DKI APCSS’ Captain Joshua Taylor has a new article entitled “Citizen Sailors: The Missing Link in Maritime Force Structure” published by War on the Rocks. Co-authored with Col. Scott C. Humphrey, their article highlights a pressing challenge for the U.S. Navy—the growing gap between its force structure needs and available personnel.

According to the authors, despite the Navy’s focus on unmanned technology and projections indicating a need for 3,000 to 10,000 additional personnel in the next 30 years, the current recruiting efforts are falling short. The manpower shortage is exacerbated by the Navy’s prioritization of high-intensity naval combat readiness over persistent engagement with allies, particularly in the face of Chinese maritime coercion. The authors argue that the Navy lacks the necessary personnel not only to man its existing ships but also to support its ambitious shipbuilding plans. Furthermore, it raises concerns about the potential loss of trained and experienced sailors in the event of a conflict with China.

Their proposed solution is the creation of a Maritime National Guard as a means to strengthen the Navy’s force structure, improve recruiting and retention, and reconnect the American populace to the sea through citizen sailors. The Maritime National Guard would operate under Title 32, providing a versatile maritime operational reserve that supports both Navy and Marine Corps missions.  This approach, leveraging existing legal authority, would offer a cost-effective way to address the Navy’s personnel challenges and enhance its strategic depth. Additionally, it emphasizes the potential benefits of a Maritime National Guard in supporting domestic disaster relief efforts, law enforcement, and maritime security cooperation, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.

The article concludes by advocating for collaboration between state and federal governments to establish the Maritime National Guard, highlighting its potential to strengthen partnerships, boost economic ties with maritime industries, and foster a renewed connection between the American people and the sea services. The authors assert, “The time is now to create citizen sailors who will fill the missing link in U.S. maritime force structure.”

Read the full article online at:

The views expressed are solely the authors’ and do not represent the views of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, National Guard Bureau, Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.