Joint Force Quarterly 108

Joint Force Quarterly 108

(1st Quarter, January 2023)

Assessing Russian Biological R&D

  • America's Special Operations Problem
  • The Fight for Strategic Cognitive Terrain

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Lieutenant General Charles J. Cunningham, Jr., commander, 12th Air Force, Tactical Air Command, speaks with Rear Admiral Ted C. Steel, Jr., commander, U.S. Forces, Caribbean, during closing ceremony held for exercise Solid Shield, in Honduras, in 1987 (U.S. Air Force/Kit Thompson)

Executive Summary

By William T. Eliason

The joint force recently lost a quiet giant who not only was one of our nation’s most decorated fighter pilots and generals but also a lifelong learner and teacher of national and international strategy. Founding Joint Advanced Warfighting School Strategy Department Chair, Lieutenant General Charles “Chuck” Cunningham, USAF (Ret.), DBA, flew west, as we aviators say, in November. I am proud to say I was one of Chuck’s wingmen as I throw a nickel on the grass in honor of him.

Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist with 140th Chemical Company, California Army National Guard, dresses in MOPP 4 protective gear at site of notional nuclear attack on Charlestown, South Carolina, April 21, 2021 (U.S. Army Reserve/Darianne Hudson)

Assessing the Trajectory of Biological Research and Development in the Russian Federation

By Gigi Kwik Gronvall and Aurelia Attal-Juncqua

In this troubling environment, it is important to understand the range of advanced biological research and current biotechnology investments by the Russian Federation in legitimate areas of biological research and biotechnology development in order to inform an assessment of the sophistication of Russia’s alleged biological weapons program.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks on Havana Syndrome, in Benjamin Franklin Room of State Department, in Washington, DC, November 5, 2021 (Reuters/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

Havana Syndrome: Directed Attack or Cricket Noise?

By Jerry L. Mothershead, Zygmunt F. Dembek, Todd A. Hann, Christopher G. Owens, and Aiguo Wu

Havana syndrome cases have been investigated by the CIA, the State Department Medical Branch, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and DOD, among others. There has been less than total information-sharing across the agencies involved. Until there is consensus as to the precise cause of and methods to prevent or treat Havana syndrome, it will likely remain an enigma and health concern for diplomatic, intelligence, and military personnel globally.

Air Force aircrew assigned to 492nd Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, perform preflight checks before forward deploying to Łask Air Base, Poland, to support North Atlantic Treaty Organization air shielding efforts, August 5, 2022 (U.S. Air Force/Seleena Muhammad-Ali)

The Narrative Policy Framework in Military Planning

By Brent A. Lawniczak

It has been stated that in the modern operating environment, whose narrative wins is more important than whose army wins. Additionally, it is posited that now, more than in the past, and especially since the end of the Cold War, “political struggles occur over the creation and destruction of credibility.” If these claims are true, how do planners understand, analyze, and derive successful narratives and incorporate them into military plans?

Marine Corps 1st Lieutenant Kristen Dang, platoon commander with Combat Logistics Company Alpha, Combat Logistics Battalion 3, Combat Logistics Regiment 3, discusses plan during Jungle Warfare Exercise 22, at Landing Zone Dodo, Okinawa, Japan, February 16, 2022 (U.S. Marine Corps/Federico Marquez)

Choosing Your Problems

By Michael A. Baker

Current best practices motivate decisionmakers and planners facing complex competitive environments to focus energetically on problem elimination. Practitioners are inadvertently encouraged to frame their goal as an endstate—a set of desired conditions without problems—and to conflate endstate with vision. This problem-elimination thinking creates a situation where real outcomes are confused with idealistic vision. Shining light on cognitive bias in decisionmaking and pushing back against problem-elimination thinking may help decisionmakers avoid the costly decisions and unproductive pendulum swings famously plaguing strategic and policy decisions.


Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery examinees from Yokota High School take test at Yokota Air Base, Japan, November 3, 2021 (U.S. Air Force/Yasuo Osakabe)

Cultural Change, Tuition-Free College, and Comprehensive Health Care: Emerging Challenges to National Defense?

By Chad Peltier, Grace Hand, Nathaniel Peterson, Louis Deflice, Kyle Smith, and Justin Handy

Since the inception of the all-volunteer military in 1973, recruiting has been an essential task in maintaining U.S. military staffing. Although recruiting efforts have kept staffing on pace with requirements, overall interest in joining the military is decreasing. The number of applicants has decreased faster than military staffing needs, resulting in higher acceptance rates. Maintaining a robust and ready military is critical for the United States to be able to provide constant protection to its people and interests while maintaining military superiority over its rivals and navigating global threats.

Coast Guardsmen assigned to Tactical Law Enforcement Team 109, Cape Cod Maritime Safety Security Team, and Sailors assigned to USS Sioux City, participate in noncompliant
vessel pursuit tactics exercise in rigid-hull inflatable boat, Atlantic Ocean, April 1, 2021 (U.S. Navy/Marianne Guemo)

Security Cooperation for Coastal Forces Needs U.S. Coast Guard Leadership

By Daniel E. Ward

The third decade of the 21st century has opened with an array of potential maritime threats laid out against the United States and its allies, including near-peer-level competition with China and Russia and regional hotspots in almost every navigable waterway of the world. U.S. maritime forces must effectively and efficiently utilize the tools at hand and place the best assets in areas that they are best suited for. This confluence of events provides the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) a unique opportunity to define a specific role within the defense mission set and to fill a critical niche that is currently devoid of leadership. The USCG is the best asset to take point as the U.S. maritime leader for coastal force security cooperation.


Navy SEALs conduct High Altitude Low Opening airborne operation in support of exercise Arctic Edge 2022, in Deadhorse, Alaska, March 4, 2022 (U.S. Navy)

America’s Special Operations Problem

By R.D. Hooker, Jr.

From modest beginnings, the U.S. special operations forces (SOF) community has become a juggernaut, operating largely independently and consuming resources disproportionate to its strategic contributions. Accordingly, national leaders should rigorously assess current investments in SOF and rationalize these decisions against other important priorities. There is an important, and indeed essential, place for SOF in the national military establishment that must be preserved. But strategic balance must ever be the goal. Today, that means a streamlined SOF, less bloated and more responsive to joint force commanders and better integrated with the entire joint force.

Marine Corps Lance Corporal Munachimso Metu, aviation ordnance technician with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 242, prepares ordnance at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal,
Australia, August 12, 2022 (U.S. Marine Corps/Jackson Ricker)

Beyond a Credible Deterrent: Optimizing the Joint Force for Great Power Competition

By Curt Butler, Phillip Henrikson, Lisa Reyn Mann, and Palmer Roberts

The Department of Defense’s (DOD) current preparation for conflict centers on outdated premonitions of war, with adversaries exploiting fundamental U.S. misconstructions to their advantage. In the era of Great Power competition (GPC), there will be no neatly declared war between nation-states, and all hybrid conflicts will range from violence by proxy to the use of conventional forces. Moreover, DOD is facing fundamental changes to the character of war with technological advances in precision munitions, information technology, hypersonics, cyber warfare, robotics, and artificial intelligence. The country that masters new technology and considers ethical implications for proper legal authority will have a decisive advantage—at least initially—for all future conflicts.

Army Stryker infantry carrier vehicle rolls off C-17 cargo plane in India, February 1, 2021, in preparation for Yudh Abhyas, bilateral military exercise involving approximately 500 soldiers from Indian and U.S. armies (U.S. Army/Joseph Tolliver)

Army Sustainment Capabilities: Instrumental to the Joint Force in the Indo-Pacific Region

By David Wilson

While focusing on the Middle East for over 20 years, the U.S. military has lost its competitive edge over near-peer threats such as China and Russia due to their rapid military modernization across all domains. As the Department of Defense (DOD) looks at foreseeable conflict in the Pacific, the United States will require a joint and combined force to win a joint multi-domain battle. When thinking of the Pacific, the image of water implies movement and sustainment operations conducted in that domain. However, the capabilities required to open, set, and sustain the theater occur on land and are key to enabling the joint force to compete and win in the Indo-Pacific region.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on war in Ukraine, Saturday, March 26, 2022, at Royal Castel in Warsaw, Poland (The White House/Cameron Smith)

America Must Engage in the Fight for Strategic Cognitive Terrain

By Daniel S. Hall

Combining cutting-edge communications with psychosocial science to employ psychological capitulation strategies has changed the character of modern war. Adversaries combine half-truths with psychodynamic behavioral constructs to compete for strategic cognitive terrain. The U.S. military currently lacks the authorizations and capabilities required to protect societies against gray propaganda. Peter Singer and Emerson Brooking quoted an unattributed U.S. Army officer as saying, “Today we go in with the assumption that we’ll lose the battle of the narrative.” The United States can no longer accept loss in the information fight.


Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, by Hendrik Frans
Schaefels, 1878, oil on canvas (Palais Dorotheum)

British Successes in 19th-Century Great Power Competition: Lessons for Today’s Joint Force

By Isaac Johnson, Erik Lampe, and Keith Wilson

It is no accident that many of our nation’s finest military minds were avid readers of history. Former Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis’s suggestion that “history lights the . . . path ahead” has proved accurate time and again. As the U.S. security establishment pivots from a focus on counterterrorism to one of countering peer adversaries in new domains of conflict, history may again serve as a guide. As this pivot is under way, the country finds it is no longer the clear global hegemon but rather is operating in a multipolar global power structure. How do we navigate this transition? In the decades after the American Revolution, Britain not only maintained its vital interests despite the loss of the American colonies, but it also successfully navigated a multipolar power structure to strengthen its position in the international community. This article explores 19th-century British strategies to maintain and expand global power that might offer helpful insight to today’s joint force.

Book Reviews

Mick Ryan

War Transformed: The Future of Twenty-First-Century Great Power Competition and Conflict

Reviewed by Francis G. Hoffman

War Transformed is strongly recommended as a guide to improve one’s ability to navigate our uncertain future. Not everyone is a “surf rider,” but this book will stretch minds and force readers to reassess longstanding assumptions and dated ideas. Its strength is in its synthesis of the ideas of many others, which makes War Transformed comprehensive and an excellent foundation for a security studies course. Supplemented by key articles for greater depth on competing ideas or specific technologies, it would be a superb text for a class on the changing character of warfare at either the undergraduate or graduate level.

Joseph O. Chapa

Is Remote Warfare Moral? Weighing Issues of Life and Death From 7,000 Miles

Reviewed by Christopher Kuennen

The lessons of Joseph O. Chapa’s Is Remote Warfare Moral? Weighing Issues of Life and Death From 7,000 Miles are applicable beyond the remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) community upon which he focuses most of his attention. For a joint force charged with fighting from a distance—competing across oceans, planning against adversaries’ antiaccess/area-denial threats, and employing artificial intelligence (AI) to make rapid sense of complex situations a world away—Chapa’s book constitutes an important advance in the professional ethics of remote warfighting.

Henry A. Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, and Daniel Huttenlocher

The Age of AI: And Our Human Future

Reviewed by John W. Sutherlin

To fully appreciate The Age of AI: And Our Human Future, one must overlook its nebulous description of a decades-old issue and suspend any expectations for a well-researched and thorough account of this vital topic. The authors, who represent major policy, industry, and academic heavyweights, stumble in their attempt to raise awareness and often fail to provide meaningful insights. The analysis and research manifested here leave so many things unanswered. Still, the book is not without merit; some may find it a good starting point for a deeper dive into the subject of AI and public policy.


U.S. Air Force 23rd Bomb Squadron B-52H Stratofortress, two German air force Panavia Tornados followed by two German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons, and one Belgian air force F-16 Fighting Falcon, fly in formation over Germany during Bomber Task Force mission, August 24, 2022 (U.S. Air Force/Michael A. Richmond)

The Joint Force Remains Ill-Prepared to Consolidate Gains

By Thomas Theodore Putnam

A popular policy myth remains rooted in the U.S. mindset: that the military’s mission in combat is complete when the coalition is militarily successful in large-scale combat operations (LSCO) and that once the former regime’s forces have left the battlefield, civilian agencies can immediately move in and begin leading the difficult task of stabilizing the defeated nation. A study of history demonstrates the fallacy of this myth. Yet national policy and joint doctrine enable it to endure. Until joint doctrine incorporates consolidation of gains, the joint force will remain ill-prepared to translate fleeting military successes into long-term U.S. strategic victories