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CNO Richardson: Navy Shelving A2/AD Acronym

160929-N-OT964-120 NORFOLK (Sept. 29, 2016) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson speaking at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. on Sept. 29, 2016. US Navy Photo

160929-N-OT964-120 NORFOLK (Sept. 29, 2016) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson speaking at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. on Sept. 29, 2016. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As Pentagon terms-of-the-moment go, Anti-Access-Area Denial has been on the forefront of strategic conversation across the services and military academia for more than 15 years. Now, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said his service will stop using the term for the sake of clarity.

In Tuesday remarks as part of a U.S. Naval Institute – CSIS Maritime Security Dialogue, Richardson made it clear that A2/AD as shorthand will be discouraged from Navy communication from now on.

“To ensure clarity in our thinking and precision… We’ll no longer use the term A2/AD as a stand-alone acronym that can mean all things to all people or anything to anyone – we have to be better than that,” he said.
“Since different theaters present unique challenges, ‘one size fits all’ term to describe the mission and the challenge creates confusion, not clarity. Instead, we will talk in specifics about our strategies and capabilities relative to those of our potential adversaries, within the specific context of geography, concepts, and technologies.”

Denying an enemy access to a particular piece of air, land or sea is a strategy as old as warfare but the term entered the popular military consciousness in the late 1990s and the early 2000s as a shorthand for the modern threat the U.S. faces as precision weapons proliferate to potential adversaries, Bryan Clark with the Center for Budgetary and Strategic Assessments told USNI News on Monday.

The A2/AD grew in popularity in the early 2000s as the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessments – headed then by Andrew Marshall – focused on China’s military capability.

“Over time China’s development of long-range precision strike capabilities would provide it with the means to begin shifting the military balance in the western Pacific progressively in its favor, increasing the risks that [Beijing] would one day be tempted to undertake coercive or aggressive acts against U.S. allies and partners in the region,” wrote Andrew F. Krepinevich and Barry D. Watts in their book on Andrew Marshall, The Last Warrior: Andrew Marshall and the Shaping of Modern American Defense Strategy.
Since then, “as a shorthand it’s probably outlived its usefulness,” Clark said.

Richardson said seeing potential conflict through just the proliferation of guided weapons or a fortress of “red arcs” around mainland China in which the U.S. could not operate was also less than helpful.

China's anti-access area denial defensive layers. Office of Naval Intelligence Image

China’s anti-access area denial defensive layers. Office of Naval Intelligence Image

“It’s also true that these systems are proliferating, they’re spreading but the essential military problem that they represent is largely the same that we’ve appreciated and understood for sometime,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean that they don’t present a challenge but we fixate on A2/AD we’re going to miss the boat on the next challenge. We’ll fail to consider that thing right around the corner that will entail a fundamental shift and takes the contest and competition to the next level.”

As an example, Richardson asked, “What must be done to stay ahead of our adversaries when essentially any place in the world can be imaged in real time, on demand, with video? That world is right around the corner.”

Shedding troublesome terminology in an effort to recast a Pentagon effort is by no means a new phenomenon.

Early last year, the Office of the Secretary of Defense changed the name of the controversial Air Sea Battle Office – the group tasked with countering the A2/AD threat on a larger Pentagon level – to the Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC pronounced: Jam, Gee-Cee) and folded it into the Pentagon’s joint staff.

  • AncientSubHunter

    The timing of this…any correlation to:

    “The White House has barred Pentagon leaders from a key talking point when it comes to publicly describing the military challenges posed by China…a recent directive from the National Security Council ordered Pentagon leaders to strike out [the ‘great power competition’] phrase and find something less inflammatory…”…

    (source: Navy Times 9/26: “White House tells the Pentagon to quit talking about ‘competition’ with China”)

    • sferrin

      Whitehouse “strategy” amounts to, “pretend it doesn’t exist, forbid anybody to mention it, and the problem will go away”. The thinking of a toddler.

  • olesalt

    As US term A2/AD is replaced with JAM-GC, these acronyms of defence/offence strategies will be used by adversaries who are also expected to develop counter strategies . What is important is whether the US or an aspiring Superpower (China) or Middle Power (Russia) has the capabilities of developing arsenals that will neutralise the maritime & airpower of opponents. It would depend on the size of the defence budget, development of defence technology/weapon systems, ships, aircraft and importantly the calibre of personnel. The US is currently the leader of sea and airpower, but for how long is a ? , as advancements are also being made by China and Russia.

  • Michael D. Woods

    UNA–Use No Acronyms. When reading the Proceedings I often have to hunt around for the first use so I can understand what an article is saying. I can’t remember them six paragraphs later, especially when there are three or more of them.

    • Curtis Conway

      Since Biblical times and the abbreviated name for G-d, acronyms have been used. But keep beating the drum. I love it!

      • Donald Carey

        Acronyms are like jargon – a way to keep the “unwashed” ignorant. The Navy should be above that.

        • Curtis Conway

          There is some truth to that in a tangential way. However, if you have ever had a discussion with someone who knows what the acronyms are, that person does not need the long name. Also there are those who do not want you to know. It’s like those who will speak a foreign language in front of you KNOWING you have no idea what they are talking about. And then there are those who do not understand even when you tell them because they are not a creature of the environment, and even in Defense, there is a lot of nuance.

          • Eddieksf

            Whew, i’ve always thought A2AD was stupid anyway. And Curtis, why can’t the navy come up with simple words instead of “…the long name.” ???? In my 72 yrs, including 4 in the navy, i’ve always believed in KISS (keep it simple, stupid).

          • Curtis Conway

            Acronyms are the ultimate in KISS, and if you do not understand the terms . . . one probably should not be a part of that discussion. Having said that, I doubt I could keep up with the average commander today talking about the problems at hand. Some things never change like human nature, and the fundamental principles. THAT is what education is supposed to be about.

          • Curtis Conway

            Education today is more about indoctrination in how to act/react, then think on your feet cognitively in an inductive/deductive manner. If one can think, consider, and deduce correctly . . . you rarely own the last “S”. The Israeli Army fights every battle within the Biblical context. The only things new is the technology. However, the functions of the principles of combat do not change, and that is why we teach our troops Sun Tzu. THAT is completely American! today, with our current government (both parties) the definition of Citizenship is up for grabs, and is no longer defined by the Constitution . . . according to them, by less the Republicans . . . until this last week.

  • @USS_Fallujah

    I vote for “NoGoThereativity”

    • sferrin

      So does China. I guess you’re in good company.

  • John Locke

    When used in a public setting the prodigious use of acronyms has become the defacto litmus test to see if you’re in the club.

  • Curtis Conway

    We conduct combat under the sea, on the sea, on the land, in the air, and in space (soon kinetically, already electronically). If one does not command the Electro Magnetic Spectrum within which all must function, you will not be successful in combat. The US Navy functions in all of these combat domains today, and understands them well, that is why Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson struggles.

    The United States Defense Apparatus needs a Joint Unified Electronic Warfare Commander (EWCOM) on a level with USSTRATCOM, USTRANSCOM, and USSOCOM, and we need it now. No one service owns this entire equation, and The Unified Commanders can only transcend the threat with success, and achieve victory with the TEAM.

    • Hello Curtis what was you specialty in the Navy? I just needed some guidance thanks.

      • Curtis Conway

        Operations from teaching “A” School, to Aegis CIC, to Joint Staffs. Served in every fleet area. Loved the job of Air Intercept Control when I was younger, but joint warfare is fun for me. I was Joint before it was popular. Briefed all the Squadrons at Geilenkirchen once upon a time, and rode one of the first flights in an E-3A over the Baltic. Love AWACS, and led the way in linking Aegis to the AWACS whenever SLQ-32 chirped an APY-1 cut. Tried to hook up our Aegis system with an US Army air defense Hawk battery once. We couldn’t make it work. Now its standard practice. Worked at CSEDS Moorestown, NJ as a test director up to B/L 4.1. Always knew it could be a BMD system and said so back in those days. Been writing my congressman every since. I am the bane of almost every USAF Officers existence, unless he flies A-10s today. However, some of my greatest exploits was controlling USAF fighters and they loved our control, even compared to AWACS. Ended my career in the field in BDUs and eating MREs.

        • muzzleloader

          Thank you Sir, for your service.

        • I had this concept I wanted to run by you regarding a WW3 type of scenario confrontation with the Chinese. I need some guidance with my scenario if it would be feasible with PLA war planners.

    • Alex_Turco

      Curtis, just for sake of discussion, what would be your take on standing up another service for Cyber and Electronic Warfare a la the creation of the Air Force following WWII, vice standing up a Functional COCOM?

      I can see lots of advantages and drawbacks, and I’m sure that much as there are still air elements in the other services (the Navy in particular) EW elements will remain in the other services regardless. However, a strong argument can be made to say that this brand of warfare is different enough from the other service’s that it should stand on its own.

      • Curtis Conway

        EWCOM can train the forces to throw one switch, and the only thing that continues to function is bullets fired by a skilled practitioner, and maybe Passive sensors.