Joint Force Quarterly

April 1, 2015

Fighting More Fires with Less Water: Phase Zero and Modified Operational Design

Imagine that you are the fire chief for a mid-sized community. The city council informs you that it is reducing your budget this year by 30 percent. It is redirecting these funds for community outreach and fire-prevention education programs. Ironically, the council has also instructed you to organize and conduct these programs. In every previous year, you have used the entire budget to train and equip your firefighters and to respond to fire emergencies in the city. You know that outreach is important and may indeed help to lower the incidence of fires in the city—assuming, of course, that your city is not rife with arsonists. However, will you now have sufficient resources to accomplish your primary mission? Put another way, is putting out fires or preventing them a better use of your resources?

Dec. 30, 2014

Bringing Space Crisis Stability Down to Earth

Tensions in the South and East China seas have been elevated during the last year. Territorial disputes in these areas flare periodically, but historically the brinkmanship has largely been confined to encounters at sea, with maritime law enforcement vessels confronting fishing fleets as traditional naval forces lurk just over the horizon. Given that the objects of these political disputes are islands, shoals, and the vast resources around and beneath them, it is only natural that the armed instruments of power brought to bear would operate in close proximity to the territory in question.

Dec. 30, 2014

Refocusing the U.S. Strategic Security Perspective

Since the early days of Cold War rivalry between the United States and Soviet Union, policymakers have recognized that low-intensity conflict and limited wars often occur in spite of deterrence—that is, using the threat of military force or coercion to change an adversary’s behavior. Because of this shortcoming and risk of escalation, the United States has applied deterrence haphazardly in its relationship with China. Yet U.S. policymakers have failed to identify an alternative approach for chronic disputes that are not readily shaped by military posturing. This deficiency is overlooked at the expense of muddling through commonplace confrontations with China over fishing rights, maritime borders, and cyberspace rather than establishing consistent mechanisms to reduce tension and prevent escalation. Some analysts, such as Richard K. Betts, see only two stark choices to address this dilemma: “accept China’s full claims as a superpower when it becomes one or draw clear redlines before a crisis comes.” However, we do not need to limit our options to deterrence or acceptance. Rather, we should complement deterrence with a more flexible, strategic framework focused on conflict management.

Dec. 30, 2014

Seeing 2020: America's New Vision for Integrated Air and Missile Defense

On December 5, 2013, with the stroke of a pen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey profoundly altered the U.S. approach to the pressing problem of air and missile defense. On that date—coincidentally, 70 years to the day after the U.S. Army Air Corps began Operation Crossbow, the Anglo-American bombing campaign against Adolf Hitler’s V-1 and V-2 missile forces and a missile defense milestone—General Dempsey signed the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense: Vision 2020.1 This seminal document for air and missile defense (AMD) outlines the Chairman’s guidance to the joint force and, by extension, to all the stakeholders that contribute to the air and missile defense of the U.S. homeland and its regional forces, partners, and allies. What makes the new vision both exceptionally timely and highly relevant is that it accounts for the volatility and reality of 21st-century strategic and threat environments characterized more often than not by rapid, enigmatic change.

Dec. 30, 2014


As I read Rebecca Patterson and Jodi Vittori’s article titled “Why Military Officers Should Study Political Economy” in Joint Force Quarterly 75 (4th Quarter 2014), I reconsidered my own understanding of the term political economy. At one time I was admittedly unsure of its precise meaning, although I could make some informed guesses, and thankfully the authors do a good job of giving readers many opportunities to understand what it means based on context in various passages.

Sept. 30, 2014

Deterrence with China: Avoiding Nuclear Miscalculation

As China rises and the United States seeks to maintain its global dominance, the world is faced with a new historical phenomenon: a dramatic shift in power between two nuclear-capable nations. As the relative power of each nation nears parity, tension is inevitable and the character of the evolving Sino-U.S. relationship poses a risk of nuclear miscalculation. Nuclear use between China and the United States would be a catastrophe, but China is an independent actor, and the United States can only influence, but not control, the crossing of the nuclear threshold. If U.S. policymakers neglect this risk, miscalculation is more likely.

Sept. 30, 2014

The Limits of Cyberspace Deterrence

As a concept, deterrence has been part of the military vernacular since antiquity. In his History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides quotes Hermocrates as stating, “Nobody is driven into war by ignorance, and no one who thinks that he will gain anything from it is deterred by fear.”2 In the 2,400 years since then, the domains for the conduct of military affairs have expanded from the original land and maritime domains to air, space, and now cyberspace. As warfighting expanded its scope, strategic theory did as well. Today, U.S. doctrine declares that the fundamental purpose of the military is to deter or wage war in support of national policy.3 Therefore, military strategists and planners have a responsibility to assess how adversaries may be deterred in any warfighting domain. Through the joint planning process, planners, working through the interagency process, consider deterrent options for every instrument of national power—diplomatic, informational, military, and economic—across all phases of military operations.4 However, most of the thought and analysis in deterrence has revolved around the use of conventional and nuclear weapons.

Sept. 30, 2014

Opportunities in Understanding China’s Approach to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands

In 2010, two Japanese coast guard vessels and a Chinese fishing boat collided in the disputed waters near the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, sparking increasingly confrontational behavior by both China and Japan. The pattern of escalation continued in 2012 when Japan nationalized several of the disputed islands by purchasing them from the private owner. China promptly responded by sending warships to the area in a show of force. Although escalation to the point of war is unlikely, these incidents underscore the destabilizing regional effects of the disputed islands and associated maritime boundaries. China’s territorial claims are rooted in historical context, nationalism, national security, and economic interests.3 By understanding China’s perspectives, motives, and approaches to resolving this dispute, the United States can anticipate the current pattern of escalation, forecast future Chinese behavior, and identify opportunities for conflict management and eventual de-escalation to improve strategic stability in the region.

Sept. 30, 2014

A Potent Vector: Assessing Chinese Cruise Missile Developments

The numerous, increasingly advanced cruise missiles being developed and deployed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have largely flown under the public’s radar. This article surveys PRC cruise missile programs and assesses their implications for broader People’s Liberation Army (PLA) capabilities, especially in a Taiwan scenario.

Sept. 30, 2014

Understanding the Enemy: The Enduring Value of Technical and Forensic Exploitation

The escalation of improvised explosive device (IED) incidents and related casualties during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom led to a new intelligence field related to technical intelligence (TECHINT) called weapons technical intelligence (WTI), which combined technical and forensic IED exploitation techniques to link persons, places, things, and events. WTI operationalizes technical and forensic activities by fusing the technical, forensic, and biometric disciplines to produce actionable intelligence for countering threat networks. It is an especially powerful tool against terrorist organizations that rely on IEDs as a primary weapon in their arsenals. Given the enduring nature of the IED problem, careful consideration is required to ensure that we have the necessary counter-IED capability and capacity to meet future threats across the range of military operations. Across this range and at each level of war from tactical to strategic, TECHINT and WTI make critical contributions to joint warfare and military decisionmaking.