Strategy Shelved: The Collapse of Cold War Naval Strategic Planning (Hardcover)

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As U.S. strategy shifts (once again) to focus on great power competition, Strategy Shelved provides a valuable, analytic look back to the Cold War era by examining the rise and eventual fall of the U.S. Navy's naval strategy system from the post-World War II era to 1994. Steven T. Wills draws some important conclusions that have relevance to the ongoing strategic debates of today.

His analysis focuses on the 1970s and 1980s as a period when U.S. Navy strategic thought was rebuilt after a period of stagnation during the Vietnam conflict and its high water mark in the form of the 1980s' maritime strategy and its attendant six hundred -ship navy force structure. He traces the collapse of this earlier system by identifying several contributing factors: the provisions of the Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986, the aftermath of the First Gulf War of 1991, the early 1990s revolution in military affairs, and the changes to the Chief of Naval Operations staff in 1992 following the end of the Cold War. All of these conditions served to undermine the existing naval strategy system. The Goldwater Nichols Act subordinated the Navy to joint control with disastrous effects on the long-serving cohort of uniformed naval strategists. The first Gulf War validated Army and Air Force warfare concepts developed in the Cold War but not those of the Navy's maritime strategy. The Navy executed its own revolution in military affairs during the Cold War through systems like AEGIS but did not get credit for those efforts. Finally, the changes in the Navy (OPNAV) staff in 1992 served to empower the budget arm of OPNAV at the expense of its strategists. These measures laid the groundwork for a thirty-year strategy of means where service budgets, a desire to preserve existing force structure, and lack of strategic vision hobbled not only the Navy, but also the Joint Force's ability to create meaningful strategy to counter a rising China and a revanchist Russian threat.

Wills concludes his analysis with an assessment of the return of naval strategy documents in 2007 and 2015 and speculates on the potential for success of current Navy strategies including the latest tri-service maritime strategy. His research makes extensive use of primary sources, oral histories, and navy documents to tell the story of how the U.S. Navy created both successful strategies and how a dedicated group of naval officers were intimately involved in their creation. It also explains how the Navy's ability to create strategy, and even the process for training strategy writers, was seriously damaged in the post-Cold War era.

About the Author


Steven T. Wills is an expert in U.S. Navy strategy and policy at the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) in Arlington, VA. He served for twenty years as a U.S. Navy surface warfare officer. He also holds a PhD and MA in history from Ohio University, an MA from the United States Naval War College, and a BA in history from Miami University, Oxford, OH.


Product Details
ISBN: 9781682476338
ISBN-10: 1682476332
Publisher: US Naval Institute Press
Publication Date: August 15th, 2021
Pages: 304
Language: English