Operationalizing Sea Power: The Evolution of Navy Doctrine, 1946-2016



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This thesis studies the evolution of US Navy doctrine throughout the post-World War II period, a period of relative superiority by the US Navy. Examining doctrinal change through these historical cases improves the understanding of how doctrinal change is implemented in large bureaucracies and what mechanisms are the key drivers of change. While the specific doctrinal choices are highly contingent on the personalities and strategic context of each case, the historical record does show that learning organizational capacity, a cultural “fit,” and enduring leadership attention were key elements in making a doctrine sticky. Bureaucratic politics and civilian intervention play a role, but appear unable to make a lasting doctrinal change, as organizations revert to their preferred path as soon as pressure is lifted. Understanding how these mechanisms impact doctrinal change is valuable to a military organization in shaping its response to the ever-changing geo-strategic situation.



Doctrine, Innovation, Navy, Strategy