Although it is one of the most critical objectives in a war at sea, the U.S. Navy has difficulty properly understanding the true meaning of sea control and that of its counterpart, sea denial. Often sea control is confused with naval capabilities, and for the most part the service’s current doctrine and posture statements do more to obfuscate than clarify the purpose, attributes, and primary methods for obtaining, maintaining, and exercising sea control. Additionally, the Navy does not seriously consider sea denial as a possibility in a case of war with a strong opponent at sea.
In the past, the principal objective of a stronger fleet in a war was to obtain and maintain command of the sea in a given maritime theater. Such command aimed to ensure the free use of sea communications and to fully deny its use by the enemy. Narrowly defined, command of the sea was understood to be nothing more than command of sea routes.1