The US Navy’s naval strategy in the early 1990s underwent a fundamental shift to better suit a changing global maritime environment and battlespace.
In 2003, the Navy released Sea Power 21, detailing their plan to transform the USN to better fit the modern battlespace. The document has been adjusted since its original publication but provides a useful framework to locate NSW’s role in a shifting American strategy. NSW has transformed from a loosely organized asset of the USN to an irreplaceable asset in the regional maritime conflicts of the 21st century, especially throughout the War on Terror. Sea Power 21 describes three main enablers for American naval strategy: Sea Strike, Sea Shield, and Sea Base. NSW will play a key role here in intelligence gathering and battlefield direction. NSW and similar SOF groups were extremely successful in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts across Africa, as well as the successful rescue of Captain Phillips by SEAL Team 6 from the hands of Somali pirates. However, military tasking was given to units outside of their area of expertise, simply because of an exaggerated belief in the versatility and durability of Special Operations Forces soldiers.