July 5, 2018
Defending the AEF: Combat Adaptation and Jointness in the Skies over France
This article recalls how an untrained cadre of men modified existing French equipment and doctrine to build a small but effective anti-aircraft force during WWI. This history of the A.E.F. Antiaircraft Service highlights how the U.S. military responded to a threat that did not exist a mere decade earlier. In many respects, this type of challenge is familiar to contemporary observers who have watched the Joint Force struggle with intra-service parochialism and the unwillingness to learn from others. Nevertheless, this case history shows what can happen when leaders encourage innovation and adaptation at all levels, top-down, middle-out and bottom-up.
July 3, 2018
Cooking Shows, Corollas, and Innovation on a Budget
This commentary explains how the effects of globalization and rapid advancements in technology have changed the geopolitical power balance. Advances in military technology and the introduction of hybrid threat capabilities have obscured traditional categories of warfare and increased the difficulty of matching capabilities to meet contemporary challenges. For the U.S. to maintain preeminence, says the author, it must develop innovative technological solutions without neglecting other aspects of innovation. For example, the U.S. should invest widely in technology and science, but also create more flexible and adaptive organizations and cultivate leaders prepared to innovate and accept the inherent risk.
U.S. Special Operations Command’s Future, by Design
This commentary introduces a new approach to problem-solving developed by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The USSOCOM Design Way is a fusion of design thinking and military planning, which promotes creativity, critical thinking and innovation, and emphasizes divergent perspectives across the Joint Force. The USSOCOM Design Way goes beyond operations planning and has proven successful dealing with the complexities of resourcing, policy, acquisitions, as well as joint planning and programming. As the authors suggest, this approach has demonstrated appeal across the Joint Force, from the commander to the action officer, in response to a wide range of complex challenges.
The Case for Joint Force Acquisition Reform
This article calls attention to the flaws in the Defense Acquisition System (DAS) which promote competition rather than cooperation. The authors argue that the Services are motivated by parochial incentives which do not align with the combatant command structure despite the jointness imposed by the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986. In order to empower Combatant Commanders and the Joint Staff with early and direct influence over materiel development, the DAS must be reformed. The Services must act as agents working in alignment with the combatant command structure, and Service procurement budgets must allow for greater flexibility to promote Joint Force development.
Transregional Capstone Exercise: Training for Tomorrow’s Fight
This article proposes a Transregional Capstone Exercise to address shortfalls in Joint Force training against potential challenges from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and others. This article proposes four training objectives and a concise framework for regular exercises to help fulfill the Chairman’s vision for the Joint Force, and satisfy the need for all combatant commanders to anticipate transregional, multifunctional, and multi-domain conflict in a global scenario. Despite the logistical challenges and lack of transregional doctrine, these exercises would set the Joint Force on a trajectory to defend the U.S. against the transregional threats of tomorrow.
568 Balls in the Air: Planning for the Loss of Space Capabilities
This article explores the integration of space capabilities and explains the strategic, operational and tactical risks the U.S. military has assumed as a result. The authors recommend that joint warfighters of the future begin to prepare now, with continuity plans when space is denied, degraded or disrupted. Failure to consider such risk factors could lead to severe degradation of U.S. military capability with disastrous results. Measured in terms of lives lost, such a failure would be reminiscent of wars fought in the pre-digital age. However, losses on this scale are simply unacceptable, especially when this risk can be mitigated.
The Future of the Aircraft Carrier and the Carrier Air Wing
What is the future of the aircraft carrier for the U.S. Navy? Based on a variety of threats ranging from computer systems vulnerable to hacking, China’s latest ballistic missiles, the proliferation of quiet attack submarines and the spread of nuclear weapons, you could argue the carrier may someday become obsolete. Others predict that carriers will continue to perform many of the same missions as they’ve always done. In any case, the U.S. Navy should rethink joint warfighting concepts in strategic as well as technological terms and figure out what this means for the carrier fleet and associated carrier wings.
Strategic Shaping: Expanding the Competitive Space
This article presents a new concept called Strategic Shaping, an integrated whole-of-government approach which targets an adversary’s strategic intentions, disrupts their political calculus, and thus deters them from military action. The idea is to present multiple, complex dilemmas to an adversary’s leadership and remove their sense of control over the situation. Strategic Shaping will help the U.S. defense establishment maintain military advantage prior to or during a crisis with major competitors such as China and Russia, both of whom have recently exploited advantages below the threshold of armed conflict to accomplish their strategic objectives.
Intelligence in a Data-Driven Age
In this article, the authors explore alternative methods to create long-term competitive advantage by increasing collaboration between the intelligence community and machines, with an emphasis on artificial intelligence and machine learning. The intelligence community is battle-trained if overworked as a result of continuous operations since 2001, and its technological advantage may be at risk because intelligence systems are collecting data in too many disconnected and diverse formats, and relying on systems that are disconnected, non-standard or inaccessible. Nonetheless, artificial intelligence and machine learning will be instrumental to increase the effectiveness of future intelligence analysts and to sustain our competitive advantage.
How well does the U.S. military transform? When are the best time and circumstances to change how the joint force does business? In search of some answers, I came across a short but powerful article written a few years ago by two consultants to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, David Chinn and John Dowdy. They conducted a survey in December 2014 of “almost 1,000 leaders and senior employees in more than 30 U.S. Government agencies and found that only 40 percent believed that their transformation programs succeeded.” Even though these results do not seem heartening to those “change agents” among us, their research suggests how to change one’s military even in a period of budgetary pressure, as was recently experienced in Europe and the United States. In fact, as of this writing, the Budgetary Control Act (or so-called sequestration) is still in force, but the Department of Defense budgetary outlook is fairly bright. So, if we needed to do some thinking when money was tight, should these suggestions not be applied as the situation improves? Let’s take a minute to see if this is the case.