The recently released U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS) and National Defense Strategy (NDS) have major implications for maritime security. In December 2017, the Trump Administration released its first National Security Strategy and a month afterward, the Department of Defense released its nested National Defense Strategy. Per U.S. military doctrine, the NSS provides a broad strategic context for employing military capabilities in concert with other instruments of national power and addresses tasks that are necessary to provide enduring security for the American people and shape the global environment. The NDS outlines the Department of Defense’s approach to implementing the President’s NSS. Both signify a significant change of focus while also confirming the traditional American approach to security. During the implementation of these strategies, the maritime environment plays a prominent role in addressing security concerns for the foreseeable future.
A few years ago, there was considerable ambiguity identifying the greatest security threat facing the United States. ISIS had emerged as a serious force in the middle east, and U.S. and allied forces faced setbacks in Afghanistan. The threat of violent extremist organizations, especially radical Islamic ones, appeared to most significantly affect future security interests of the United States. In 2015, a Gallup poll indicated that 84 percent of Americans considered both ISIS and international terrorism to be critical threats to vital U.S. interests, while only 49 percent considered the military power of Russia and only 40 percent considered the economic power of China to be critical threats. The maritime environment plays a relatively minor role in addressing the terrorist threat, and it appeared that the main focus of effort would be on terrorists rather than conventional, state actors.