Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson’s desire to minimize use of “A2/AD” may have made no headway with the rest of the Department of Defense (DoD), but it remains a necessary step. Antiaccess/Area Denial simply means too much to some and too little to others. CNO correctly points out in his National Interest article (“Deconstructing A2/AD,” 3 October 2016), “A2/AD is a term bandied about freely, with no precise definition, that sends a variety of vague or conflicting signals.” There is more to it, however.
The problem is that A2 and AD are two distinct concepts. Antiaccess is a strategy in which combat operations are but one part. In contrast, area denial represents tactics—often largely indistinguishable from standard land warfare or sea-denial operations—that can be used to achieve antiaccess objectives in a military campaign. Area-denial tactics can support antiaccess and other strategies. If an opposing force needs to apply area-denial tactics in a combat situation—particularly on land—then their antiaccess strategy likely has been defeated.