Analysis / Strategy

By Other Means – Part II: U.S. Priorities in the Gray Zone

Geopolitical competition is increasingly playing out in the space beyond diplomacy and short of conventional war, sometimes referred to as the gray zone. The nature of this compe­tition is forcing the United States to confront the liabilities of its strengths. This report assesses current U.S. government actions to deter, campaign through, and respond to competitors’ gray zone tactics. Using the campaign planning framework established in By Other Means Part I, the report provides recommendations aimed at ameliorating U.S. liabilities and building on its asymmetries to improve U.S. national security in the presence of rivals’ gray zone approaches.

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For more CSIS analysis on gray zone approaches, visit the project web page here.

CSIS Reports are produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s). 

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Melissa Dalton, Kathleen Hicks, Megan Donahoe, Lindsey Sheppard, Alice Hunt Friend, Michael Matlaga, Joseph P. Federici, Matthew Conklin and Joseph Kiernan, "By Other Means – Part II: U.S. Priorities in the Gray Zone," Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 13, 2019, last modified August 13, 2019,