Seapower in Stormy Seas: The Future of American Naval Power in the 21st Century


In 2019, the Center for the National Interest convened a series of seminars to investigate and expand on the challenges facing our nation and its Navy today. The Spring, our organization has produced a report examining the central findings of this seminar series, edited by Wallace C. Gregson (Senior Director, China and the Pacific at the Center for the National Interest) and Matthew Reisener (Chief of Staff at the Center for the National Interest).

Click here to read the report

We started with a look at the return of great power competition, which was a major focus of America’s most recent National Security Strategy and National Military Strategy. Our first seminar, “The Return of Great Power Naval Rivalry,” featured Dr. Toshi Yoshihara and Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, two world-class experts in the threats posed by the Chinese and Russian navies.

The second seminar examined the implications of great power naval conflict on America’s industrial base. It featured Representative Randy Forbes (former Chairman of the Seapower and Power Projection Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, and current Naval War College Fellow) and Mark F. Cancian (former senior Defense budget official and currently a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

A third seminar was ably chaired by Professor of Operations at the U.S. Naval War College Dr. Milan Vego and Captain Jerry Hendrix USN (retired), Vice President of the Telemus Group, a security consultancy. This discussion examined the proper balance among the various components of naval power: aviation, surface ships, amphibious ships, submarines, mine warfare, munitions stocks, logistic support ships, and others.

Every naval study since the 1940s has critically evaluated the roles, missions, capabilities, and vulnerabilities of the aircraft carrier and America’s carrier-centric naval force. Our effort is no exception. In our last session, we gave full attention to controversial proposals by Dr. Thomas X. Hammes of the National War College. A retired Marine Colonel, Hammes is well known for his extensive writing on defense matters and his analytical capabilities regarding defense systems and strategies.

Two independent essays follow the discussions of our seminar observations, ably written by Vice Admiral Doug Crowder USN (retired), a surface warfare officer and a former Commander of the 7th Fleet, and Brigadier General Robert Spalding USAF (retired), a veteran of long-range strike forces and a former National Security Council staff member.