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Army units stationed in East Asia and the Middle East are building good relationships with host countries and nearby nations that would permit the U.S. access to their territories in the case of armed conflict, he said.

Boots on the ground

The Army’s troops and integrated air and missile defense systems also would be the first line of defense in protecting those assets if naval and air assets are denied access into a region, Mr. Bechtel said.

The service also is working on how to move equipment quickly out of the Asia-Pacific, where it has several assets afloat in the Pacific and Indian oceans, he said. Soldiers also are working on how to operate in degraded environments, such as cases where the enemy knocks out U.S. communications systems.

According to Army figures, about 57,690 soldiers, reservists and Guardsmen are stationed in the Pacific, based in Japan, South Korea, Guam, Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Philippines.

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has developed a concept for anti-access, area-denial challenges in the Persian Gulf, where soldiers could face threats that make improvised explosive devices “pale in comparison,” Mr. Gunzinger said.

Guided rockets, artillery, mortars and missiles in the hands of irregular or proxy forces that could attack U.S. troops, bases and infrastructure in the Middle East could create a lot of damage, he said.

“IEDs are crude devices. You add guidance, and you add a little bit of range to those kinds of weapons, and it could create terrible havoc amongst our ground forces,” Mr. Gunzinger said.

The military has struggled to explain Air Sea Battle to the general public, making it hard for some Americans to discern what it is.

“We’re not going to communicate with them when we use concepts like Air Sea Battle, or A2/D2 [or] R2/D2,” said John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Those aren’t concepts that Americans understand. Americans are trying to understand purposes and goals and directions.”

Pentagon planners say the concept is here to stay. In August 2011, the Defense Department opened the Air Sea Battle office to facilitate coordination among the services during the development, implementation and execution of the concept.

“Do I think Air Sea Battle has legs? The answer is yes,” Mr. Gunzinger said. “These threats aren’t going to go away.”