Amphibious Capabilities and Future Conflict

This program is no longer active.

To contribute to a more fulsome debate on the full range of potential amphibious force contributions in the future.

As budgets tighten, major U.S. defense programs will be subject to increasingly greater scrutiny. At present, the Department of Defense’s processes for determining whether programs should be cut or eliminated are based on two main factors: cost and operational impact. However, mechanisms for evaluating both factors are frequently incomplete, because the Department of Defense lacks a process for systematically and routinely including the full range of relevant information. Thus, policymakers may be making decisions that overestimate potential savings, underestimate operational risks, or both.

This report offers a case study of how broader conceptions of cost and operational risk can be brought more deliberately to the fore. It represents an in-depth examination of how U.S. amphibious capabilities contribute to strategic-shaping activities as the first step in determining the effects of potential reductions on that mission set. The study, through literature review and expert input, develops a framework that can be applied to any capability area for which cuts are being considered. This framework provides a mechanism that policymakers could use to objectively evaluate the costs and risks associated with capability reduction within a region or mission set, so that those risks can be accounted for in the decision-making process. The process would result in a sounder and more comprehensive basis for determining future capability reductions. Policymakers have never made these decisions lightly, but they can be enabled to make them on the basis of a more complete set of information.