Date of Graduation

Spring 1999


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

William Van Cleave

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


With the breakup of the Soviet Union, the United States Navy has seen the fleet shrink from nearly 600 ships in 1988 to 320 ships in 1999, with a planned reduction to 305 ships by 2004. While the fleet has been reduced by nearly 50 percent over the last decade, the deployment of U.S. naval forces has continued at near-Cold War levels. The result is a mismatch between the national security requirements that naval forces are called on to support, and the forces available to meet those requirements. Some have suggested that the traditional forward presence mission of the Navy-Marine Corps team is no longer relevant in the post-Cold War environment. Others suggest that "virtual presence" through space surveillance and global air power can replace the physical presence of naval forces. Still others have advocated a return to an isolationist policy, forgoing military presence altogether. Although U.S. naval forces are no longer required to counter the threat of Soviet aggression, possible peer or near-peer competitors, such as Russia and China, combined with emerging regional powers, require that the United States maintain forces in areas near U.S. interests. This thesis will examine the continued importance of maintaining a strong naval presence in the three principal areas of U.S. interest--the Mediterranean Sea, the Persian Gulf, and Northeast Asia--and the inability to meet U.S. national security requirements with proposed alternatives to forward presence. Also covered will be new systems and operational concepts of the Navy-Marine Corps team, and their importance to the forward presence mission.


© Christopher B Earls

Open Access