by Claude Berube, Small Wars Journal
For the past century, the United States Navy has grown from an emergent force among traditional colonial powers able to compete on a world stage to one able to act as a counterbalance in a bipolar environment. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. became the naval hegemon, able to assert national power as needed through the traditional application of a large force with comparably large capital ships. The nation's investment in smaller platforms to combat smaller threats, such as the deployment of gunboats on the Asiatic station or of riverine craft during the Vietnam War, has ebbed and flowed, a condition that remains true in the early twenty-first century. But the traditional U.S. naval paradigm may need to change due to changing political and fiscal realities and emerging asymmetric maritime threats. This essay examines the domestic and foreign conditions challenges to tomorrow's navy and how a changing force structure may be required.