Stars from the flag

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How can the U.S. call upon its strengths as it looks toward an uncertain future?

APL senior fellows author a strategy document outlining how the U.S. can navigate an uncertain geopolitical climate

Geoffrey Brown
Office phone

When the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory was founded during the early years of World War II, and throughout the Cold War and into the new century, international threats and national goals were clear. The United States served as the world's preeminent superpower and unparalleled leader in defense, technology, and economic might.

The world today is very different. To understand this world, its challenges, and America's unique advantages to navigate it, APL commissioned "A Preface to Strategy: The Foundations of American National Security," authored by all 11 of APL's senior fellows.

"We have a better ability to amplify and apply our strengths than we do to control the behavior of others."
Richard Danzig
Former secretary of the navy

This paper identifies premises that shaped—and continue to shape—America's national security institutions, processes, and strategies. It explains how conditions that underlie these premises no longer apply and describes how this nation can call upon its core strengths to navigate the first half of the 21st century.

"This paper is a different kind of contribution for us," said Ralph Semmel, APL's director. "It gives us a more complete strategic picture, which can inform our research and development decisions affecting military capabilities."

The paper identifies numerous challenges to America's preeminence as a global leader, including the expansion and continuous nature of warfare and the rise of international interdependence, as well as the permeation of technology. To meet these challenges, the authors identify and encourage readers to be mindful of particular national strengths, including America's values, human capital, economic might, and unparalleled military forces and intelligence agencies.

"While the paper represents the opinions of our senior fellows, it gives all of us at APL and the entire national security community a lot to think about," Semmel said. "The ideas discussed can help us focus our efforts more effectively on key areas that could profoundly and positively impact our nation and the world for generations to come."

Richard Danzig, a primary author and former secretary of the Navy, observed: "Many strategies proceed from fear; they identify threats and deduce requirements. This document is more optimistic: It focuses on America's strengths. And it is more operational: We have a better ability to amplify and apply our strengths than we do to control the behavior of others."

The authors of "A Preface to Strategy" are:

  • Richard J. Danzig, former secretary of the Navy
  • John R. Allen, former commander of the International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan
  • Phil E. DePoy, former president and CEO of the Center for Naval Analyses
  • Lisa S. Disbrow, former acting secretary of the Air Force
  • James R. Gosler, former director of the Clandestine Information Technology Office at the CIA
  • Avril D. Haines, former deputy national security advisor
  • Samuel J. Locklear III, former commander of the U.S. Pacific Command
  • James N. Miller, former under secretary of defense for policy
  • James G. Stavridis, former NATO supreme allied commander
  • Paul N. Stockton, former assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas' security affairs
  • Robert O. Work, former deputy secretary of defense