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The authors represent the four U.S. military services in the Air-Sea Battle Office as well as the Joint Staff J-7 (Joint Force Development).

AS A global power with global interests, the United States must maintain the credible capability to project military force into any region of the world in support of those interests. In his foreword to the “Joint Operational Access Concept” (JOAC), General Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, describes this military imperative: “The Joint Force must maintain the freedom of action to accomplish any assigned mission.”


The advancement and proliferation of disruptive technologies designed to counter power projection are undermining traditional U.S. military advantages. The worldwide growth of anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities, the changing U.S. overseas defense posture, and the emergence of space and cyberspace as contested war-fighting domains enable potential adversaries, both state and nonstate, to counter qualitatively superior U.S. and allied forces. These formidable A2/AD capabilities can also cause U.S. and allied forces to operate with higher levels of risk and at greater distances from areas of interest.

Given these realities, the Department of Defense recognized the need to explore and adapt concepts and capabilities to preserve U.S. power projection and freedom of action. In July 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates issued guidance to address this challenge, including the development of a new operational concept called Air-Sea Battle (ASB). Since then, the services have used ASB as a framework for collaboration in new and thoughtful ways to address a critical and significant subset of the broader operational-access challenge as laid out in the chairman’s overarching JOAC.

The JOAC describes operational access as the “ability to project military force into an operational area with sufficient freedom of action to accomplish the mission.” ASB’s particular contribution to the operational-access problem set has focused on the development of integrated forces capable of gaining and maintaining freedom of action in the global commons. The global commons are domains or areas that no one state controls but on which all rely. Freedom of action includes the ability to gain and maintain localized air superiority, maritime superiority, and space and cyberspace superiority and security, in addition to the ability to conduct cross-domain operations and operational maneuver.

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