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17 September 2013


Understanding the Naval Strategy Process

In September 1992, the Naval War College gathered naval experts from around the world to examine the works of Sir Julian Corbett and Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond in the post-Cold War context.  From the conference papers, the book “Mahan is not Enough “  was published.

One excellent article from this compilation that remains particularly relevant today is “Process: The Realities of Formulating Modern Naval Strategy” written by Dr. David Alan Rosenberg.

Rosenberg uses the works of Corbett and Richmond to illustrate the importance of leveraging and integrating the expertise of naval historians and naval officers to fully understand naval strategy.

The key takeaway from this piece is a valuable framework for understanding the modern naval strategy-making process. It includes a list of seventeen topics for investigation, and while delving into each factor is too lengthy for this post, a cursory examination reveals the complex nature of naval strategy:
  • The nature of training and education programs, career patterns, and professional specialization of officers in the naval service;
  • The career patterns and operational, technical and staff backgrounds of individual naval officers in significant leadership positions;
  • The procurement costs, capabilities, operating patterns and sustainment requirements of naval weapons systems;
  • Changes in tactical doctrine and/or naval art;
  • The administrative structure, operational doctrine, strategic plans and command and control organization of tactical units beyond individual ships;
  • The sources of intelligence information;
  • The process of intelligence production, analysis, and dissemination;
  • The structure, organization, and procedures of naval service-wide strategic planning;
  • The structure, organization, and procedures of naval service-wide program and procurement planning;
  • The state of research and development progress of a nation’s naval warfare technology;
  • The state of the national scientific and industrial infrastructure for research, development, and production of naval warfare technology;
  • The character and personalities of naval service and national leadership;
  • The structure, organization, and procedures of national strategic military planning;
  • The structure, organization, and procedures of national program and procurement planning;
  • The character and personalities of national defense leadership;
  • The character and structure of the national political system as it relates to defense issues;
  • The character, structure, and status of national financial and economic systems as they relate to national defense.
While this framework is valuable for researchers and students of naval strategy, it also provides a useful guide for aspiring naval strategists to consider. To become a proficient naval strategist, a broad knowledge-base attained through experience, education, and professional reading is essential.

For those interested in learning more about the history of naval strategy, the Center for Naval Analysis provides a repository of their superb work on this topic.  Each of their products provides a thorough examination of navy capstone documents and covers the political, economic, and military context within which it was formulated.

As a reminder for those interested in naval history, the United States Naval Academy hosts the 2013 McMullen Naval History Symposium in Annapolis, Maryland, on 19-20 September 2013. The list of presenters and topics is impressive and the event provides an excellent forum for naval officers and historians to interact.

About Robert Kozloski

Robert Kozloski is a program analyst for the Department of the Navy. He is the author of Marching Toward the Sweet Spot: Options for the Marine Corps in a Time of Austerity in the Naval War College Review.
The views expressed are his alone.

( U.S Naval Institute,, September 2013 )


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