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The Homeland Defense Role of the US Navy

Peter M. Swartz
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The issue

Should the Navy carry out homeland defense functions? If so. which ones?

Recently there has been a flurry of thinking in the US national security policy community regarding the role of the US Navy in coastal warfare and continental defense—although those terms themselves are seldom used. (The buzz-words today are .. OOTW'. and "homeland defense.'1

Some—especially on the political right—would have the Navy provide platforms and weapons for a new National Anti-Ballistic Missile System. in the face of what they see as emerging high-intensity threats to national security. Others—often on the political left—question the need for a forward-engaged. war-fighting Navy in the post-Cold War world. and would rather see its considerable assets used in what they see as more relevant lowintensity tasks—like stemming the flow of dlUgs and illegal migrants into the country.

Both groups are asserting that US Navy littoral warfare—like charity—begins at home. Others, however—especially within the Navy itself—are wary of tying down cruisers as stationary anti-missile platforms, and even more leery of getting more deeply entangled in what they regard as Coast Guard—not Navy—Caribbean interdiction missions. The Navy remains focused on forward operations: forward presence, forward regional contingencies, and forward war-fighting. Littoral warfare, to the Navy, means fighting on somebody else's littorals, not our own.

Why a history?

Looking at the Navy's history regarding homeland defense can contribute to current Navy decision-making. History can provide important background information and context, illuminate past alternatives and choices, and provide insights as to why things are as they are today.

This paperseeks to contribute to the emerging debate on the Navy•s homeland defensefunction by looking back at the Navy's contribution to homeland defense over time. Such a look has not, to our knowledge, been done elsewhere. It can yield—as we hope to show—some important insights as well as necessary background knowledge for present and future policy decisions.

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CNA Historical Paper Series
CNA publishes documents in its Historical Paper Series to highlight previously unpublished works with historical perspectives that may be of use to current and future researchers. The content of this paper is current through its initial writing in 1998. It is presented in its original format.

DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT A. Approved for public release: distribution unlimited.

Details

  • Pages: 110
  • Document Number: DIM-2019-U-022391-1Rev
  • Publication Date: 8/6/2021
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