Navy officers are introduced to operational art too late in their careers. This is a missed opportunity and means the Navy is not using all available tools to win the next war.
Operational art is the “theory and practice of planning, preparing, and executing major naval operations aimed at accomplishing operational objectives.”1 It is the bridge between maritime strategy and naval tactics, providing a framework to prioritize and sequence tactical actions to attain operational and strategic objectives at sea. It includes an examination of the operational environment and the factors of time, space, and force, against which the supporting functions of logistics, fires, intelligence, command and control, and protection are applied. Operational art also involves identifying a center of gravity to attack either directly or indirectly to achieve a naval objective.
Operational art should not be learned for the first time as a mid-grade or senior officer. It should be studied throughout a career to allow for internalization of its concepts, development of associated critical thinking skills, and intellectual reflection to consolidate theory into practice.
1. Milan Vego, Operational Warfare at Sea: Theory and Practice (London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2017), 1.