As U.S. strategy shifts to focus on great power competition, Strategy Shelved provides a valuable, analytic look back to the Cold War era by examining the rise and eventual fall of the U.S. Navy’s strategy system from post–World War II to 1994. Steven T. Wills draws some important conclusions that have relevance to the ongoing strategic debates of today.
His analysis focuses on the 1970s and 1980s as a period when U.S. Navy strategic thought was rebuilt after a period of stagnation during the Vietnam conflict and its high-water mark in the form of the 1980s’ Maritime Strategy and its attendant six hundred–ship navy force structure. He traces the collapse of this earlier system by identifying several contributing factors: the provisions of the Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986, the aftermath of the First Gulf War of 1991, the early 1990s’ revolution in military affairs, and the changes to the Chief of Naval Operations staff in 1992 following the end of the Cold War. All of these conditions served to undermine the existing naval strategy system.
Wills concludes his analysis with an assessment of the return of naval strategy documents in 2007 and 2015 and speculates on the potential for success of current Navy strategies, including the latest tri-service maritime strategy.