When General Martin Dempsey released the Joint Operationa Access Concept (JOAC) in January 2012, it represented a strategic shift within the Department of Defense (DOD) following more than a decade of focus on irregular warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the JOAC, General Dempsey called for the development of strong solutions to counter enemy efforts to deny the U.S. military both the ability to reach a joint operational area (antiaccess) and, once it has reached that area, its ability to freely maneuver toward an objective (area denial). Together, these antiaccess/ area-denial (A2/AD) tactics represent a substantial threat to the current American way of war, which is characterized by long buildups, sizable logistics footprints, and unhindered access to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).
Execution of A2/AD against U.S. forces assumes the enemy successfully employs advanced conventional weapons and cyber capabilities, some relatively novel and some familiar to planners. Potential foes have many weapons, but their plans will hinge on just a few of them. These few weapons will form the enemy’s high-value target (HVT) list. American ISR must focus on finding these HVTs fast enough and far enough away from a joint task force (JTF) to allow for their successful targeting and destruction.