Deep Coalitions: Alternative Power Projection

By Lieutenant Colonel Scott Lindsey, USMC

If power projection is fundamental, we must clarify three misconceptions: it is more than the deployment connotation in Joint Vision 2010 —surging forces forward via strategic mobility; it is more than the employment definition in Naval Doctrinal Publication 1 : ". . . the application of offensive military action;" and finally power projection is more than a way to respond. As we approach the 21st century, we must broaden power projection's definition and link it to national strategy: it is deploying or employing forces to shape or respond in order to enhance security, promote democracy, or bolster prosperity. This definition is best illustrated by the quadrant theory of power projection (see Figure 1).

II  Influence During Peacetime Via Presence
I     Influence During Peacetime Via Engagement Activities
Respond III Influence During Crisis Via Presence  III IV     Influence During Crisis Via Direct Action

The Chief of Naval Operations, in his recent vision statement, Operating . . . Forward, From the Sea , states that power projection is "what we do" across the operational spectrum of peace, crisis, and war. He further cogently states that we project power into the littorals in order to influence events ashore. In other words, influence can occur either during peacetime or crisis, and influence can result either from deploying or employing forces.

Power projection's old school of thought was that forces existed only in quadrants II, III, and IV. Quadrant I is new territory. Quadrants II and III represent deterrence. By positioning forces during peacetime or crisis, deterrence is the essence of the old "presence mission." The distinction between "shape deterrence" and "respond deterrence" is the disposition, or predisposition, of the target. Quadrant II's shape deterrence is our initiative, without imminent threat. The daily activities of Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, or the III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa are quadrant II examples of power projection. When Saddam Hussein looks out his window and sees a carrier battle group in the Persian Gulf, we hope he will be predisposed to playing golf instead of invading Kuwait. Shape deterrence creates conditions that influence would-be aggressors not to act.

Quadrant III's respond deterrence is the reaction to another's initiative. Several examples of this are:

  • In October 1994, Saddam Hussein's saber-rattling toward Kuwait abated after CinCPac moved forces to the Persian Gulf.
  • In 1996 during the Taiwan elections, China's aggressive actions abated after the United States sent a carrier to the Taiwan Strait.
  • In early 1998, after Saddam Hussein refused to allow UN inspections, CentCom's force buildup helped avert Desert Thunder.

Quadrants I and IV represent, respectively, the DoD's most likely and most dangerous mission profiles in the 21st century. Unlike quadrants II and III, forces in quadrants I and IV must do more than just be present. Of the two employment ways to project power, clearly quadrant I is preferable. As this article will describe later, quadrant I is economy of force; it is a way to preserve forces by preventing conflict, or sharing the burden of conflict should prevention fail. Joint Vision 2010 states that overseas presence is "how we enable power projection." In short, power projection is more than bullets; it can be beans, blankets, bandages, bricklayers, or a band.

The Problem

The problem is that the shaping phase of power projection has no clear and coordinated plan. Presence used to be the extent of the DoD's contribution to shaping (quadrant II). We must do more than just be there—we must engage. Peacetime engagement is an unfamiliar niche for the DoD. Though the Cold War ended many years ago, the DoD is just now developing a theater engagement plan. Some Commanders-in-Chief anticipated using forces to shape the environment and developed their own engagement strategies, but we do not have a comprehensive national strategy for shaping. Commanders-in-Chief, their component commanders, and the services are charging ahead with various engagement strategies and activities, but these are disjointed efforts that may not produce the best results from our limited resources.

In fact, military engagement is but one of many forms of engagement. These include political engagement (traditional diplomacy), humanitarian engagement (Greenpeace, World Vision, CARE), and economic engagement (USA*Engage—a consortium of more than 650 American companies working together to engage foreign countries in ways that promote U.S. interests). The challenge is to synchronize these various types to achieve the best shaping value. For example, the U.S. Navy recently conducted a four-hour search and rescue exercise with an unstable country. As a result of this small exercise, the country now wants further contact with the West, including increased commercial interaction. Together, all four forms of engagement promote the National Security Strategy's goals of security, prosperity, and democracy. Without synchronizing engagement, however, we risk squandering limited resources or sub-optimizing their effect.

The Challenge

Engagement applies both to the respond and shape phases of power projection; hence, engagement can be of two types depending upon the focus of effort. Each of the three National Security Strategy core objectives correlates to a distinct focus of effort—security (military), democracy (political), prosperity (economic). "Response engagement" is mainly a military focus with old friends in stable countries. Its purpose is to build or strengthen coalitions in order to share the burden of conflict. Response engagement activities center on advanced training and interoperability. "Shaping engagement" is mainly a political or economic focus with new friends in delicately stable or unstable countries. Its purpose is to attack the causal factors of instability in order to prevent conflict. Shaping engagement activities are geared to rudimentary training (often non-military training such as law enforcement, environmental, humanitarian, and public works/construction). Clearly, both response engagement and shaping engagement are force-preservers.

Knowing what to do (shape, respond) and why to do it (security, prosperity, democracy) does not mean we know how to do it, or who should do it. The DoD and Department of State can perform response engagement, but shaping engagement is bigger than DoD; it is bigger than the U.S. government. Since instability comes in many forms, effective shaping engagement needs an interdisciplinary, cross-sector (political-military-civilian sectors) approach that can: identify instability and its cause in a country or region; prioritize the country/region by global relevance; build a cross-sector plan of action addressing instability; allocate cross-sector resources; and develop and evaluate cross-sector measures of effectiveness. This approach requires national, regional, and subregional interdisciplinary planning cells that can crystallize engagement for a broad base of "force providers." The DoD is but one element of this "deep" coalition.

Structure and Process

We need a framework to translate engagement from a concept to a plan. The complexity of engagement planning and execution, and the diversity of resources available, require three levels of effort:

  • National interdisciplinary cell for engagement . Comprised of political, military, business, and religious leaders, a national cell also would have philanthropists, economists, academicians, athletes, media experts, scientists, and entertainers. What better way to shape tomorrow's world leaders than to team with touring musicians and ball players to influence impressionable audiences? To export our freedom (democracy), to nurture economic partners (prosperity), and to solidify crisis response coalitions (security), we need cross-sector participation. Peter Uberoth, Lee Greenwood, Father Hesburg, Alan Greenspan, Steve Jobs, Ted Turner, civil engineers, the Jimmy Carter Center, environmentalists, law enforcement, doctors, university presidents, authors, the American Food Growers Association, the World Health Organization, and corporate planners of telecommunications, transportation, and oil companies all are possible participants. The national cell would meet annually to assess instability, prioritize regions, allocate resources, and update plans. The product is a nationally sponsored, globally targeted engagement plan of action.
  • Regional interdisciplinary cell for engagement . Organic to each geographic CinC, this is a scaled-down version of the national cell, but still comprised of the cross-sector community. For example, infrastructure is a major element in shaping the environment. Perhaps the head of General Motors' European division or the President of the EuroStar rail company could be members of EuCom's regional cell. Key members of each regional cell are also part of the national cell, attend national meetings, provide regional input to the plan of action, assist their CinCs in translating national shaping objectives to theater tasks, and provide assistance to engagement executors.
  • Deployable interdisciplinary cell for engagement . Armed with national guidance and assets from the national cell, regional cells help CinCs and components build engagement "target packages." Each package is assigned to a deployable cell—an "engagement joint task force." The DoD could lead the deployable cell, or it could assist by providing command and control, mobility, and logistics for an interagency or civilian "main effort." An example is EuCom's West African training cruise. This is an engagement package built around an amphibious ship. It typically includes a flag officer as well as detachments from the Coast Guard, law enforcement, civil affairs, public affairs, the band, the SeaBees, the Marines, and medical, communications, and chaplain staffs for shaping missions in Africa. A deployable cell could include business or industry representatives, or even an Islamic priest. Cross-sector force packaging would have a greater shaping effect than more costly and less effective piecemeal engagement. Packaged engagement (quality over quantity) may allow us to engage a country or region less often, thus saving resources in a resource-constrained environment.

The Joint Chiefs' theater plan of action should be the global engagement plan of action. These plans link national leadership, force providers, ambassadors, country teams, CinCs, and components. Regional interdisciplinary cells are the key to making them work. The regional cell is the interface between national and deployable cells, and also represents the engagement continuum—it helps the national cell assess and prioritize regions and countries and allocate resources. The regional cell helps deployable cells plan engagement activities. Since operational commanders and their lean staffs are not manned for engagement planning, there must be a division of labor between regional and deployable cells. Regional staffs build the synchronization matrix, and deployable staffs take that and build the execution matrix. Again, the regional cell is the linchpin of the entire process. Without its shaping preparation of the battlefield, the national cell cannot assess, prioritize, allocate, or update, and the deployable cells would be unable to execute their missions.


With the draft theater engagement plan already published, now is the time to influence its eventual utility by establishing interdisciplinary ("deep") coalitions. Charismatic DoD and government leadership will bring the civilian sector into the fold. The civilian and military communities have mutual goals: stability and prosperity. With roles and missions in flux, and with a dynamic international environment that has vast economic and security implications, we must conceptualize innovative force structures. The battlespace is the planet; the available forces are the national population.

Deep coalitions are at the heart of interdisciplinary cells. Engagement must have interdisciplinary integration at each level to successfully shape the global environment. The DoD will have to be the catalyst for cross-sector engagement. Its unified command structure and regional situational awareness are good points of departure, especially as organizations like NATO shift from a response alliance to a shaping alliance. As we tackle the shaping phase of power projection (our most likely mission), we must not neglect the response phase of power projection (our most dangerous mission). National and military leadership must not get carried away with the altruistic appeal of shaping. We must preserve and improve our capability to embroil. Cross-sector engagement represents a new dimension of interoperability: in the 1980s we figured out how to be joint; in the 1990s, we figured out how to be interagency; in the new millennium, we will have to figure out how to be interdisciplinary.

Lieutenant Colonel Lindsey is head of the Strategy Branch of U.S. Naval Forces, Europe.



Conferences and Events

2016 Coast Guard Academy Conference

Mon, 2016-10-24

US Coast Guard Academy

As part of The U.S. Coast Guard Academy 2016-2017 Leadership Lecture Series The U.S. Naval Institute presents Historical and...

Maritime Security Dialogue

Defense Forum Washington 2016

View All

From the Press

Guest Lecturer & Book Signing

Sun, 2016-10-30

Book Launch Party

Wed, 2016-11-02

Why Become a Member of the U.S. Naval Institute?

As an independent forum for over 135 years, the Naval Institute has been nurturing creative thinkers who responsibly raise their voices on matters relating to national defense.

Become a Member Renew Membership