Joint Force Quarterly 112

Joint Force Quarterly 112

(1st Quarter, January 2024)

Microgrids for the 21st Century

  • Focus on U.S. Strategic Command
  • Accelerating Cyber Leader Development

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President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, in Kyiv, May 3, 2022 (President of Ukraine)

Executive Summary

By William T. Eliason

And as you work through some of the pressing issues facing the joint force, we are here to help your ideas get a complete and full airing out. The only way we can change is to help each other to see the need to do so and then suggest a proper path to that new future. We need you to help be a good wingman and show us how to succeed. 

Sailors aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower stand watch as ship, along with other ships of Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, transit Strait of Hormuz, November 26, 2023; an Iranian drone came within 1,500 yards of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower as it conducted flight operations in international waters of Persian Gulf on November 28 (U.S. Navy/Janae Chambers)

When Does Gray Zone Confrontation End? A Conceptual Analysis

By Lukas Milevski

The gray zone remains one of the most fashionable strategic concepts of the past few years in the United States, it encapsulates a particular subset of international relations, in the process affecting the ideational distinction between war and peace. While the gray zone concept may have negligible strategic-analytical merit, its high social utility persists and should be recognized.

Speedboats of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps surround British oil tanker Stena Impero, in Strait of Hormuz, July 19, 2019 (Imago/Alamy)

Position, Navigation, and Timing Weaponization in the Maritime Domain: Orientation in the Era of Great Systems Conflict

By Diane M. Zorri and Gary C. Kessler

The jamming and spoofing of Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Automatic Identification System (AIS) information has escalated in the last half-dozen years from simple demonstrations of capability to truly dangerous situations where misperceptions could ignite a major conflict. Because of the grave danger that GPS and AIS weaponization entails, it is essential that policymakers and maritime operators understand not only the risks and implications of these threats, but also the mitigation techniques and countermeasures that add resilience to the warfighter.

Linemen contracted by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepare to be sling-loaded from helicopters to inspect tops of high-voltage transmission towers and anchor lines that hold them in place after roughly 80 percent of grid was affected by storms, Aguadilla Pueblo, Puerto Rico, February 16, 2018 (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Michael N. Meyer)

Microgrids for the 21st Century: The Case for a Defense Energy Architecture

By Steven Curtis and Peter D. Rocha

The Department of Defense (DOD) needs a new approach to electrical grid infrastructure to maintain security and access to operational energy. Recent natural disasters and cyber attacks have exposed the vulnerability of the current system, posing threats to military operational readiness. Strategic military facilities currently acquire most of their electric power directly from the national grid, which is increasingly vulnerable to failures. The problems experienced to date could be exponentially worse if targeted by a sophisticated adversary.

JPME Today

Then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley congratulates National War College graduate during National Defense University’s 2023 graduation ceremony, June 8, 2023, on Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, DC (NDU Audio Visual)

A New Form of Accountability in JPME: The Shift to Outcomes-Based Military Education

By Kristin Mulready-Stone

The programs responsible for teaching joint professional military education (JPME) Phases I and II are undergoing a significant transformation in demonstrating their mission fulfillment. Governed by the Officer Professional Military Education Policy (OPMEP), particularly OPMEP-F, implemented on May 15, 2020, these institutions are moving towards outcomes-based military education (OBME). Unlike previous versions, OPMEP-F requires programs to prove achievement on defined learning outcomes, marking a departure from merely demonstrating coverage of mandated content. This shift reflects a comprehensive change in validating JPME program success and ensuring graduates reach specified levels of achievement on defined learning outcomes.

Players participate in Defend Forward: 2019 Critical Infrastructure War Game at U.S. Naval War College, July 25, 2019, Newport, Rhode Island (U.S. Navy/Tyler D. John)

Accelerating Cyber Leader Development: A Call to Action for Service War Colleges

By Alfredo Rodriguez III

Cyber leaders find their organizations under constant cyber attack from millions of daily intrusions disrupting everything from our electoral system to our social media feeds. Today, cyberspace provides both technological opportunity and vulnerability. The frightening reality is that the Nation is adrift in a dangerous cyberspace domain, a warfighting domain that stores, processes, and analyzes data under the uncertain eye of ill-prepared senior cyber leaders. This article is squarely focused on a recommendation to deliberately develop senior cyber leaders within the Department of Defense (DOD) to win in this dangerous battlespace.

Special Feature

General Anthony J. Cotton, USAF, is Commander of U.S. Strategic Command.

An Interview with Anthony J. Cotton

By William T. Eliason

Our threats are not isolated to one command or nation. These global challenges require a concerted effort to strengthen not only deterrence but also partnerships with our allies and partners. For the first time, the United States faces two major nuclear powers that could operate at any level or domain of conflict to meet their national objectives. We are now in a multipolar world with potential adversaries that could threaten the United States, our allies, and our partners with nuclear weapons and nonnuclear capabilities that could have devastating impacts.

China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force during military parade at Zhurihe Training Base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, July 30, 2017 (Xinhua/Alamy/Wu Xiaoling)

Wicked Deterrence Challenge: The Changing Strategic Landscape

By Thomas Hammerle

The National Security Strategy of the United States laid out that the Nation is entering a decisive decade—not only for itself but also for the world. The current era of strategic competition is characterized by the reemergence of a geopolitical contest between powerful states over the shape of the future global order. After World War II, the Allies established a rules-based international order rooted in cooperative values and predicated on a framework of diplomatic and economic rules, led and enforced by like-minded nations. This system has enabled decades of prosperity for all nations that have elected to participate, but it is now under stress by revisionist nations. The People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, and North Korea are each intent on changing the international order to achieve their national ambitions. The changing strategic environment has created a wicked deterrence challenge that will test the United States and its allies.

B-2 Spirit assigned to 509th Bomb Wing takes off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, July 19, 2023, as part of bomber Agile Combat Employment exercise (U.S. Air Force/Patrick Sullivan)

New Strategic Deterrence Frameworks for Modern-Day Challenges

By Kayse Jansen

Decades of fighting militarily inferior adversaries with little to no concern of strategic escalation have atrophied the intellectual frameworks required to deter and, if necessary, fight today’s potential adversaries. Paths to nuclear use, strategies that simultaneously account for prevailing conventionally while deterring strategic attacks, and concepts to restore deterrence should an adversary choose strategic escalation are among the most important considerations the United States must contend with in an era of intensifying Great Power competition. So along with modernizing the hardware and software of the U.S. nuclear enterprise, we are called to revitalize our cognitive approaches. This requires the national security community to understand the character of today’s security environment, revisit and refresh enduring deterrence truths, and explore new deterrence frameworks necessary for modern-day challenges.

Two Swedish Air Force Saab JAS 39 Gripens escort U.S. Air Force 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-52H Stratofortress over Sweden during Bomber Task Force mission, August 27, 2022 (U.S. Air Force/Michael A. Richmond)

Preventing the Nuclear Jungle: Extended Deterrence, Assurance, and Nonproliferation

By Jennifer Bradley

Today, most people do not remember a time when the United States was not allied with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Australia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. As these alliances span over seven decades, it is easy to take for granted that the relationships will continue as they always have into the future. The changing security landscape and the emergence of the two-peer nuclear environment will challenge extended deterrence in ways not yet well understood. This requires reexamining deterrence strategies and potentially acquiring new capabilities to effectively assure allies and close the growing “assurance gap.”

Unarmed Air Force Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during operational test, May 3, 2017, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California (U.S. Air Force/Daniel Brosam)

Don’t Get Lost in the Numbers: An Analytic Framework for Nuclear Force Requirements Debates

By Patrick McKenna and Dylan Land

This article proposes an approach to nuclear force sizing debates based on a framework built on four analytic dimensions: overarching risk management approaches; deterrence and assurance objectives; strategic force employment guidance; and operational constraints. The answers to key questions across these dimensions provide a structure to inform debates about the appropriate size and characteristics of U.S. nuclear forces. Only after clarifying U.S. objectives across these dimensions and focusing on key considerations therein should policymakers enter nuclear force sizing debates. The resulting analysis does not advocate for any policy position or hypothesize the “correct” number of nuclear forces. Instead, the purpose of the framework is to focus nuclear force sizing debates on more fundamental assumptions regarding the role of nuclear weapons in achieving U.S. national security objectives.


Chinese model promotes smartphone outside electronics center notorious for selling fake, gray market, and pirated electronics, in Beijing, September 27, 2015 (Stephen Shaver/UPI)

From “Made in China” to “Created in China”: Intellectual Property Rights in the People’s Republic of China

By Gerald J. Krieger

Friction between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on technology captures the headlines regularly. While there continue to be intellectual property rights (IPR) violations in China, China analysts need to be more mindful of China’s rising influence in generating intellectual property. The reality is that China’s growing influence in patent applications and innovation is the real threat.

Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsmen assigned to November Company, 3rd Raider Battalion, provide tactical combat casualty care training to Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, during routine deployment to Somalia, August 24, 2019 (U.S. Navy/Patrick W. Mullen III)

The “Survival Chain”: Medical Support to Military Operations on the Future Battlefield

By Jennifer M. Gurney, Jeremy C. Pamplin, Mason H. Remondelli, Stacy A. Shackelford, Jay B. Baker, Sean P. Conley, Benjamin K. Potter, Travis M. Polk, Eric A. Elster, and Kyle N. Remick

The Department of Defense Joint Trauma System (JTS) was created to provide optimal care to the wounded on a battlefield. The current National Defense Strategy anticipates future threats of large-scale combat operations (LSCO) against peer adversaries that may limit overall freedom of maneuver for medical evacuation, increase survivability risk of medical units, and limit timeliness and robustness of critical medical logistics. Thus, the JTS must continue to evolve and embrace the concept of Medical Performance Optimization (MPO) to adapt to this new operational reality.

General Darryl Williams, commander of U.S. Army Europe and Africa and commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command, right center, discusses mission command execution with senior officers from NATO HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps during Steadfast Jupiter 23, October 18, 2023 (U.S. Army/Kyle Larsen)

Converting a Political- to a Military-Strategic Objective

By Milan Vego

Political objectives are usually achieved by using one’s military power. Converting political objectives into achievable military-strategic objectives is the primary responsibility of military-strategic leadership. This process is largely an art rather than a science. There are many potential pitfalls because much depends on the knowledge, understanding, experience, and judgment of military-strategic leaders. Most often, mistakes made are only recognized after setbacks or defeats suffered during the hostilities. Despite its critical importance, there is no consensus on the steps and methods in converting political- into military-strategic objectives. There is scant writing on the subject in either doctrinal documents or professional journals.


Custer’s Last Stand, by Edgar Samuel Paxson, oil on canvas, 1899 (Courtesy Whitney Gallery of Western Art)

Applying Three Decisionmaking Models to the Lakota Sioux Wars

By Jacob Ivie and Bradley F. Podliska

Examining the factors leading to the decisions made by Crazy Horse, Custer, and Reno through the lenses of expected utility, cybernetic, and poliheuristic decision strategies enables objectivity in analysis and hindsight. It also offers an example of how to study three different leaders, each of whom resolved uncertainty with their decisions, even if such decisions proved disastrous. Modern leaders can utilize these same tools to make sense of complexity and to apply a framework to analyze an opponent’s past decisions, compare the findings to the present situation, and then predict future courses of action.

Book Reviews

The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology

The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology

Reviewed by Diane DiEuliis

Emerging biotechnologies have captured the imagination, interest, and concerns of the world. Scenarios once relegated to science fiction movies and novels are now potentially within the grasp of bioengineering. The purposeful design of biology can enable novel ways to meet a variety of societal needs—from the biomanufacturing of commodities to gene therapies and the recreation of once-extinct organisms. This biological revolution, or “bioeconomy,” has the potential to address important issues such as climate change, sustainable energy, and food production, as well as improved medicines and quality of life for all. But with this capability comes dual use (that is, not only for commercial/military use but also by good actors/bad actors) as well as profound ethical concerns, making The Genesis Machine a timely volume.

Airpower in the War Against ISIS

Airpower in the War Against ISIS

Reviewed by Charles J. Dunlap, Jr.

In Airpower in the War Against ISIS, Benjamin Lambeth not only weaves an account that celebrates the decisive role he insists airpower played in the defeat of the so-called Islamic State (IS) but also depicts tragically missed opportunities and almost incomprehensibly poor judgment on the part of U.S. civilian and military leaders that unnecessarily delayed that defeat.

No Limits: The Inside Story of China’s War With the West

No Limits: The Inside Story of China’s War With the West

Reviewed by Thomas F. Lynch III

No Limits: The Inside Story of China’s War With the West is a valuable book. It is simultaneously analytical and personal. No Limits is an incisive, selective history about how the promise of China’s integration into Western economic systems and global institutions gave way to acrimony and rivalry. It also is author Andrew Small’s memoir about how his quarter-century-long iterative interactions with China evolved from hope and cautious optimism about Sino-global integration into resigned fatalism that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can never tolerate such a happy ending. The CCP must instead view itself as perpetual victim and implacable rival of the West.