In the midst of the Third Succession War, Otto Liao recognized what previous Chancellors would not: the Capellan Confederation could no longer defend every border world from attack, much less go on the offensive against its opponents, without destroying itself in the process. Instead, Otto ordered the adoption of a type of 'defense in depth' for the entire Confederation. A select number of worlds along the border would be turned into planetary fortresses, housing highly-mobile strategic reserves, while the rest would be garrisoned only with small harassment units. When an enemy invaded one of these planets, their garrison would hold up the invaders long enough for the strategic reserves to arrive and force them to retreat. While not denying an enemy's ability to attack or initially seize a Capellan world, it would better allow the CCAF to deploy it's diminished resources where needed and react quickly to emergency situations.
Many nobles were shocked at the renouncement of offensive strategy (especially the rejection of the long-held dream to recapture Chesterton) and denounced this new defensive scheme, especially where it would have a direct affect on their holdings. With no small amount of hard work, charm and threats, Otto Liao instituted this change over their objections, and in 2901 the concept passed its first test when Marik forces invaded Sirius and were forced off the planet by the reserves' quick response; though damage had been done to the planet, it ultimately remained in Liao hands. This trend would continue through to the end of the war: many worlds became the target of isolated raids or brief occupations, but relatively few were conquered by the enemy.
While preserving the Confederation, elastic defense nearly destroyed its armed forces. By the time Ingrid Liao had assumed the Chancellorship, the constant tempo required of elastic defense had practically destroyed operational knowledge among CCAF officers; military academies were bereft of trainers experienced in conducting successful campaigns; and the rate of losses in both men and machines soon exceeded the state's ability to replace them. By the 2980s, the CCAF had effectively collapsed and a spate of worlds fell into Marik and Davion hands, with only the strength of the Capellan aerospace forces allowing the Confederation to hang on. When Tormax Liao took over, not a single front-line regiment possessed more than seventy percent of its authorized strength. The Chancellor was able to institute several reforms to try and staunch the bleeding, including leaning more heavily on mercenary and Home Guard units. Maximilian Liao would order a reevaluation of the entire elastic defense doctrine and remove himself from the micro-managerial role of previous Chancellors, but it finally took the cessation of hostilities for the CCAF to begin recovering from elastic defense.
The concept of Elastic Defense would experience a brief and limited revival during the Word of Blake Jihad. With the Capellan merchant marine stretched beyond breaking point as JumpShip losses due to both combat and lack of maintenance mounted, the Strategios ordered several regiments and their attached JumpShip and DropShip assets be held at alert to respond to any further attacks. While a sound plan on paper, one important difference between the Succession Wars and the Jihad eras was communications. Elastic defense hinged upon rapid transmission and receipt of reports of enemy attacks to allow an equally rapid response to prevent planetary conquest, something made possible by the existence of the then-ComStar controlled Hyperpulse Generator Network. The Blakist destruction of the HPG network within Capellan space meant that news of an attack simply traveled too slowly for the the strategic reverses to react in time, and ultimately the concept of elastic defense was again quickly abandoned.
- House Liao (The Capellan Confederation), p. 48-49
- Handbook: House Liao, p. 33-34
- Field Manual: Capellan Confederation, p. 11
- Handbook: House Liao, p. 36
- Handbook: House Liao, p. 41
- Field Report: CCAF, p. 4 "Logistical Status - Elastic Defense Redux?"