Robert Work, a retired Marine colonel and defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, sees the boom in Naval officers taking key commands and positions as a trade-off between the concept of jointness -- that is, all the services planning and fighting together -- and the diversity of service culture on display. "It risks skewing decisions over time," Work says. "If you get five Navy officers in a room to solve a given problem, the answer is going to be different than if you had five Army officers and five Navy officers." That can have a significant impact when it comes to considering an extended stay in Iraq and Afghanistan or what post-Iraq defense strategy ought to resemble. "Naval officers would probably look at it and say, 'We'd prefer to distribute forces off-shore, and we'd like to maintain a light footprint on-shore,'" Work says. "Meanwhile, the Army says it's all about boots on the ground."
Fallon's appointment to Central Command certainly indicated a look beyond Iraq and Afghanistan in the region -- and toward Iran, resulting in a bolstered naval presence in the Persian Gulf. "We have a ground force built on fighting short wars, and now we find ourselves in a marathon. The strain on the ground forces is extraordinary right now," Work adds. He cautions that the real heavy lifting on reshaping defense policy is going to happen during the 2009 Quadrennial Defense Review -- the Pentagon's massive, periodic strategy overview -- and, of course, the 2008 election. But the turn toward the Navy could indicate a rethinking in the Pentagon about how to sustain a long war while reducing the pressure on the Army and Marine Corps.