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Sea Control 392 – Russia’s Arctic Strategy in a Changing Region with Katarzyna Zysk

By Zsófia Wolford

The Arctic is warming at least four times faster than the rest of the globe, opening up new trade routes and making natural resources more accessible to Arctic states. Changes driven by climate change, and regional competition and militarization have increased over the past decade, with Russia being a dominant player in the Arctic.

Katarzyna Zysk, Professor of International Relations at the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies (IFS), joins Sea Control to discuss current security trends in the Arctic. The discussion focuses on Russia’s Arctic strategy, the impact of the war in Ukraine on Russia’s abilities to strengthen its presence and influence in the region, and the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO and its effects on the security environment in the High North.

Download Sea Control 392 – Russia’s Arctic Strategy in a Changing Region with Katarzyna Zysk


1.  “Russia in the Arctic: Gauging How Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Will Alter Regional Dynamics,”by Andrea Kendall-Taylor et al.,  Center for New American Security, September 15, 2022.
Russia Assumes Arctic Council Chairmanship amid Regional Tensions,” by Mary Chesnut and Anya Fink, Center for Naval Analyses, May 26, 2021.
3. “The Arctic Ice between Russia and The US Is Melting. What’s at Stake at The Top of The World?”, by Sherryn Groch, The Age, October 21, 2022.

Zsofia Wolford is a Co-Host and Producer of the Sea Control podcast. Contact the podcast team at

The Politics of Naval Innovation: Cruise Missiles and the Tomahawk

The following republication is adapted from a chapter from The Politics of Naval Innovation, a paper sponsored by the Office of Net Assessment and conducted by the Strategic Research Department of the U.S. Naval War College’s Center for Naval Warfare Studies. Read it in its original form here.

By CDR Gregory A. Engel

This chapter explores the origins of the modern cruise missile and the ultimate development of the Tomahawk cruise missile, particularly the conventional variant. In keeping with the theme of the study, it focuses on the politics of cruise missile development and the implications as they relate to a Revolution in Military Affairs. The full history of cruise missiles can be traced to the development of the V-1 “buzz bomb” used in the Second World War. Since this history is available in many publications, it will not be discussed here nor is it especially pertinent to modern cruise missile development. Worth noting, however, is that the enthusiasm of many early Harpoon and Tomahawk advocates can be linked to the Regulus and other unmanned aircraft programs of the 1950s and 1960s.

What this chapter will show is that although air- and sea-launched cruise missiles (ALCM/SLCM) began along different paths neither would have come to full production and operation had it not been for intervention from the highest civilian levels. Having support from the top, however, did not mean there were not currents, crosscurrents, and eddies below the surface (i.e., at the senior and middle military levels) stirring up the political waters. Studying the challenges faced by cruise missile advocates and how they were overcome can provide valuable lessons for those tasked with developing tomorrow’s technological innovations.

The development of the modern cruise missile spanned nearly fifteen years from conception to initial operational capability (IOC). To those introduced to the cruise missile on CNN during the Gulf crisis in 1991, however, the modern cruise missile seemed more like an overnight leap from science fiction to reality. But as this chapter will show, both cruise missile technology and doctrinal adaptations were slow to be accepted.

The political and bureaucratic roads to acceptance of the sea-launched cruise missile were never smooth. As Ronald Huisken noted, “The weapons acquisition process is a most complex amalgam of political, military, technological, economic, and bureaucratic considerations …. Rational behavior in this field is particularly hard to define and even harder to enforce.”1 Since they first became feasible, the Navy demonstrated an interest in cruise missiles. But finding a champion for them among the Navy’s three primary warfighting “unions” (associated with carrier aviation, submarines and surface warfare) proved difficult. Despite the cancellation of the Regulus program in the 1960s, some surface warfighters aspired to develop an antiship cruise missile which could compete with evolving Soviet technologies. But carrier aviation was the centerpiece of naval war at sea, so initially little support could be garnered for a new variety of surface-to-surface missile. As the requirement for an antiship missile became more evident following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) were given some surface-to-surface capability.2

However, following the 1967 sinking of the Israeli destroyer Eilat by an Egyptian SSN-2 Styx missile, Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt, Jr., then a Rear Admiral and head of the Systems Analysis Division, was directed by Paul Nitze, the Secretary of the Navy, via Admiral Thomas Moorer, the Chief of Naval Operations, to initiate a study on cruise missiles that eventually led to the Harpoon.

When Nitze directed the Navy to undertake the study on surface-to-surface missiles, there were two prevailing military requirements. The first was that the US needed such a capability to counter the growing strategic potential of the Soviets. The second was to improve the US’s strategic balance. During this period, there was growing alarm over the rapidly expanding Soviet nuclear missile arsenal and the naval shipbuilding race which (to some) the Soviets appeared to be winning. Admiral Zumwalt was one of those concerned individuals and saw the cruise missile as a required capability. He brought this conviction with him when he became the Chief of Naval Operations in July 1970.3

Naval doctrine at this time held that US surface vessels did not need long-range surface-to-surface capabilities as long as carrier aviation could provide them.4 Many in Congress shared this view. Against this backdrop, Zumwalt and other likeminded advocates of cruise missiles began their efforts to gain acceptance of cruise missiles within the Navy and on the Hill.

Following over two years of study and tests, a November 1970 meeting of the Defense Select Acquisition Review Council (DSARC) approved the development of the AGM-84 Harpoon missile. By this time, the Harpoon had both sea- and air-launched variants. Within the Navy, the Harpoon had been bureaucratically opposed by the carrier community because it posed a threat to naval aviation missions. During the Vietnam War period, the carrier union was a major benefactor of naval defense funding and it did not want to support any weapons system which could hinder or compete with aircraft or carrier acquisition programs. In order to gain their support, the Harpoon was technologically limited in range.5

The Harpoon project had been under the direction of Navy Captain Claude P. “Bud” Ekas with Commander Walter Locke serving as his guidance project officer. Both officers were later promoted to Rear Admiral. In 1971, the Navy began studying a third Harpoon variant, one which could be launched from submarine torpedo tubes. Concurrently, the Navy began a program to study the Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM). This advanced model was to have an extended range of over 300 miles and to be launched from vertical launch tubes.6 This proposal was generally supported by the submarine community (the criticality of this support will be discussed later).

With the advent of the ACM, it was decided to create the advanced cruise missile project office with Locke as director. The Naval Ordnance Systems Command (NAVORD) wanted control of the ACM project and argued that it was the appropriate parent organization for submarine-launched missiles. Admiral Hyman Rickover and other OPNAV submarine admirals opposed this believing that Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) was more imaginative and efficient than NAVORD. The earlier assignment of the ship- and air-launched Harpoon to NAVAIR had effectively co-opted the technical leadership of naval aviation. As a result, the ACM program remained under NAVAIR where work proceeded rapidly….7

….The ACM program of 1971, which barely lasted two years, was significant in that it formed the political, fiscal, and technological connection between the Harpoon and the Tomahawk. Long-range cruise missile advocates within the Navy were having difficulty promoting the larger submarine-launched cruise missile because of the ACM’s need for a new submarine. In 1973, they admitted they had no urgent military requirement for a long-range tactical (anti-ship) variant of the SLCM, but they justified it as a bargain with small added cost to strategic cruise missile development. SLCM represented a technological advancement of untold potential that begged for a home. Congressional and OSD acceptance of the ACM paid the bulk of the development costs of a tactical (anti-ship) variant of the SLCM.19 This all fit fortuitously into the timeframe when SALT I negotiators were searching for strategic options.

By mid-1972, there was little support for the tactical nuclear variant of the ACM and the critics within the Navy were powerful. Thus Ekas and Locke worked to link the ACM development team with OSD strategic advocates. Funding and advocacy remained available within OSD for strategic versions of the SLCM. “It was thus only sensible to arrange a marriage of convenience. With Zumwalt’s manipulation, Laird’s intervention thus set the Navy on a nearly irreversible course. By 6 November 1972 – the date of the consolidation order – surface fleet proponents of a new surface-to-surface missile had effectively won their battle, even if they did not realize it at the time.”20 In December 1972, a new program office, PMA-263, was established and Captain Locke was transferred from the Harpoon Program Office to become the Program Manager.21

Admiral Locke has noted that others in the Navy Department did not believe in the cruise missile. He received a telephone call in June 1972 from an OPNAV staff Captain directing him to “do the right thing” with the recently allocated project funding, i.e., get the money “assigned to things doing work that we can use afterward.” The implication was that the Pentagon had decided it was going to be a one-year program and then was going away. Cruise missiles were seen as a SALT I bargaining chip that made Congressional hawks feel good.22 Not even all submariners were infatuated with the idea; but two submariners who did support it were Admiral Robert Long and Vice Admiral Joe Williams. Admiral Long, who was OP-02 (Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Undersea Warfare), believed cruise missiles would do more than take up space for torpedoes – the most common complaint heard from submariners – and was its most influential advocate.23 He was supported by Vice Admiral Williams, who was noted by Locke as also being important to the cruise missile program in the early 1970s….24

….Initial technical studies indicated that desired cruise missile ranges could not be obtained from a weapon designed to fit in a 21-inch torpedo tube; thus, the missile necessitated development of a new submarine fitted with 40-inch vertical launch tubes. Zumwalt, who understood this relationship, directed his Systems Analyses staff, OP-96, to argue against the submarine and criticize the cruise missile.27 A curious position to be in as cruise missile advocates.28 ADM Zumwalt was not prepared to concede the 60,000 SHP submarine to ADM Rickover for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it would decrement funding for other Project 60 items. Submariners believed that getting approval for installing the newly envisioned encapsulated Harpoon would eventually lead to a newer, increased capability torpedo. Without ADM Zumwalt’s knowledge, Joe Williams and Bud Ekas received approval from the Vice CNO, Admiral Cousins, to discretely prototype and test the encapsulated Harpoon. When advised of the results, ADM Zumwalt was chagrined that there was a possible submarine conspiracy underfoot but was eventually persuaded that the funding for further testing would be minimal (mainly for the canisters, tail sections, and the test missiles). There was also the possibility of SSNs carrying later versions of the Harpoon with greatly extended ranges which would allow strikes on the Soviet Navy when weather might preclude carrier aviation strikes in the northern latitudes.29

Although ADM Zumwalt had relented, he remained wary of the submarine community’s desire for a new, larger submarine. As program manager for SLCM, Admiral Locke found himself allied with the submariners in order to garner funding support for his missile. Zumwalt threatened to end procurement of the 688-class SSN if Rickover continued to pursue the 60,000 SHP submarine.30 When wind tunnel tests, which had been directed by Locke, indicated that the required range could be obtained from a cruise missile which could fit in the 21-inch torpedo tube, Rickover and other submariners agreed to halt their quest for a larger attack submarine in exchange for continued procurement of the 688-class and continued development of the cruise missile soon to be known as the Tomahawk.31 Thus, the ACM project was quietly dropped in 1972, but the research on anti-ship cruise missiles continued as part of the SLCM program at Zumwalt’s personal insistence.32 Following a January 1972 memo from the Secretary of Defense to the DDR&E which started a Strategic Cruise Missile program using FY 72 supplemental funds that were never appropriated, the CNO ordered that priority be given to the encapsulated Harpoon.33

A fifth option eventually evolved and, as a result to Locke’s persistent effort with the OSD and OPNAV staffs, was accepted. That option was to proceed with the development of a cruise missile with both strategic and tactical nuclear applications that would be compatible with all existing potential launch platforms. What this fifth option really did was detach the missile’s technical challenges from a specific launch platform so that missile development could progress independently of the submarine issue.34

In 1973, Defense Secretary Laird was replaced by Eliot Richardson. Although Richardson stated he supported Laird’s views on SLCM, his endorsement was neither as enthusiastic nor emphatic. He merely indicated that the United States should give some attention to this particular area of technology, for both strategic and tactical nuclear roles. Support from OSD did not wane, however, and was kicked into high gear by William P. Clements, the Deputy Secretary of Defense. President Nixon had handpicked Clements to assemble a team of acquisition experts from civilian industries to fill the OSD Under Secretaries positions.35 Clements coordinated his efforts with Dr. Foster, who was still Director Defense Engineering and Research. All major defense projects were evaluated and those with the most promise were maintained or strengthened; those lacking promise were decreased or cancelled. He was also looking for programs that would give the US leverage, and when he learned about cruise missiles, he became a super advocate.36 The cruise missile represented the cutting edge of new technology and held promise of a high payoff for low relative cost. It’s fair to say that the US “wouldn’t have had a cruise missile without Bill Clements grasping, conceptually, the idea and pushing the hell out it.'”37

… Despite these technological breakthroughs, by 1974, missions for the cruise missile were still vague. Congress wanted to know why the Navy would be putting a 1,400 NM missile on submarines when, for years, they had been working to increase the distance from which they could launch attacks against the Soviet Union. They also wanted to know whether it was to be a strategic or tactical nuclear missile. The Air Force was still wary of a strategic SLCM because they didn’t want further Navy encroachment on their strategic missions.45 Congress had additional misgivings about what effect the cruise missile would have on strategic stability since the strategic and tactical variants were virtually indistinguishable. No one denied that the cruise missile exhibited great promise, but it lacked a specified mission…

… This indistinct mission for the SLCM proved politically useful within the Navy (even though some in Congress believed it was strategic nonsense). Conceptual flexibility offered naval innovators the means of overcoming significant obstacles in their quest for a long-range surface-to-surface missile. It also offered Defense Department officials the opportunity to urge the Air Force to work on the ALCM. And because it was ambiguous, the new SLCM mission did not raise undue suspicion in the carrier community. As long as a strategic cruise missile appeared to be the goal, the tactical anti-ship version could be treated as a fortuitous spinoff. So, although the Navy drafted a requirement for an anti-ship version of the cruise missile in November 1974, it purposely paced its progress behind the strategic version.48

This strategic rationale may have pacified Congress, but not Zumwalt. As early as 1974, Navy studies had specified the SSN as the launch platform for the SLCM even though that mission would require diverting them from their primary role, anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Zumwalt wanted cruise missiles on surface platforms as anti-ship weapons. Before he left office as CNO in 1974, he designated all cruisers as platforms for the SLCM, particularly the newly proposed nuclear-powered strike cruiser. This particular proposal was not well-received because some thought it would violate the requirement of minimizing the vulnerability of these platforms. Zumwalt received support from Clements who wouldn’t approve another new shipbuilding program unless Tomahawk cruise missiles were included. As a result, Zumwalt got what he wanted from the beginning – a capable anti-ship missile for the surface navy…49

… Pursuit of a conventional land-attack variant was a watershed for the Tomahawk. By placing a land-attack missile on a variety of surface combatants, the Navy’s firepower was dramatically increased as was the Soviet’s targeting problem. But the real doctrinal breakthrough was that surface combatants could now mount land-attack operations independently of the Carrier Battle Group in situations where only a limited air threat existed. The Tomahawk Anti-ship Missile (TASM) was the only version that any subgroup within the Services even lukewarmly desired, but the Navy surface fleet had to proceed cautiously and indirectly to get it.53 Furthermore, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development, Tyler Marcy, stressed before procurement hearings in early 1977 that the Navy’s primary interest in the Tomahawk was the conventionally-armed anti-ship variant….

…Presidents facing a crisis are now just as likely to ask “where are the Tomahawks” as they are “where are the carriers?” Conventional Tomahawks are now considered one of the weapons of choice to make political statements against rogue states. When the Soviet Union crumbled and the Russian submarine threat diminished, conventional Tomahawks assured that submarines and surface combatants still had a role and were capable of meeting the new security challenges. In fact, this dispersed firepower was a primary reason the Naval Services were able to contemplate the new littoral warfare strategic vision detailed in …From the Sea….54

OSD Assumes Control

…Finally on 30 September 1977, Dr. William Perry, the new Director of Defense Research and Engineering, issued a memorandum to the Secretaries of the Air Force and Navy stating that because the ALCM flyoff was elevated to a matter “of highest national priority,” OSD would not allow the Air Force to continue to impede the creation of the Joint Cruise Missile Project Office (JCMPO) or its subsequent operation.85 Perry directed that the present project management team be retained, that all Deputy Program Managers were to be collocated with the JCMPO, and that the JCMPO was a Chief of Naval Materiel Command-level designated project office. He once again directed the Air Force and Navy to allocate their entire cruise missile program funds directly to the JCMPO. In addition, Perry established an Executive Committee (EXCOM) to provide programmatic and fiscal direction with himself as chairman.86 The original purpose of the EXCOM was to provide a forum for rapid review and discussion of problem areas and to build consensus concerning solutions. Dr. Perry, as the EXCOM chairman and now the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USDR&E; DDR&E’s new title), acted as the senior authority whenever it became necessary to resolve disputes between the Services. It was probably the only way to force Service acceptance of a truly joint program in the 1970s.87

Thus within a span of a few months, management of cruise missile development evolved from one of Pentagon hindrance to one where the Under Secretary of Defense fostered rapid problem resolution. This probably wouldn’t have happened had not the ALCM emerged as a high national priority.88 …Without Dr. Perry’s direct intervention, expeditious and fiscally efficient development of the cruise missile would not have occurred.

Final Political Notes

Like any other organizational endeavor, military activity is fraught with political machinations. In this case, segments of the military Services did not want cruise missiles because they threatened their missions and doctrine, as well as competed for scarce funding. “The long-range air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) was rammed down the throat of the Air Force. The Army refused to accept development responsibility for the ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM). The Navy – specifically the carrier Admirals – did not want the Tomahawk Anti-ship Missile because it represented a clear and present danger to the mission of the carrier-based aircraft.”89 There was a “not invented here” mentality that was almost insurmountable among the Services.90

Furthermore, the Air Force and Navy objected to a project manager who seemed to have been removed from their control. In order to streamline the cruise missile program, he was given direct communication links to the Under Secretary of Defense. This greatly facilitated program direction and allowed for rapid assimilation of technological breakthroughs.91 However, the JCMPO also aggravated and alienated the Services which had now effectively lost control of both their funds and their programs. The program director immediately became an outsider.92 The fact that the Navy and Air Force had completely different objectives also led to problems. “Anytime there’s not a consensus, the budgeteers, or budget analysts, will bore right in until they get two sides,” can demonstrate policy inconsistencies and then use them as justification to cut the budget.93 Perry’s Executive Committee was established to ensure inconsistencies did not develop, but was not designed to be a rubber stamp group where Locke could go and receive approval by fiat. The EXCOM was a vehicle where concerned parties could come together and quickly get a decision on important issues.94

Cruise missile development would not have proceeded as fast or gone as far had it not been for senior-level, civilian intervention bolstering the strong leadership provided by the Program Director.95 Technological innovation abetted the development process, but by itself would not have created a self-sustaining momentum.

“At every crucial stage in the development of each type of cruise missile, high level political intervention was necessary either to start it or to sustain it,” particularly during the period from 1973 to 1977 when SALT II forced cruise missile advocates to bargain hard for systems which many in the military did not want….96

….Service mavericks and zealots were required as well. Admiral Locke was certainly one, and as director of the JCMPO, he became a strong advocate who was able to professionally guide cruise missile development. He was replaced in August 1982 by Admiral Stephen Hostettler. The Navy insisted the change was necessary because of poor missile reliability and schedule delays.98 Naval leadership also wanted “their own man” in charge of the process. Because Admiral Locke had effectively bypassed naval leadership to overcome numerous problems, he was considered an outsider. In fact, Locke had been appointed because he was a good program manager and somebody whom OSD could trust. His unique power base automatically placed him at odds with the Navy.99 On several occasions, Clements intervened to save Locke’s career because the Navy was trying to get rid of him. Locke was working on a program that wasn’t in the Navy mainstream and they feared the emergence of another Rickover.100 Nevertheless, without Admiral Locke’s leadership, cruise missiles would not have been developed when they were.


1. Ronald Huisken, The Origin of the Strategic Cruise Missile (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1981), p. xiii.

2. Interview with RearAdmiral Walter M. Locke, USN, (Ret.), McLean, VA, 5 May 1993.

3. Interview with Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., USN (Ret.), former Chief of Naval Operations, Washington, D.C., 28 May 1993.

4. Richard K. Betts, ed., Cruise Missiles: Technology, Strategy, Politics (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1981), p. 380. ADM Zumwalt’s predecessor, ADM Moorer, chose to respond to the Eilat incident by enhancing the capabilities of the carrier fleet, not those of the surface fleet. (Ibid., p. 384).

5. Zumwalt interview, 28 May 1993.

6. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 84.

7. Locke interview, 5 May 1993.

19. Ibid., p. 30.

20. Kenneth P. Werrell, The Evolution of the Cruise Missile (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University Press, 1985), p. 387.

21. Ross R. Hatch, Joseph L. Luber andJames W. Walker, “Fifty Years of Strike Warfare Research at the Applied Physics Laboratory,” Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest, Vol. 13, No. 1 (1992), p. 117.

22. Locke interview, 5 May 1993.

23. Interview with Vice Admiral James Doyle, USN, (Ret.), Bethesda, MD, 11 August 1993.

24. Admiral Locke greatly credits their vision and assistance during the early formation years of the cruise missile. Locke interview, 14 July 1993.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.

29. Interview with Vice AdmiralJoc Williams, USN, (Ret.), Groton, CT, 26 August 1993. The majority of the information in this paragraph is from this interview.

30. Ibid.

31. Admiral Zumwalt acknowledged in his book that Rickover and carrier aviation were impediments to his Project 60 plan throughout his tenure as CNO. [Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., On Watch: A Memoir (New York: Quadrangle, 1976)] His apparent lack of advocacy for cruise missiles should not be misinterpreted. He used cruise missiles as a bargaining chip to obtain his higher goal of a balanced Navy which he felt was necessary to counter the Soviet threat. His threats to prevent Harpoon/cruise missile employment was merely a counter to Rickover’s “shenanigans,” as he referred to them.

32. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 386. The Soviets eventually fielded their own large cruise missile submarine, the Oscar-class.

33. Werrell, op. cit. in note 20, p. 151 and Locke interview, 28 August 1994.

34. Locke interview, 5 May 1993. (Emphasis added).

35. Interview with the Honorable William P. Clements, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, Taos, NM, 16 June 1993.

36. Locke interview, 5 May 1993.

37. Interview with Dr. Malcolm Currie, former Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Van Nuys, CA, 21 September 1993.

45. Interview with Bob Holsapple, former Public Affairs and Congressional Relations Officer for the Tomahawk program, Alexandria, VA, 27 May 1993.

48. Rear Admiral Walter Locke’s testimony in Fiscal Year 1975 Authorization Hearings, pt. 7, pp. 3665-7.

49. ADM Zumwalt also saw the inclusion of SLCMs aboard surface ships as one final triumph over Rickover.

53. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 406.

54. … From the Sea: Preparing the Naval Service for the 21st Century (Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, September 1992).

85. Conrow, op. cit. in note 83, p. 6

86. Members of the EXCOM included DDR&E (chairman), the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (RE&S), the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (RD&L), the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, the Assistant Secretary of Defense (PA&E), and the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Comptroller). After the first meeting, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Commander Air Force Systems Command were added as permanent members. [Conrow, op. cit. in note 83, p. 14.]

87. Interview with Dr. William Perry, Secretary of Defense and former Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Newport, RI, 23 June 1993.

88. Conrow, op. cit. in note 83, p. 63.

89. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 360.

90. Clements interview, 16June 1993. The Navy Secretariat’s reasonable belief was that OSD was using the Navy to develop an Air Force missile. This contributed to its “not invented here” attitude. [Locke interview, 28 August 1994].

91. Wohlstetter interview, 18 September 1993.

92. Naval personnel, such as Vice Admiral Ken Carr, who held positions outside of the Navy’s organization, were critical. Carr was Clements’ Executive Assistant and helped maintain backdoor channels for Locke that were as important, if not more important, than formal chains of command. Interview with Vice Admiral Ken Carr, USN, (Ret.), former Executive Assistant for William Clements, Groton Long Point, CT, 24 August 1993.

93. Interview with Mr. Al Best, SAIC, Alexandria, VA, 14 July 1993.

94. Perry interview, 23 June 1993.

95. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 361.

96. Werrell, op. cit. in note 20, p. 361.

98. Werrell, op. cit. in note 20, p. 2 1 1 .

99. Currie interview, 21 September 1993.

100. Parker interview, 22 September 1993.

Featured Image: The battleship USS WISCONSIN (BB-64) launches a BGM-109 Tomahawk missile against a target in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.

Sea Control 391 – Indo-Pacific Maritime Hour with Blake Herzinger & Jimmy Drennan

In CIMSEC’s first podcast collaboration with the Yokosuka Council on Asia-Pacific Studies, we are airing the YCAPS Indo-Pacific Maritime Hour discussion, “Why the United States Needs a Real Maritime Strategy,” moderated by friend of the program John Bradford and featuring Jimmy Drennan and Blake Herzinger.

Download Sea Control 391 – Indo-Pacific Maritime Hour with Blake Herzinger and Jimmy Drennan


2. “Advantage at Sea: Prevailing with Integrated All-Domain Naval Power,” US Navy, US Marine Corps, US Coast Guard, December 2020.
3. “Goals and Objectives for a Stronger Maritime Nation: A Report to Congress,” Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration, 2020.
4. “The National Strategy for Maritime Security, Department of Homeland Security,” September 20, 2005.
5. “National Strategy for Mapping, Exploring and Characterizing the United States Exclusive Economic Zone,” Prepared by the Ocean Science and Technology Subcommittee of the Ocean Policy Committee, June 2020.
6. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region,” The White House, October 2022. 

This episode was edited and produced by Nate Miller.

Dobbs v. The Ocean

By Claude Berube

The Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization at first glance may not appear to have any relevance to the sea; however, it is indicative of how even domestic issues may have an impact on maritime operations. The ruling reinforces the reality that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can use the high seas to conduct activity or bring attention to their cause. For example, one physician has proposed “a floating abortion clinic in the Gulf of Mexico as a way to maintain access for people in southern states where abortion bans have been enacted.” It is not clear at this point what kind of ship would be used, but the concept is not a new one.

Women on Waves is proof of this concept. Founded by Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, Women on Waves used ships to provide abortions off the coasts of countries which had restrictive laws. Some of the operations included Ireland (2001) using the Dutch fishing vessel Aurora; Poland (2004) on the Langenort; Portugal on the Borndiep which also saw a response by the Portuguese Navy; and Spain (2008) on a sailboat as well as a later Trojan Horse operation in Smir, Morocco (2012), and Mexico in 2017.

On January 29, 2010, this author had the opportunity to interview Dr. Gomperts regarding Women on Waves for a set of profiles about how NGOs use the maritime environment. The following is a transcript of that interview that reveals some important points about changes in technology and the visual impact of maritime operations. Although conducted over ten years ago, the interview is relevant now more than ever. When applied to a post-Dobbs world, the following interview positions Women on Waves as a case study for how abortion services might be operationalized in maritime environments.

Claude Berube: When did you first think about using ships?

Rebecca Gomperts: I first thought of using the sea to provide services when I was a physician on a Greenpeace ship. 

CB: What was the advantage of providing services on the sea rather than going to the border of a country to provide those services?

RG: Because it’s the Dutch law that applies in international waters, you can help women legally and safely. 

CB: Was it also cheaper to do it, logistics-wise, to provide the ship rather than another country?

RG: Women do that all the time. Women travel. That’s why it’s one of the main social injustices because women who do not have the money cannot travel to other countries. The ship is a visual; it makes the problem visual. Women travelling to other countries, it’s often under the radar, they do it secretly, they suffer tremendously but it’s not public. With the ship we are making the problem that exists visible. 

CB: Have you found that the countries visited, do they prevent you from going into the harbor or do they prevent women coming out to you?

RG: We have done four campaigns with the ships so far. It was only Portugal that sent warships to prevent our ship from entering. That was the only time a government tried to stop the ship from coming in.

CB: How did that happen? Did they contact you on bridge to bridge?

RG: The Minister of Defence contacted the captain of the ship through a fax. They said Women on Waves was a threat to national security and health and they were preventing the ship from entering national waters. We filed a court case against the Portuguese government because they did this and we won this through the European Court for Human Rights. 

CB: How did you decide to use the types of ships you used for your campaigns? Is your decision on what types of ships centered around the A-Portable [an 8×20 foot container that serves as a mobile clinic aboard the ship] or are there other things in the decision-making process?

RG: We used the Mobile Treatment Room three times and the ships had to be proper to carry that – it’s basically a container and so the ships had to be outfitted for the Mobile Treatment Room. That was the size of the ship that was determined by the Mobile Treatment Room; however there have been a lot of developments recently especially concerning medical abortions – abortion with pills – it has been proven very safe to take outside the surgical theater. The last campaign we did which was in Spain we actually had a yacht and we worked with the local organization because the miscarriage happens back on shore so follow-up care was provided by us. So we used a yacht without the mobile treatment room. For us, that is a much better solution.

CB: Is that because it’s cheaper?

RG:  It’s much easier for us because you don’t need big harbors so you’re more flexible.

CB: You lease the boats on a short-term basis?

RG: Yes.

CB: How did you identify the crew? Were they volunteers? Were they paid?  Did you have to vet them for qualifications for seamanship, for example?

RG: It depended what ship we used. Two times we had a ship registered under the Dutch shipping certificate and all the crew had to have their certificates in order. Most of the crew volunteered. Some were reimbursed. The captain was reimbursed. They had to do extra training sometimes to update their certifications. On the other side, the yacht for example, there were just two crew and they had sailing experience – they had been sailing for thirty years. But that’s different than having a ship under a Dutch shipping inspection.

CB: Did you decide to use the Dutch flag because of the flexibility that offered? 

RG: I’m Dutch so we knew the situation here. I think there might have been other countries where we could have registered the ship but it was much more complicated.  

CB: When you’re ready to go into a country’s waters do you know ahead of time what you will do in the case of their navy or coast guard approaching you?

RG: It was a European ship so we have European protection, but we have lawyers always that work very closely with us but we never expected to have what happened in Portugal. That’s why we have a group of lawyers standing by in case of such a situation.

CB: You’ve done four voyages in the past ten years; do you have any plans for the future?

RG: Yes. It’s a complicated thing to prepare. We only go to countries where we are invited by local women’s organizations and it’s like a year-long preparation with mobilizing on the ground because they’re the ones who know we’re there to support them in the legalization of abortion in their country. 

CB: So your organization is more grassroots and you will wait to be invited.

RG: Sometimes we will meet to decide when the ship will come. 

CB: What have you found to be the greatest logistical challenges to these voyages – that might be fuel, or food or water?

RG: Portugal was the most difficult but they can’t do that anymore because they lost the court case. The government fell and abortion was legalized. It was also the most effective campaign. 

CB: Why was it the most effective, because it was the response of the Portuguese government that generated the most interest?

RG: Of course, that is absolutely the case. It was worldwide front page news. It was widely discussed in the European Parliament and basically it was considered a big scandal. 

CB: You saw a lot of political changes immediately?

RG: Yes. It was one of the main issues in the campaign. So it brought a lot of interest especially because of the Minister of Defence. 

CB: If the Portuguese government and the Minister of Defence had not done that, do you think it would have been as successful? 

RG: No. But we were there to help women and a lot of women in distress who were calling.

What did that interview and subsequent research suggest? First, NGOs evolve based on changing technology. While Women on Waves originally used a larger vessel to transport the mobile clinic, abortion pills later allowed them to use sailing vessels which could enter more ports as well as smaller ones, therefore reaching a larger target audience. In 2015, the organization started using drones to deliver abortion pills in Poland and the following year in Ireland.

Second, the use of yachts instead of the larger vessels meant that the NGO did not require licensed ship captains and had more flexibility as well as reduced costs to the maritime operation. Third, and perhaps most important, was the term Dr. Gomperts used: “the ship is the visual.” This characterization is similar to how other NGOs use ships to garner media attention to their cause in a way that is not conveyed via a land-based operation. While the post-Dobbs concept of using vessels to provide abortion services in the Gulf of Mexico is still early in how it will be applied, the case of Women on Waves may be one way of understanding how it might occur and evolve.

Area of operation for a proposed abortion-providing vessel. (Credit: Google Earth)

Finally, there is the perennial challenge of logistics. Assuming the organization does not use a sufficiently-sized sailing vessel, fuel consumption for a ship like an offshore supply vessel on which the organization could mount an A-portable would be problematic. Where, for example, would it refuel in the Gulf of Mexico? Assuming abortion services would be intended for states that would likely have more restrictive environments, the Gulf of Mexico – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida – might find ways to impede a vessel from entering or exiting a port.  The distance from the Texas-Mexico border to the west coast of Florida is approximately 850 nautical miles (nm). This suggests the vessel would require support from nearby countries like Mexico, Cuba, Belize, or Cuba depending on the fuel consumption and range of the vessel.

While the latter two would encounter various restrictions, Mexico legalized abortion in 2021, but Mexican states can provide their own levels of legislation. The Mexican state of Tamaulipas is the most geographically proximate state to American Gulf states but abortion there is illegal with exception for rape, maternal life, health, and/or if abortion were accidental. The Mexican state of Yucatan is approximately 450nm from the coast of Florida. Abortion is also illegal there with exceptions for rape, maternal life, fetal defects, economic factors, or if abortion were accidental.

As Dr. Gomperts said, the ship is the visual. Now, over a decade later, her words in a post-Dobbs world carry a different weight, one that Women on Waves has known for some time. The question now is how that visual might take shape and play out when the arena is Dobbs v. the ocean.

Claude Berube, PhD has taught at the US Naval Academy since 2005 and worked on Capitol Hill for two Senators and a House member. He is a Commander in the US Navy Reserve. He was the co-editor of Maritime Private Security: Market Responses to Piracy, Terrorism and Waterborne Security Risks in the 21st Century (Routledge, 2012). His next novel, The Philippine Pact, will be released in early 2023. The views expressed are his own and not of any organization with which he is affiliated.

Featured image: A Women on Waves ship near Morocco (Credit: Paul Schemm).