAR! Below are the winners for the respective CNA and CIMSEC categories. Not all winners will be able to attend, but many will present on their articles to provide more insight, context, and updates. 

RSVP to the Event Here!

Location: Center for Naval Analyses, 3003 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201
Time: 6-8pm

As always, thanks to the generous support of CNA and our contributors for helping us bring you this event, and congratulations to the winners!

CNA Category Winners

The Case for Maritime Security in an Era of Great Power Competition – Joshua Tallis

Nuclear Arms Control without a Treaty? Risks and Options After NEW START – Vince Manzo

CIMSEC Category Winners

Sea Control at the Tactical Level of War – Adam Humayun

Chinese Shipbuilding and Seapower: Full Steam Ahead, Destination Uncharted – Andrew Erickson

Then What? Wargaming the Interface Between Strategy and Operations – Barney Rubel

How the Fleet Forgot to Fight – Dmitry Filipoff

The Deep Ocean: Seabed Warfare and the Defense of Undersea Infrastructure – Bill Glenney

Naval Deployments, Exercises, and the Geometry of Strategic Partnerships in the Indo-Pacific

By David Scott

From March to June 2019 naval diplomacy and an underlying strategic geometry was on show as India, Australia, France, and Japan deployed across and around the Indo-Pacific. All of them were involved in operating with each other, with the U.S., and with other actors in the region like Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) in particular was a recurring theme throughout the exercises.

Indian Deployments

India carried out significant deployments in the Indian Ocean, in the shape of the AUSINDEX exercises with Australia in April and the VARUNA exercises with France in May. Both of these exercises were conducted with greater Indian strength amid implicit concerns over China.

The AUSINDEX exercise was conducted with Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 Group and took place from 2–16 April. The exercises were described by the Indian Navy as “advanced warship drills.” Organized by the Eastern Fleet, the Indian Navy was represented by the multi-role destroyer INS Ranvijay, the multi-role stealth frigate INS Sahyadri, the missile corvette INS Kora, the ASW corvette INS Kiltan, and the submarine INS Sindhukirti. In addition, the Indian Navy sent Dornier maritime patrol aircraft, Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers, and P-8I ASW aircraft.

As these bilateral exercises with Australia were taking place in the Bay of Bengal, other bilateral exercises were being conducted elsewhere in the Indian Ocean. On 15 April, anti-submarine exercises were also carried out near Diego Garcia between an Indian P-8I ASW aircraft, based at Indian Naval Station Rajali in southern India, a U.S. P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance. This was the first ASW drill since India and the U.S. signed the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in September 2018. In turn, on 24 April, two Indian Navy P-8I ASW aircraft and an Indian submarine carried out anti-submarine drills in the Arabian Sea with two Japanese P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft. This marks the third iteration of the bilateral Indo-Japanese ASW exercise.

The VARUNA exercises with France’s Task Force 473 were conducted in two phases. Phase 1, from 1–10 May in the Arabian Sea, involved India’s aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, the destroyer INS Mumbai, the frigate INS Tarkash, the submarine INS Shankul, and the fleet tanker INS Deepakh carrying out various exercises, including anti-submarine drills. This was the largest ever VARUNA exercise. Phase 2 from 22–25 May witnessed another Indian submarine, INS Kalvari, carrying out submarines drills with a French submarine off the Djibouti coast by the Bab el-Mandeb chokepoint between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

During this time the guided-missile destroyer, INS Kolkata and the replenishment ship INS Shakti were dispatched for eastern duties from April to May 2019. Various cooperative initiatives were pursued. They moored from 21–23  April at Qingdao for China’s International Naval Review, and the Indian Navy was clear that “the visit of Indian Navy’s most potent destroyer and versatile fleet support ship showcases India’s prowess, reach and sustainability.” From Qingdao the Indian ships went to Busan for an extended friendly port call and discussions with the South Korean Navy from 28–30 April, before undertaking cooperative ADMM-Plus maritime exercises off South Korea from 1–2 May and then in the South China Sea from 9–12 May. On its completion, the Indian vessels went down to Singapore to attend the closing ceremony of the ADMM-Plus exercises on 14 May and participate (alongside HMAS Canberra) in the International Maritime Defense Expo 2019 in Singapore from 16–18 May.

However, more controversial deployments were witnessed in the South China Sea by INS Kolkata and INS Shakti. Firstly, they carried out bilateral maritime exercise with the Vietnamese Navy from 13–16 April at Cam Ranh Bay, a “significant step” for the Indian Navy; the first having been initiated in 2018. Secondly, on returning to the South China Sea they participated in a week-long “Group Sail” including formation maneuvering drills from 3-9 May with Japan’s Indo-Pacific Deployment (IPD19) carrier group, the U.S., and the Philippine navies. Thirdly, from 19–22 May the two Indian vessels, joined by an Indian P-8l long range surveillance plane, carried out anti-submarine and anti-air SIMBEX exercises in the South China Sea with the Singaporean Navy and Air Force, with the Indian Navy keen to emphasize that “for SIMBEX 2019, the IN has deployed its finest assets.”

Indian Navy destroyer INS Kolkata (Indian Navy photo)

Australian Deployments

Australia’s centerpiece deployment formation known as Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 (IPD19), now in its third iteration, was conducted from February to May 2019. Defense Minister Christopher Pyne explained that “in 2019, the focus of Indo-Pacific Endeavour will be the Indian Ocean, in recognition of the Indian Ocean region’s rapid economic transformations and increasing strategic competition” – a reference to the growing presence of China, and of growing India-China and U.S.-China friction. The political stress given by Pyne was significant, that “engagement with India – a key strategic partner for Australia – will be the cornerstone of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019.”

The naval group was led by Australia’s flagship, the helicopter landing carrier HMAS Canberra; supported by the guided missile frigate HMAS Newcastle, the anti-submarine/anti-aircraft frigate HMAS Parramatta, and the resupply tanker HMAS Success. The carrier group’s first port of call was Sri Lanka on 22 March, where the Canberra and Newcastle went to Colombo and the Parramatta and Success went to Tricalomone. This was Australia’s biggest ever naval visit to Sri Lanka, and perhaps represented a tacit welcome to Sri Lanka’s switch from its overtly pro-China stance under former President Raja Rajapaksa.

Australia’s eyes then turned to India, and the AUSINDEX 2019 exercise running from 2–16 April. This was the third such bilateral exercise between Australia and India, the largest ever, and which involved ASW drills for the first time. The IPE group was joined by the submarine HMAS Collins and an Australian P-8A maritime patrol aircraft. After the event, Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Harinder Sidhu considered AUSINDEX 2019 to have been “a landmark moment in our relationship […] building the Australia-India Partnership in the Indo-Pacific.” Meanwhile HMAS Toowoomba was detailed for a six-day visit from 10–15 April to Chennai, the navy base headquarters of India’s Southern Command.

Subsequently, from 16–22 April, HMAS Toowoomba and the submarine HMAS Collins took part in quadrilateral exercises in the Bay of Bengal involving the French Task Force 473 headed by their aircraft carrier the FS Charles de Gaulle, the Japanese Indo-Pacific Deployment 2019 group lead by their helicopter carrier JS Izumo, and also featured the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence.

On 21 April, the Indo-Pacific Endeavour units reached Malaysia; HMAS Canberra and Newcastle visiting Port Klang, while HMAS Success visited Langkawi and then Port Klang. From 27–30 April HMAS Canberra and HMAS Newcastle paid supportive port calls to Phuket in Thailand, demonstrating humanitarian assistance capabilities. A small contingent of U.S. Marines embarked on the Canberra for the rest of the journey.

Australian units were then involved in the South China Sea, but from 13–16 May, HMAS Canberra was moored at Singapore, on show for the biannual International Maritime Defense Expo 2019 organized by the Singaporean Navy. Subsequently, on 18 May HMAS Canberra and Newcastle arrived at Jakarta to carry out further humanitarian work. HMAS Canberra’s return to Darwin, on the north Australian coast on 26 May marked the formal end of the IPE deployment, which Defense Minister Linda Reynolds was quick to emphasize that this was “Australia’s flagship maritime activity” at the Shangri La Dialogue on June 2.

In the South China Sea, the participation of HMAS Success in the replenishment of other vessels involved in the multinational ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) naval training exercise phase held in the Gulf of Thailand in early May was uncontroversial. More controversial was the deployment to Vietnam. From 7–10 May, HMAS Canberra and HMAS Newcastle docked in Cam Ranh, conducting a series of engagement activities and training exercises with Vietnamese counterparts. This was the first appearance of Vietnam on Australia’s IPE itineraries. In the South China Sea, both HMAS Canberra and Parramatta were trailed by Chinese warships, demanding prior notification of Australian transit (which Australia refuses to give as a matter of principle) with observers recording laser flashing from accompanying Chinese fishing vessels disrupting helicopter operations being carried out by HMAS Canberra. It was significant that on 20 May, returning from sanctions patrolling against North Korea in the East China Sea, the guided missile frigate HMAS Melbourne, along with the American guided-missile destroyer USS Preble, conducted a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

Commander Joint Task Force 661 Air Commodore Richard Owen, AM is greeted by Major Thang from the Vietnamese People’s Army on the arrival of HMAS Canberra into Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019. (CPL Kylie Gibson, Australian Department of Defence)

Coming over from the IPE19 task force, HMAS Parramatta was then joined by HMAS Melbourne and the submarine HMAS Farncomb to participate in the newly formed  PACIFIC VANGUARD exercises, the first of its kind, held from 22–28 May off Guam with U.S., Japanese, and South Korean naval units. These involved live fire exercises, anti-air operations, and ASW drills. The Australian Navy fleet commander Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead stated that “Exercise Pacific Vanguard involved four likeminded regional partners working together to support our shared views of a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”

French Deployments

French Indo-Pacific deployments focused mostly around the Task Force 473 carrying out Operation Clemenceau across the Northern Indian Ocean and South China Sea from April to May. In terms of assets, Task Force 473 is France’s leading power projection battle group. The 2019 group core was made up of the Charles De Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the anti-air frigate FS Forbin, and the anti-submarine frigate FS Latouche-Tréville, joined by other French elements (and other nations) at various points. In terms of purpose, on 11 March France stated that “boasting assets related to freedom of navigation, the TF 473 is a politico-military tool, which will deploy in areas of strategic interest, from the Mediterranean to the Indo-Pacific.”

The Task Force was preceded from March–April by the Jeanne d’Arc Mission, comprising France’s second most powerful asset, the helicopter carrier FS Tonnerre, accompanied by the frigate FS La Fayette, which deployed down the African littoral from Djibouti to South Africa. President Macron had also warned about Chinese influence in the region during his own visit to Djibouti in March 2019, as he also had in his visit to New Caledonia in May 2018. Elsewhere, FS Vendémiaire’s transit of the Taiwan Strait on 6 April, on its way from New Caledonia to take part with the U.S. and Japanese navies in sanctions enforcement in the East China Sea against North Korea, attracted immediate Chinese ire, and the disinvitation of the Vendémiaire from attending China’s International Navy Review held at Qingdao on 23 April.

Escorted by the Australian frigate HMAS Ballarat, the French task force moved across the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea, where it was joined by the multi-mission frigate FS Provence. There, on 25 April drills were carried out off the coast of Oman with the Canadian frigate HMCS Regina and tanker HMCS Asterix.

From 1–10 May, the Task Force was joined by the nuclear attack submarine FS Amethyste, to carry out VARUNA exercises with India in the Arabian Sea, off Goa and Karwar, which included live fire, anti-air, and ASW drills. This represented the largest ever France-India exercise, with each side fielding aircraft carrier battle groups. FS Amethyste then re-deployed westward to carry out submarine operations with India off the Djibouti coast, by the Bab el-Mandeb choke point between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Meanwhile the French carrier group had gone further eastward to the Bay of Bengal. First, the group escorts FS Forbin, FS Marne, FS Latouche-Treville, and FS Provence carried out ASW drills with the American submarine USS Hawaii on 14 May. Then from 16–22 May, substantive quadrilateral LA PEROUSE exercises, including live fire drills, were conducted by the whole Task Force Group with units from Australia, Japan, and the United States. Context for such operations were provided on 29 by the Ministry of Defense’s release of its paper France’s Defense Strategy in the Indo-Pacific, which argued that with such deployments “France seeks to cement its posture as a regional power of the Indo-Pacific.”

FS Forbin was dispatched to Vietnam from 28 May to 3 June, which included air defense exercises with the Vietnamese Navy. Simultaneously, the main group was dispatched from 28 May to 3 June to Singapore. On 3 June anti-submarine and anti-air exercises were carried out with the Singaporean Navy and Air Force. Further joint drills were carried out between Task Force 473 (without the Forbin) and the American amphibious assault ship USS Boxer in the Andaman Sea from 7–9 June, as the Task Group was returning back from Singapore via Goa and then Djibouti.

This Singapore sojourn overlapped with the Shangri-La Dialogue where France’s Defense Minister Florence Parly emphasized the role of the Task Force Group as a “mighty instrument of power projection” whose exercises with India, Australia, Japan, and the U.S. had exemplified the “emergence of an Indo-Pacific axis.” On board the Charles de Gaulle, Parly told the crew “you affirm our status as a maritime power” and “your presence in Singapore contributes to our influence in this key region.”

Japanese Deployments

Japan’s centerpiece deployment was its Indo-Pacific Deployment 2019 (IPD19) from 30 April to 10 July. The Japanese Navy (the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force or JMSDF) stated its mission as being to “conduct joint exercises in the Indo-Pacific region with the navies and other armed forces of other countries to improve its tactical capabilities and strengthen its coordination with foreign forces.” This was the third iteration, following the previous helicopter carrier-led Indo-South East Asia Deployment (ISEAD) in 2017 and 2018. The 2019 IPD19 deployment centered on the helicopter carrier JS Izumo, accompanied by the destroyer JS Murasame. Both the Izumo and Kaga helicopter carriers are set for conversion to fixed wing F-35B aircraft operations, a conversion driven in part by China’s own aircraft carrier program.

The IPD19 had been immediately preceded on 24 April with two Japanese P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft carrying out ASW drills with two Indian Navy P-8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) ASW aircraft and an Indian submarine in the Arabian Sea. Southward, the destroyer JS Samidare carried out exercises in the Maldives on 24 April.

With regard to the IPD19 force, the Izumo and Murasame had originally planned joining the first phase of the ADMM-Plus exercises being hosted by South Korea on 1-2 May, as did India. However, the downturn in relations with South Korea led to Japan deciding to not join in the ADMM-Plus exercise. Instead from 1-7 May, the Japanese carrier group conducted drills for a week in the South China Sea with the U.S. (USS William P Lawrence), Indian (the destroyer INS Kolkata and the tanker INS Shakti) and Philippine (BRP Andres Bonifacio) navies. From 9–12 May the Japanese group was involved in Phase 2 of the ADMM-Plus exercises in the Gulf of Thailand, arriving in Singapore on the 13 May. Simultaneously, JS Samidare arrived in Manila for a three-day goodwill visit from 17–20 May.

SOUTH CHINA SEA (May 9, 2019) Ships from ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus navies sail in formation during ADMM-Plus Maritime Security Field Training Exercise 2019. (Photo courtesy of Singapore Ministry of Defence)

Transiting Singapore, on 18 May the IPD group carried out exercises with the American guided missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence in the Strait of Malacca. The Japanese group then joined up with the French Task Force 473, to carry out quadrilateral exercises from 19–22 May which also involved Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 flotilla (the frigate HMAS Toowoomba and the submarine HMAS Collins) and America’s USS William P. Lawrence. Rear Admiral Hiroshi Egawa commented that “working with high-end navies, this exercise will contribute to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region”; while Japan’s Ministry of Defense argued that the navy “continues to strengthen further cooperation with U.S., France and Australia based on the Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision.” In the wake of the quadrilateral format, from 23–24 May the Japanese group carried out further bilateral operations with India’s stealth frigate INS Sahyadri, including tactical maneuvers and ASW exercises. This was followed by friendly port calls to Malaysia from 26–29 May.

Further out in the Western Pacific, the Japanese Navy dispatched JS Ariake and JS Asahi to participate in the PACIFIC VANGUARD exercises held off Guam from 22–28 May with U.S., Australian and South Korean units. Japanese participation with South Korean units was a useful umbrella to get over their ongoing bilateral coolness.

Pointed action was manifest from 10–12 June as the Izumo and Murasame were joined by another Japanese destroyer, JS Akebono, in drills in the South China Sea with the U.S. aircraft carrier the USS Ronald Reagan. Then the Izumo and Akebono conducted OPERATION KADEX interoperatibility drills from 13–15 June with Canada’s HMCS Regina and MV Asterix. It can be noted that these Canadian units had earlier exercised with the French Task force 473 in the Arabian Sea. Subsequently from 15–17 June, the Izumo and Murasame were moored at Cam Ranh Bay, a visit concluded by bilateral exercising with the Vietnamese Navy on 17 June. This extended South China Sea itinerary was concluded with the arrival of the IzumoMurasame, and Akebono on 23 June at Muara port in Brunei, and on 30 June at Subic Bay in the Philippines, complete with further bilateral drills. The State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kentaro Sonoura was clear that these South China Sea drills were there to foster “stable and secure trade and passage in the Indo-Pacific region which are precisely the core principles of Japan’s vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Overall Significance

The strategic geometry represented in these varied naval deployments was flexible, reflecting the varied bilateral networking and interrelated multilateralism that has come to predominate in the Indo-Pacific as countries respond to the growing presence and challenge of China across the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. New quadrilateral formats emerged across the Indo-Pacific from the various deployments in the shape of the France-Australia-Japan-U.S. drills in the Bay of Bengal, the Japan-India-U.S.-Philippine drills in the South China Sea, and the Australia-Japan-U.S.-South Korea drills in the Western Pacific. The U.S. “hubs and spoke” containment system has been replaced by a more diffuse crisscrossing “network” of arrangements that tacitly have China in mind.

David Scott is an Indo-Pacific analyst for the NATO Defense College Foundation, and regular lecturer at the NATO Defense College. A prolific writer on maritime geopolitics, he can be contacted at davidscott366@outlook.com.

Featured Image: A Task Group consisting of four ships and a submarine from the Royal Australian Navy, enhanced by a Royal Australian Air Force maritime patrol aircraft, are visiting India for AUSINDEX 2019, the major, bilateral Navy-to-Navy exchange between Australia and India. (Photo by: LSIS Steven Thomson, Australian Ministry of Defence)

The Role of Public Affairs in U.S. Seapower, Pt. 1

By LCDR Arlo Abrahamson, USN


The technological innovations of the twenty-first century are transforming mass communications on a global scale. Organizations are competing in a hyper-competitive and increasingly diverse information environment that demands continuous communication engagement to affirm truth and facts while deterring adversary misinformation.1 This global transformation in mass communication practices is also changing how the world’s militaries are devising their strategic messaging and these changes will have a significant impact on the U.S. Navy’s mission. Public affairs is a command function with responsibilities for commanders at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels that require astute vision, collaboration, and synchronization of messaging and information dissemination.2 The underlying question remains, “How can the Navy’s public affairs program successfully support the U.S. maritime strategy for twenty-first century seapower?”

To achieve success, the Navy must enable public affairs to function as a tool of credibility versus persuasion and spin, it must embody the principles of transparency, and it must better synchronize public affairs with other elements of U.S. information power such as information operations and public diplomacy. The modalities of maritime strategy and the information environment must be examined to provide sufficient context for a discussion about the aforementioned challenges of the Navy’s public affairs program. 

External Influences of Maritime Strategy

The Navy’s Cooperative Strategy for Twenty-First Century Seapower and the Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority affirm the core tenets of projecting forward naval presence and enhancing maritime partnerships.3 Due to the external nature of these operations combined with a frequent focus in support of U.S. diplomacy, a successful maritime strategy will require sustained and comprehensive communication strategies that are supported at all levels of command. Edward Luttwak notes the unique capability of seapower as a tool for strategic communication given how naval presence and security partnerships convey important political messaging.4 In his critique of the U.S. maritime strategy, Geoffrey Till notes that the “variation and complexity” of such an initiative centered on generating support domestically and internationally to sustain forward presence and security partnerships will require the Navy to “devote significant effort to their strategic communication plan.”5 Admiral John Kirby, the former Pentagon press secretary and spokesperson for the Department of State, argues “the Navy is historically one of the least understood branches, and yet one of the most capital-intensive.”6 As a result, Kirby posits that “any strategy which defines the way the Navy will fight and win” will fail if not supported by domestic stakeholders along with allies and partners, considering how long the U.S. maritime strategy actually takes to render results. 

This challenge compounds the importance of commanders understanding the functionality of public affairs within the context of the information environment, to promote transparency, and ensure messaging is synchronized with other elements of information power in support of the maritime strategy.

The Changing Information Environment

The Joint Publication 3-13 Information Operations describes the information environment as “the aggregate of individuals, organizations, and systems that collect, process, disseminate, or act on information.”8 Kirby further characterizes the public domain of the information environment as an evolving space where allies, partners, and adversaries are contending for narratives in real-time on new media platforms such as Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and a growing portfolio of interconnected online venues.9 With the diffusion of actors and contributors to the modern information environment, and the speed at which information travels, this compounds the notion that tactical actions can have strategic consequences.10 Consequently, operational and tactical commanders must be aware that their units increasingly operate in an atmosphere that is exposed to the public domain via technological innovations of the information environment, and every ship, unit, and headquarters is critical to communication success through their credible and transparent actions.

Optimizing Public Affairs to Support U.S. Maritime Strategy 

The function and utilization of military public affairs within the complex information environment is often misunderstood by commanders and organizations alike, which undercuts the enduring value of the discipline to support initiatives such as the maritime strategy. There are well-intentioned commanders who favor more of a shaping or salesmanship function of public affairs operations, a role more attuned to the hybrid public relations-information operations construct of U.S. adversaries.11 Moreover, Kirby argues that commanders often view the information environment as “one they can own and shape at will, one of kinetics,” – which underestimates the complexities and dynamics of an environment that requires comprehensive and persistent communication strategies.12 Kirby further posits that while “rapid reaction and cyber agility” are necessary to counter adversary information, these qualities alone are insufficient:

“Our approach must be bolstered by an unfailing commitment to truthful context and imagery, aggressive transparency and a willingness to overwhelm fake news and media manipulation over time.”13

While Kirby does not discount the need to shape the information environment, he notes that commanders should utilize their public affairs capability as a long-term strategic communication initiative that achieves desired effects with sustained engagement.14 Jeff Davis, a career Navy public affairs officer and former Pentagon spokesperson, argues that the information power of the Department of Defense is harnessed by providing persistent strategic messaging that is “credible, sober, and factual” and grounded in matching deeds with words.15 When this action-communication sequence does not align, it can affect the Navy’s organizational credibility and degrade public trust in the Navy’s forward presence mission. For example, in 2017 the U.S. Third Fleet promulgated a news release announcing the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group departed Singapore and would “sail North” leading media outlets to assume the aircraft carrier was expeditiously headed to waters in Northeast Asia as a show of force to North Korean provocations occurring at the time.16 The news release declined to note the strike group would make an intermediate routing for an exercise near Indonesia and Australia, inadvertently provoking allegations of U.S. misinformation among international media stakeholders and umbrage from key U.S. allies in South Korea and Japan who perceived a deeds-words mismatch in their commitment to their respective alliances.17 

Beyond being credible and accurate, public communication must also be persistent to effectively support the maritime strategy. Collin Koh, a maritime security researcher at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, notes the information environment demands continuous public communications of U.S. naval presence to demonstrate resolve to allies and partners and deter adversaries from filling in information voids.18 Koh and Dzirhan Mahadzir, a naval analyst, characterize this persistent communication engagement as “normalizing the narrative.”19    

Accordingly, Koh and Mahadzir contend that persistent narratives of operations can help deescalate the news cycle over time and thus lower the perception of provocative actions resulting from freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea if the action-communication is routine and clear in its message.20 It can also be a detriment to commanders when communication is not executed consistently. Lynn Kuok, a security analyst and Yale international fellow, believes the U.S. should routinely release clear details about operations in the South China Sea, i.e. where the operation took place, what the operation did, and what right(s) the U.S. was asserting—simultaneous to or very soon after the conduct of such operations.21 The impact, security analysts note, is to ensure that U.S. forward naval presence can generate favorable strategic outcomes that strengthen the U.S. maritime strategy by publicly affirming navigation rights under international law while deterring China’s public overtures aimed at transforming norms and asserting new customary laws through its shaping of regional and international public opinion.22

Transparency as a Secret Weapon

An emerging concern for external stakeholders of DoD and the Navy is a perceived tilt toward less transparency and openness.23 These concerns are generating contention among journalists, citizens, and analysts of the Navy’s maritime strategy alike with veteran observers such as Thomas Ricks, a former defense reporter for The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, arguing its negative effects on U.S. national security.24 Ricks points out that commanders tend to operate in a low risk posture as they perceive transparency and openness offer few tangible incentives, particularly at the operational and tactical levels where public affairs release authority is often narrower.25 This growing perception among commanders of a zero-defect environment with public communications limits the potential of U.S. information power.26 Moreover, Davis notes that transparency in public communication provides the U.S. military with an asymmetrical advantage in credibility: 

“A transparent, accountable military is our secret weapon. It is what has given us such high levels of trust, both at home and internationally. But that trust is now at risk.”27

Minimizing transparency and engagement with the media, veteran naval reporter Chris Cavas argues, degrades the maritime strategy by limiting the Navy’s ability to use information to “deter adversaries and portray expertise, readiness, and commitment.”28 The Navy recently issued a series of guidance cautioning commanders to limit discussions on capabilities to protect operational security.29 While the guidance does not prohibit commanders from engaging with the media, Cavas contends these overtures are creating a “chilling effect” on the frequency of press engagements and embarkations domestically and overseas among critical allies and partner-nation constituencies.30 As a result, there is a growing cohort of public stakeholders, many who directly impact the sustainability of the maritime strategy, who believe the pendulum of security versus openness in the Navy has swung too far toward secrecy. Representative Mike Gallagher, a member of the House Seapower and Projection of Forces Subcommittee, notes the risk of tepid public communication in the context of sustaining longer term, capital driven initiatives such as the U.S. maritime strategy:

“Despite the old adage that ‘loose lips sink ships,’ non-existent strategic communications can sink entire navies. If the bias is towards silence to prevent adversaries from finding out about unique capabilities or potential weaknesses, guess what, there will never be a public constituency for acquiring or mitigating them. And, oh by the way, our adversaries probably have a decent idea of what we’re up to anyways.”31

These critiques present a difficult, yet necessary balancing consideration for the Navy’s leadership that will require increased attention and risk-benefit analysis. However, Admiral James Stavridis (ret.) posits that commanders still have many opportunities to foster transparency with the media and public within the Navy’s current guidance.32 Limiting press engagement, Stavridis argues, strips commanders of an important tool to enhance their mission and ensure that tactical and operational successes lead to strategic value.33

In Part 2, we will explore how to synchronize information power to enable maritime strategy, along with several counter-arguments and perspectives.

Lt Commander Arlo Abrahamson is a recent graduate of the Naval War College and a career Navy public affairs officer. He has served globally supporting strategic communication, security cooperation, and public diplomacy initiatives for the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State. These views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U. S. Government or the Department of Defense.


1 John Kirby,  “The Information Environment Today,” lecture filmed May 2016 at the Naval War College, Newport R.I., video, 30:58, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYyoRo5_Alw

2 Secretary of the Navy, Department of the Navy Public Affairs Policy and Regulations, SECNAV Instruction 5720.44C, 1-1 through 1-12, February 12, 2012, https://www.navy.mil/ah_online/opsec/docs/policy/secnavinst-5720_44c_pao.pdf.

3  U.S. Navy, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, 2015,1-2,  https://www.navy.mil/local/maritime/150227-CS21R-Final.pdf

4 Edward Luttwak, “Political Uses of Seapower,” Studies in International Affairs, (The Johns Hopkins University Press), (1974), 1-3.

5 Geoffrey Till, “The New Maritime Strategy: Another View from the Outside,” The Naval War College Review, vol. 68, no. 4, (April 2015): 10.


6 John Kirby, Rear Admiral (ret), email correspondence with the author, April 16, 2019.

7 John Kirby, Rear Admiral (ret), email correspondence with the author, April 16, 2019.

8 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-13, Information Operations, (Washington DC: GPO, November 2012), 27.

9 John Kirby, “The Information Environment Today,” lecture filmed May 2016 at the Naval War College, Newport R.I., video, 30:58, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYyoRo5_Alw.

10 Ibid.

11 Michael Parkinson Shannon Bowen, Kenneth Plowman, Robert Pritchard, John Schmeltzer, Mark Swiatek, “Military PAOs and the Media: Conflicting Systems of Ethics,” Institute for Public Relations Research Paper, (March 10, 2012): 3-4, https://instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/Military-PAOs-The-Media.pdf.

12 John Kirby, Rear Admiral (ret), email correspondence with author, April 15, 2019.

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.

15 Jeff Davis, Captain (ret), email correspondence with author, April 10, 2019.

16 Ryan Pickrell, “The Aircraft Carrier Carl Vinson to Korea Saga, What Happened,” The National Interest, April 20, 2017, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-aircraft-carrier-carl-vinson-korea-saga-what-happened-20278.

17 Ibid.

18 Collin Koh, Rajaratnam School of International Studies, email correspondence with author, April 15, 2019.

19 Collin Koh, Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Dzirhan Mahadzir, Maritime Institute of Malaysia and U.S. Naval Institute contributor, email correspondence to author, April 15, 2019 and April 2, 2019.

20 Ibid.

21 Lynn Kouk, Yale International Fellow and Security Analyst, email correspondence with author, May 2, 2019.

22 Ibid.

23 Adam Smith, “The Pentagon is getting more Secretive, and its hurting Nation Security,” Defense One, Oct 28, 2018, https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2018/10/pentagons-getting-more-secretive-and-its-hurting-national-security/152345/.

24 Thomas Ricks, email correspondence with author, April 12, 2019. 

25 Ibid.

26 James Stavridis, “It’s been over 300 days since a Pentagon Press Briefing: That should concern all Americans including the Military,” Time Magazine, April 16, 2019, http://time.com/5571643/pentagon-press-briefings/.

27 Jeff Davis, Captain (ret), email correspondence with author, April 10, 2019.

28 Chris Cavas, “Does the U.S. Navy have a Strategy Beyond Hope,” Defense News, January 4, 2018, https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/surface-navy-association/2018/01/04/does-the-us-navy-have-a-strategy-beyond-hope/.

29 Justin Doubleday, “CNO Directs Navy to Curb Warfighting Discussion on Capabilities,” Inside Defense, March 2, 2017, https://insidedefense.com/share/185155.

30 Chris Cavas, “Does the U.S. Navy have a Strategy Beyond Hope,” Defense News, January 4, 2018, https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/surface-navy-association/2018/01/04/does-the-us-navy-have-a-strategy-beyond-hope/.

31 David Larter, “Lawmakers Chide Navy, DoD, on step back from Transparency,” Defense News, January 10, 2018, https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/surface-navy-association/2018/01/10/lawmakers-chide-us-navy-on-step-back-from-transparency/.

32 James Stavridis, “Admiral Stavridis on the Importance of Engagement with the Press,” U.S. Naval Institute Online, April 30, 2019, https://blog.usni.org/posts/2019/04/30/admiral-stavridis-on-the-importance-of-engagement-with-the-press.

33 Ibid.

Featured Image: VALPARAISO, Chile (Aug. 24, 2014) Capt. Robert A. Hall Jr., commanding officer of the future amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), addresses the media during a press conference on the flight shortly after the ship moored in Valparaiso, Chile, for a scheduled port visit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vladimir Ramos/Released)

In Grateful Memory: Andrew Marshall and His Quest for Questions

By Mie Augier and Wayne Hughes


In the outpouring of appreciation following the passing of Andrew W. Marshall, many people paid tribute to different parts of his work, to include understanding the weaknesses of the Soviet economy, net assessment as a way of thinking, and the emerging power of China. His many friends and admirers wanted to give credit where credit is due.

This brief note complements the many tributes. We aim to capture elements of how he was thinking more than what he was thinking. We emphasize a few key characteristics: How he viewed the world, the nature of his interdisciplinary mind that focused on the importance of questions, and reflections on what future generations of scholars and practitioners can learn from and be inspired by.

Already in his youth, Marshall had an extraordinarily open mind, a lasting appreciation for history, and a Midwestern humbleness and modesty that stayed with him.1 As a child, he read widely at the public library, and bought books when he got a little money. Always respectful of people, he treated everyone alike; ideas and thinking had no rank or titles. Living through the depression and interwar years, he was aware of the broad societal and geopolitical underpinnings and implications of war and peace, and the centrality of human nature. He came close to becoming an academic after studying at the University of Chicago with scholars such as Milton Friedman, Frank Knight, and Rudolf Carnap (and meeting other emerging social scientists such as Herbert Simon and Kenneth Arrow).

But his interests were always broader than what one or two disciplines could encompass. At RAND, he found an institution that could accommodate his broad range of interests and his passion for helping the country think better about matters related to national security, and where he could begin developing an intellectual framework for that. There he found individuals with similar and complementary interests such as Herman Kahn, Herbert Goldhamer, Nathan Leites, and James Schlesinger. He also came to see the importance of organizations both as a lens for understanding the behavior of nations and national security players, and also as facilitators (or sometimes, inhibitors) of better strategic thinking. 

A Quest for Questions

Andy Marshall’s work at RAND provided important insights into key strategic issues – a focus that he would continue and develop later at the Pentagon. For example, he developed the early elements of the long term competition framework, and worked with Graham Allison, James March, and others to develop different lenses (rational, organizational, and bureaucratic) for understanding governmental decision making. He was involved in the early developments of scenario planning and wargaming exercises at RAND that emerged in large part in reaction to other major developments at RAND: systems analysis and game theory. 

What is important is not just what he did and the studies he worked on or who he mentored, but also how his character and style helped him think the way he did. Underlying Marshall’s perspective was an emphasis on questions. Focusing on questions helps one get the right diagnosis of a situation because one is less inclined to reinforce what one already believes, and researching the empirical issues one is naturally led to also cross disciplinary boundaries. As he began to look into academic underpinnings for long term strategy and strategic thinking, he began to challenge existing ways of thinking about strategy and behavior to develop a broader view.

Essential in Marshall’s mind was the centrality of human nature and insights from organizational behavior. Very early on, Marshall and his close friend Herman Kahn would go on long walks on the weekend in the Brentwood area, talking about the importance of human nature to understand conflicts. Many colleagues at RAND didn’t share their enthusiasm for trying to generate empirical insights, preferring instead to apply existing theory – especially systems analysis. Over time, Marshall found research from bio-social anthropology, zoology, psychology, organizational behavior, business strategy, and cultural studies to be useful in developing insights about how culture influences individuals, organizations, and the behavior of groups, which was often quite different from theories of opponents’ strategic cultures. He engaged the work of Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox on understanding ‘men in groups.’

In the 1960s, Marshall began a decades-long friendship with James Schlesinger, who started as Marshall’s research assistant at RAND, fresh out of the economics program at Harvard. The two of them embarked on a mission to develop broader strategic thinking at RAND and insights into how the Soviet Union really worked, as opposed to how it behaved according to game theory and systems analysis. They used elements of different conceptual frameworks including the studies of Herbert Simon, Richard Cyert, James March, and the psycho-cultural works of Nathan Leites. They suggested setting up a program or even a department of organizational behavior at RAND. They were convinced that a broader understanding of the Soviet Union would lead to understanding how poorly our intelligence estimates of the Soviet economy really were. They studied organizations both as a lens to understand our opponents and as something that would help develop better strategic thinkers.

As anyone who has tried to integrate work from different disciplines knows, mixing different perspectives while keeping the diagnostic focus is very difficult. Centripetal forces of academic disciplines meant working within single disciplines would produce failing prescriptions. Thus for Marshall, it could have been easier to ‘give in,’ but he always cared more about getting useful insights, not academic or political approval of his own career or bureaucratic survival. “We are here to inform, not to please,” he’d say.

He did not waver in challenging us, and himself, to think about national security in the broadest sense. No single theory or perspective has it right. Marshall believed if one looks for only one dominant perspective, one runs the risk of producing a trained incapacity for strategy and strategic thinking. He and Schlesinger thought about this in the context of RAND, for instance in advising the then-incoming president, Harry Rowen, how to restructure and better organize RAND. Rowen wrote to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara about his organization’s strengths and weaknesses, and Marshall and Schlesinger wrote several memos on how to get better strategic thinking at RAND along with some of the organizational trends to be aware of.2

Their emphasis on the importance of long term, interdisciplinary thinking is just as important for think tanks and educational institutions today. These issues of how Marshall thought about things are central to his later development of net assessment as an interdisciplinary approach.

Legacies and Lessons  

Pursuing better empirical insights into strategic issues was for Marshall a lifelong calling, in addition to his distinguished career of public service and time at RAND. While we can never replicate his thinking, his legacy gives us many things to consider and build on for the future, whether in the education of future strategists, in our own thinking and doing strategy, and in our service as U.S. citizens. Marshal’s work includes many profound lessons.

Understanding the world as it is, not as how we might wish it to be. Marshall found it important that we approach strategic issues from a variety of perspectives, including national and organizational culture and demography, as important drivers of the future strategic environment.3

Finding value in outlier ideas – and in others’ ideas in general. This may sound straightforward, but it is not easy, because it implies always questioning one’s own beliefs. Seeing beyond one’s own favorite perspectives, ideas, and biases implies always questioning one’s own thinking. Questioning oneself is not most people’s favorite activity. But it is important both as a way to achieve better insights and to foster innovative thinking in others. He thought organizations often tend to edge out people with different ideas. John Boyd is an example of an innovative thinker and outlier who Marshall thought highly of.

Appreciation for understanding and gaming unthinkable futures. Marshall knew from his days at RAND that we need not just understand the likely futures, but also, and perhaps especially, the less likely, less likable, and more unthinkable ones (a theme that Herman Kahn also elaborated; Kahn’s essay, “In Defense of Thinking,” speaks to that).4 Marshall exploited wargames and case studies as ways to explore alternatives and what they might mean. From the early gaming exercises, his focus was on being as realistic as possible by including people with a variety of backgrounds and expertise; and by focusing on processes, not goals. Games facilitate cross-disciplinary discussions and collaborations to help players with diverse backgrounds understand contingencies they would not otherwise have thought of. Games were ways to instill better, broader strategic thinking by forcing participants to think through and formulate strategies.

Marshall believed the discomfort that comes with uncertainty goes hand-in-hand with exploring the boundaries of what one knows. Gaming was one way he taught decision-makers to be more comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. He believed in case studies and wargaming as participatory forms of learning and manifestations of an interdisciplinary approach. He knew that case learning can include counterfactuals, or ‘what ifs,’ and a way to learn from failures and avoid blind alleys.5   

Marshall appreciated the roles organizations play in national security, and also for fostering or hindering sound thinking about national security questions. Much insight could be gained from a better understanding of how peer competitors’ organizations work, how their routines and operational codes evolve, and how their organizational structures, cultures, and practices are interrelated. What strengths and weaknesses influence their strategic decision-making? A better appreciation for the importance of how we organize to nurture strategic thinking in military educational institutions is important today, especially in the light of the recent Education for Seapower report’s emphasis on developing better strategic and critical thinkers. Marshall was the exemplar of a great strategic thinker who thought critically, long term, and organizationally.


The passing of Andrew Marshall may mark the end of an era in the history of Cold War strategists because his role in shaping U.S. strategy lasted many decades and was unparalleled. So, too, was his modesty, his humbleness, his caring about others, and his always questioning mind. He combined devotion to thinking and to the country and the need to understand with a gentle and patient spirit. He exemplified the best that any era can hope to achieve when it comes to the difficult but vital vision of how to think more strategically to help his country.

Perhaps the most important lesson is how Marshall sought value from areas outside his own domain and expertise. Rooted in his genuine humbleness and curiosity, he did not follow the natural human instinct to ‘do what we know how to do best,’ and instead chose to pursue knowledge in areas he didn’t know well, and keep pursuing questions. When Marshall died, the country lost his strategic, human, intellectual, and moral compass. His quest for questions now rests upon us.

Dr. Mie Augier is a professor at the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate School. She is interested in strategy, organizations, innovation, leadership, and how to educate strategic and innovative thinkers.

Captain Wayne Hughes, USN (Ret.) served thirty years on active duty, commanding a minesweeper, a destroyer, and a large training command. In retirement has taught, done research, and served as a Dean at the Naval Postgraduate School for over thirty years. He is a distinguished author of the U.S. Naval Institute.


1. He almost never talked about his own work or approaches. His modesty was even embedded in his language (most of the time he said “we” or “one”, not me or I …). Not imposing his own views or perspectives or theories is a significant part of his approach to strategy and emphasis on diagnosis, rather than prescription, as it helps get a better understanding of the situation and what forces might shape the future. The combination of his humbleness, interest in diagnosis and a broad and questioning mind set him apart from almost everyone else, especially in academia.

2. They also suggested, in collaboration with Richard Nelson and Sidney Winter, that the aforementioned organizational behavior department be instituted. While this and most of their suggestions didn’t materialize, they became grounds for Marshall and Schlesinger’s work on net assessment over the next decades.

3. Nathan Leites’ work on the operational code of the Soviet Union is a very relevant way of appreciating others; something that one could fruitfully develop with regards to China, too, especially in light of the national security strategy emphasis on peer competitors. How they organize; how they perceive; how they think, is all very central to our competitive advantage and how we might fare in war.

4. See for instance his piece “In Defense of Thinking” https://www.hudson.org/research/2211-in-defense-of-thinking

5. Teaching cases of historical failures also can help us be more comfortable by talking and learning from them.

Featured Image: Andy Marshall attends his retirement farewell ceremony at the Pentagon on Jan. 5, 2015. (Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz/U.S. Air Force)