U.S. Naval War College Holds 6th Annual Alexander C. Cushing International Law Conference

The Stockton Center for International Law (SCIL) at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) held the 6th annual Alexander C. Cushing International Law Conference, onboard Naval Station Newport, May 14-17.

Newport, R.I. - The Stockton Center for International Law (SCIL) at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) held the 6th annual Alexander C. Cushing International Law Conference, onboard Naval Station Newport, May 14-17.

This year’s Cushing Conference, titled “Multi-Domain Operations in the Indo-Pacific and International Law,” assembled more than 200 in-person and virtual attendees from international organizations, the global academic community, and military and government legal institutions, along with recognized experts in military operations from the United States, Asia, and Europe to discuss the application of international law when employing joint capabilities to create and exploit advantages, achieve objectives, and defeat enemy forces.

Welcoming the participants, Rear Adm. Peter A. Garvin, president of NWC, reiterated Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Carlos Del Toro’s recent statement that freedom of the seas is “a foundational principle of the rules-based system of international law that has brought us peace, prosperity, and stability since the end of World War II."

“Ongoing conflicts in the Red Sea and in Ukraine make conferences like this one more important than ever," Garvin asserted.

The conference began with a keynote address by Vice Adm. Darse E. “Del” Crandall, Jr., Judge Advocate General of the Navy, who stated that this consequential period of U.S. foreign policy requires legal coordination between partners and allies, and that the U.S. Navy stands ready to increase cooperation; promote the rules-based order; and deter conflict.

“We must better equip and prepare attorneys in the DoD to analyze, anticipate, and blunt the various lawfare strategies employed by our strategic competitors,” Crandall said. “The Cushing Conference – and the partnerships and discourse it advances – are crucial to these efforts."

The Stockton Center for International Law (SCIL) at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) held the 6th annual Alexander C. Cushing International Law Conference, onboard Naval Station Newport, May 14-17.

Conference attendees participated in 17 panels supported by over 40 speakers covering international laws applicable to naval and joint operations in the Indo-Pacific; the synchronization of special operations; cyber and space operations; China and the law of armed conflict; commercial vessels and the law of naval warfare; hybrid threats at sea; and foreign perspectives on multi-domain operations.

Panel segments enabled cross collaboration between attendees to address pre-existing and new developments within the field of international law and assist in framing legal interpretations affecting U.S. and partner nation forces around the world. Multiple keynote addresses, fireside chats, and peer review discussions were also an integral part of conference proceedings.

James Kraska, S.J.D., chairman and Charles H. Stockton Professor of International Maritime Law at SCIL indicated that the conference fostered discussions on laws applicable during both peacetime competition and armed conflict.

“U.S. and allied and partner forces need to ensure that they have a synchronized and dynamic understanding of the existing rules,” Kraska offered. “The conference is forming this shared understanding, filling a gap in interoperability, especially among allies and partners in East Asia."

The Cushing Conference is a product of NWC’s SCIL and supports various strategic directives as outlined in the 2022 U.S.-Indo-Pacific Strategy, the 2022 Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Navigation Plan, and the 2022 National Defense Strategy of the United States.

The conference also supports the Newport Manual on the Law of Naval Warfare which serves as a practical guide for commanders and seafarers, lawyers and officials, and educators and students on the law as it exists. The Manual also factors in recent developments in warfighting technologies that have significantly influenced the nature of war at sea.

The Cushing Conference represents one of several international legal engagements on complex issues, presented annually by the SCIL, inviting analysis by globally renowned law experts and partner nations. Information from this year’s conference will be published in International Law Studies, the oldest journal of international law in the United States.

The SCIL operates within the Center for Naval Warfare Studies (CNWS) at NWC, a globally recognized research institute producing original research and analysis of both international law and military operations. Its work is targeted to military leaders, national decision makers, and international law practitioners and scholars.

NWC delivers excellence in education, research, and outreach, informing today’s decision-makers and educating tomorrow’s leaders. The college provides educational experiences and learning opportunities that develop students’ ability to anticipate and prepare strategically for the future, strengthen the foundations of peace, and create a decisive warfighting advantage.

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Leisa Premdas, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs
May 17, 2024

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