A series of megatrends will present a major challenge to the United States in the coming decades, exposing it to crises and opportunities on the battlefield and in the market. The U.S. military should stand ready to harness these dynamics to retain its edge in an operational environment marked by increased complexity, speed, and intensity of global developments.
The Defense Innovation Initiative (DII), begun in November 2014 by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, is intended to ensure U.S. military superiority throughout the 21st century. The DII seeks broad-based innovation across the spectrum of concepts, research and development, capabilities, leader development, wargaming, and business practices. An essential component of the DII is the Third Offset Strategy—a plan for overcoming (offsetting) adversary parity or advantage, reduced military force structure, and declining technological superiority in an era of great power competition.
This study explored the implications for the Army of Third Offset innovations and breakthrough capabilities for the operating environment of 2035-2050. It focused less on debating the merits or feasibility of individual technologies and more on understanding the implications—the second and third order effects on the Army that must be anticipated ahead of the breakthrough.
U.S. competitors pursuing meaningful revision or rejection of the current U.S.-led status quo are employing a host of hybrid methods to advance and secure interests contrary to those of the United States. These challengers employ unique combinations of influence, intimidation, coercion, and aggression to incrementally crowd out effective resistance, establish local or regional advantage, and manipulate risk perceptions in their favor. So far, the United States has not come up with a coherent countervailing approach. It is in this “gray zone”—the awkward and uncomfortable space between traditional conceptions of war and peace—where the United States and its defense enterprise face systemic challenges to U.S. position and authority. Gray zone competition and conflict present fundamental challenges to U.S. and partner security and, consequently, should be important pacers for U.S. defense strategy.
In 2011, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace, which officially recognized cyberspace as an operational domain akin to the traditional military domains of land, sea, air, and space. This monograph examines the 2015 DoD Cyber Strategy to evaluate how well its five strategic goals and associated implementation objectives define an actionable strategy to achieve three primary missions in cyberspace: defend the DoD network, defend the United States and its interests, and develop cyber capabilities to support military operations. This monograph focuses on events and documents from the period of about 1 year before and 1 year after the 2015 strategy was released. This allows sufficient time to examine the key policies and guidance that influenced the development of the strategy as well as follow-on activities for the impacts from the strategy. This inquiry has five major sections that utilize different frameworks of analysis to assess the strategy:
1. Prima Facie Analysis: What is its stated purpose and key messages?
2. Historical Context Analysis: What unique contributions does it introduce into the evolution of national security cyberspace activities?
3. Traditional Strategy Analysis: Does it properly address specific DoD needs as well as broader U.S. ends in a way that is appropriate and actionable?
4. Analysis of Subsequent DoD Action: How are major military cyberspace components—joint and Service—planning to implement these goals and objectives?
5. Whole of U.S. Government Analysis: Does it integrate with the cyberspace-related activities of other U.S. Government departments and agencies?
The monograph concludes with a section that integrates the individual section findings and offers recommendations to improve future cyberspace strategic planning documents.
This monograph reimagines war’s fundamental nature, extending Clausewitz’s theory of its political origin and “Trinitarian” elements in a way that embraces alternative, sociological explanations like that of John Keegan. Ultimately, it proposes a new way to visualize the complexities of war’s intrinsic elements, operating at any scale, and expresses war with a completely new and universal definition.
Does history repeat itself? This monograph clearly answers “no,” firmly. However, it does not argue that an absence of repetition in the sense of analogy means that history can have no utility for the soldier today. This monograph argues for a “historical parallelism,” in place of shaky or false analogy. The past, even the distant and ancient past, provides evidence of the potency of lasting virtues of good conduct. This monograph concludes by offering four recommendations: 1) Behave prudently. 2) Remember the concept of the great stream of time. 3) Do not forget that war nearly always is a gamble. 4) War should only be waged with strategic sense.
Recent successful "hacks," allegedly carried out by professionals acting on behalf of, or in concert with nation-states have heightened concerns about cyber warfare and sovereignty in the context of cyberspace. To maintain the integrity of U.S. and allied sovereign borders, it is imperative that security measures and defenses are coordinated and choreographed at the policy, strategy, and operational levels in the cyber domain, as well as in the physical world. The determination of what constitutes cyber sovereignty will greatly influence identification and understanding of threats, Department of Defense (DoD) preparation of the battlefield, the development of capabilities, the identification of participants, and planning for cyberspace operations. Considering the stakes, U.S. leaders cannot afford the consequences of allowing the enemy to define the boundaries of cyber sovereignty and the rules of cyberspace engagement.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) faces persistent fundamental change in its strategic and operating environments. This report suggests this reality is the product of the United States entering or being in the midst of a new, more competitive, post-U.S. primacy environment. Post-primacy conditions promise far-reaching impacts on U.S. national security and defense strategy. Consequently, there is an urgent requirement for DoD to examine and adapt how it develops strategy and describes, identifies, assesses, and communicates corporate-level risk. This report takes on the latter risk challenge. It argues for a new post-primacy risk concept and its four governing principles of diversity, dynamism, persistent dialogue, and adaptation. The authors suggest that this approach is critical to maintaining U.S. military advantage into the future. Absent change in current risk convention, the report suggests DoD exposes current and future military performance to potential failure or gross under-performance.
This month, a team of U.S. Army War College (USAWC) researchers concluded a yearlong study on enterprise-level risk and risk assessment inside the Department of Defense (DoD). At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk and Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World argues for a new Department-level risk concept for describing, identifying, assessing, and communicating risk in an environment defined by sudden disruptive change. It suggests that a new concept should rest on four foundational principles: diversity, dynamism, persistent dialogue, and adaptation. Among At Our Own Peril’s many insights, perhaps the most enlightening are those concerning the strategic environment and the complex hazards emerging from it. The report characterizes the contemporary environment as one of “post-primacy,” where the United States remains a global power, but one that is commonly confronted by purposeful and contextual defense-relevant challenges that fall considerably outside of the DoD’s dominant bias and convention.
So-called gray zone wars are not new, but they have highlighted shortcomings in the way the West thinks about war and strategy. This monograph proposes an alternative to the U.S. military's current campaign-planning framework, one oriented on achieving positional advantages over rival powers and built around the use of a coercion-deterrence dynamic germane to almost all wars as well as to conflicts short of war.