The CNO plainly stated that he wanted a balanced force to meet the diverse post-9/11 threats. This meant broadening the definition of sea power to include the littorals, rivers, and the high seas.
U.S. Navy riverine operations have a distinguished history, but despite that experience, the service has never regarded such operations as fundamental to its core "tradition, identity, and ethos."4 They have always competed for resources with pre-existing programs and missions.5 Even in its most successful era, the Vietnam War, riverine warfare was never seen as career-enhancing. Instead, the blue-water Navy has viewed it as an aberration.6 Furthermore, the up-and-down nature of the riverine force limits its immediate impact on any emergent combat scenario. Not one strategic document—from the Vietnam War until the 2006 QDR—alludes to it.
The Navy's Not Serious About Riverine Warfare
The oft-stated reemphasis on littoral operations by the Navy's top leaders has been nothing but window dressing, this author says.
By Lieutenant Daniel A. Hancock, U.S. Navy