Get Out of Your Lane: The End of Discrete Domains
From Greg Grant & Paul Benfield, War on the Rocks “Speaking to the Army War College in early 2015, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work charged the Army with developing a new operational concept to account for the changing character of war, a concept he termed “AirLand Battle 2.0.” The Army went even further with its work on what it calls multi-domain battle — a vision for future combined arms operations against advanced adversaries. Multi-domain battle (MDB) is an emerging warfighting concept initiated by the Army and Marine Corps, but coordinated across all services. It aims to account for new technologies and adversaries able to contest the United States in all domains, including in cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum.”
General George Washington: America’s First Operational Artist
From Amos C. Fox, Strategy Bridge: “The American Revolution’s New Jersey campaign, in which George Washington led the Continental army to victory against Hessian mercenaries at Trenton and the British regulars at Princeton, provides an instructive case study in operational art and on the concept’s discrete character. Washington’s conduct at the First Battle of Trenton demonstrated the effective use of sequential tactical action in the pursuit of strategic objectives, synchronized in time, space, and purpose, within the means he possessed. As such, George Washington emerged as the first American operational artist.”
Training “No Huddle” Joint Offense
From Chris Telley & Sam Membrere, War on the Rocks: "Since October, the Department of Defense has attempted to nail down what the Army’s new multi-domain battle concept will entail and what technologies are needed to support it. Though Mr. Work has lauded the Army’s answer to his requirement, the ground components are not fully aligned with the Air Force, as evidenced by comments from from Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Gen. David Perkins and Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein. Language from the Air Force Chief, reinforced by other executive thoughts on air superiority, seem to suggest the air component has the monolithic solution. Aside from Pacific Command’s Adm. Harris, the Navy seems quiet on multi-domain battle, but that won’t likely last. What can field commanders do to reach outside of their lanes for joint integration while the institutional side of our organizations figure out whose doctrine writers are smarter?"
Idealogues: An Innovative Approach to Growing Small Unit Creativity
From Strategy Bridge: “Innovation is a powerful term in today’s defense lexicon. We desire a flexible and adaptable service member, enhanced and intuitive technology, and creative and niche-capable organizations. To make this happen, many military leaders have railed against the status quo with respect to problem-solving approaches and overall Department of Defense bureaucracy. With all the discussion about innovative change, one may question what it specifically looks like, especially down at the small unit level within the military. With this question in mind, the purpose of this article is to describe what such an innovative change can look like in the form of junior leader engagement by introducing our concept of the idealogue.”
The U.S. Army Moves Back to the Future
From Austin Bay, The Union Democrat: “The Army is first in line for resurrection. The budget shortfalls over the last six to eight years have eroded the Army's ability to win a land war with a near-peer adversary. Thompson pointed out that for the last decade the Army has focused on counter-insurgency operations (think Afghanistan). It needs to be able to fight and win "combined-arms mechanized battles." That phrase is Pentagonese for battles combining tanks, armored infantry, artillery, attack helicopters, strike aircraft (Navy, USAF and USMC), special operations units and even long-range missile fires.”
False Faith: The Third Offset Isn’t a Strategy and Won’t Win Our Next War
From ML Cavanaugh, : “We’re past idea, beyond buzzword, and have shot right past cliché—overuse and overapplication has rendered the phrase “Third Offset” effectively meaningless. When I hear the term used, it’s akin to the dashboard warning light in my aging car, letting me know I’m approaching a serious deficiency. The fault is geographically diverse; in recent assignments from West Point to Korea to Space and Missile Defense, I’ve heard well-meaning military professionals automatically apply “Third Offset Strategy” as a solution for just about everything, from military education to Kim Jong Un to the Russians and Chinese. But a solution everywhere is a solution nowhere—the Third Offset faithful routinely misunderstand and misrepresent this otherwise valuable weapons and concept development program as a true strategy that will win the next war. That mistake is as dangerous as it is wrong.”
James Mattis: Readiness Vs Offset
From Brendan Thomas-Noone, The Strategist (ASPI): "If the initial reports about his first day in office are anything to go by, new US Secretary of Defense James Mattis is living up to what the Washington establishment hopes he will bring to the Trump administration: stability, reassurance and experience. A good example came from The Washington Examiner, which reported that the General had begun establishing a ‘battle-rhythm’ upon entering the Pentagon, sat for four hours of briefings and has even submitted himself to the standard drug tests required of all new Department of Defense employees. But for all of the stability that Mattis looks set to bring to the Pentagon, there are some significant differences between his views and those of his predecessor, Ash Carter."
Re-Thinking the High-Low Mix
From Scott Bledsoe & Mike Benitez, War on the Rocks: “The “high-low mix” is often invoked in the manner Sen. McCain describes. Although there has been no shortage of ink spilled by defense analysts, tacticians, industry executives, and policy wonks in discussion of the high-low mix, the term is widely used but still lacks a meaningful definition or historical understanding. As a result, the high-low mix has lingered in a purgatory of relevance, and few examples in procurement exist that fit neatly within its binary construct.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis is ordering a Pentagon review to compare the capabilities and cost between the emerging carrier-based Lockheed Martin F-35C Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter and an upgraded version of the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, according to a memo obtained by USNI News. – USNI News
A number of government agencies are working with industry to develop an emerging technology designed to take over the signal or an attacking enemy drone, enforcing perimeter security at sensitive U.S. sites and Forward Operating Bases in high-risk combat zones. – Scout Warrior
The Army is integrating sensors, weapons, computers, communications gear and display screens into its tactical and combat vehicles to lighten the load, streamline otherwise disconnected technologies and strengthen an ability to launch electronic attacks, service officials said. – Scout Warrior
Air Superiority: Autonomy, Survivability, and Getting to 2030
From Alex Grynkewich, War on the Rocks: "We will require fresh thinking to control the skies of the future. Gaining and maintaining air superiority in 2030 will require new concepts of operation. It will require a rejection of platform-based thinking that yearns for a “silver bullet” solution. And it will require airmen and joint leaders able to apply operational art across domains. While these intellectual foundations are certainly the most critical aspects of success in 2030, it is also true that concepts of operation dependent on outdated technology will fail. Any family of capabilities able to solve the 2030 problem will ultimately be comprised of platforms across all domains and from all services. If airmen and joint leaders in 2030 lack key capabilities, it will not matter how skilled they are in warfighting or operational art. The most brilliant commander today, equipped only with the technologies of yesterday, is doomed to fail in combat."
Why the A-10 Warthog Really Is a Flying Tank
From Robert Beckhusen, War Is Boring: “The RAND Corporation, a California-based think tank closely tied to the U.S. Air Force, recently compiled statistics on A-10s in Afghanistan, with the goal of studying how they performed and how the Air Force could replace them in the future. It should come as no surprise that as the war continued, the A-10 took on a larger share of missions — comprising “one-half of all the CAS [close air support] missions … despite representing a small fraction of the total aircraft in theater,” according to RAND.”
A-10 Warthog fans can breathe a sigh of relief: The Air Force won’t start retiring the famed close air support plane until 2021, at the very earliest. – Defense News
When the Air Force looks at its need for bombers across the globe, it weighs its options — not necessarily by munition or nuclear deterrent — but by readiness, the service’s top general said Tuesday. It’s part of a larger discussion about when B-1B Lancers should be sent back into the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters during a breakfast in Washington, D.C. – Defense Tech
A defense spending blueprint released by Sen. John McCain last week is not only unusual, it's also likely to "piss a lot of people off," according to one expert, because it bucks the traditional budget process that should begin with President Trump. – Washington Examiner
Why McCain's Defense Plan Could Backfire
From Jacqueline Klimas, Washington Examiner: “McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, last week released a 33-page white paper titled "Restoring American Power" that called for a $640 billion base defense budget for fiscal 2018, $54 billion more than the level projected for the year by President Obama. "It's important to note just how unusual, weird even, this is procedurally. This is not a budget. This is a negotiation," said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's going to piss a lot of people off, including the Trump administration."”
Light Attack: Removing the Veil on OA-X
From Mike Pietrucha, War on the Rocks: “There has been a recent flurry of press attention on OA-X, an Air Force effort to obtain off-the-shelf light attack aircraft. Sen. McCain's recent publication of Restoring American Power — which calls for the Air Force to acquire 300 light attack aircraft — will no doubt intensify interest in the idea, with many constituencies trying to define OA-X for their own benefit and profit. Appearing to emerge out of the blue, the idea has garnered some degree of instant opposition, not all of it informed.”
Stealth Bombers Flying from Aircraft Carriers?
From Robert Farley, The National Interest: “This article concentrates on five systems that died, but that might have had transformative effects if they had survived. These transformations would only rarely have changed the course of wars (countries win and lose wars for many reasons besides technology), but rather would have had ripple effects across the entire defense industrial base, altering how our military organizations approached warfighting and procurement. Not all the changes would have been for the best; sometimes programs are canceled for sound reasons.”
SASC White Paper a Reagan-Style Defense Buildup?
From Daniel Gouré, The National Interest: "Yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee, under the leadership of committee Chairman Senator John McCain (R-AZ), released its much anticipated defense white paper, Restoring American Power. The study makes a powerful case for a significant and sustained increase in defense spending, one which would require elimination of the Budget Control Act’s (BCA) limits on defense budgets. It provides a clear-eyed description of the growing number and quality of threats facing this country as well as an assessment of secular decline in the size and capabilities of the U.S. military."
McCain's Big-League Defense Buildup White Paper
From Joe Gould, Defense News: “In a 33-page white paper, “ Restoring American Power,” McCain says the US military cannot do what he says it must: Wage and win conventional warfare in three priority theaters — Asia, Europe, and the Middle East — with plans to counter the new threats of battlefield nuclear weapons, cyber attacks and irregular warfare.”
We Need a Two-Ocean Secretary of the Navy
From Paul Giarra, War on the Rocks: “The Navy doesn’t need a savvy businessman as secretary. It needs a mindful and informed leader to continue to insist that the chief of naval operations is allowed to formulate and speak for the Navy’s operational strategy, despite the apparent limitations imposed by the Goldwater-Nichols defense reforms. Together with the chief of naval operations, the Navy secretary needs to be able to articulate not just what the Navy needs, but why it needs that fleet, what it intends to do with it, and where. The next secretary needs to make this case. And then he needs to be able to work with Congress to rationalize the cost and build the fleet the United States needs.”
The Indo-Pacific Aircraft Carrier Race
From Richard A. Bitzinger, Asia Times: “Until quite recently, only two nations in the Asia-Pacific operated fixed-wing carriers: India with a 50-year-old-plus ex-British carrier; and Thailand with its “pocket carrier,” the Chakri Nareubet. Both vessels could only operate aging Harrier jump jets, and most of these aircraft were in fact long inoperable.”
Obama's Legacy: Leaving Northeast Asia on a High Point
From Robert E. Kelly, Lowy Institute Interpreter: “The broad framework of the Obama administration in East Asia has been the 'rebalance' or 'pivot', whereby the United States would increase focus on Asia given the region's expanding weight in the global economy, particularly because of the rise of China and India. Those two, plus Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and Taiwan, represent some of world’s largest countries and economies. This clustered dynamism – what Thomas Barnett calls the 'new core' of the world economy - suggests that the US pay greater attention. Many also suspect the pivot was a credible excuse for the US to disengage somewhat from the Middle East. Obama clearly wanted to retrench from that area, or at least wind down US wars there. Declaiming a need to focus on the far weightier region of East Asia provided good cover for that.”
Russian Military Modernization: Everything Old Is New Again
From James Mugg, ASPI's The Strategist: "In a recent article for The Strategist, I showed how Russia’s economic woes are negatively affecting plans to modernise the country’s military. In order to be thrifty, Moscow has, for the most part, been investing in modernised or upgraded versions of existing platforms, rather than waiting for altogether new platforms like the Armata tank or PAK-FA fighter to enter service. Most of the Russian Armed Forces’ equipment is of Cold War vintage, and their priority appears to be an increase in the volume of modern equipment in service, rather than introducing revolutionary new capabilities."
The Pentagon Needs Real Human Capital Gurus
From James Hasik, Atlantic Council: “Otherwise, doing better means tackling the inefficient and downright straightjacketing rules of the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act (DOPMA) of 1980: the single entry point, the lockstep up-or-out promotion plans, and quite short careers before pensions. Want to rehire a fighter pilot who has been flying for the airlines? Or hire a senior maintenance engineer, at a market rate of pay commensurate with his experience? With DOPMA, those seemingly sensible moves are remarkably hard to execute. What’s wrong with the act has been discussed since not long after its passage. After years of talk, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and his people actually worked on the problem for many months, but ultimately pulled back from requesting big changes. To begin with, not everyone was happy, and opposition came from some predictable quarters. Senator (and retired naval captain) John McCain of Arizona assailed many of the ideas as “an outrageous waste of time.” Why work so hard to keep some people in, he asked, when you’re forcing others out? The outrage at the hearings last February cost a would-be under secretary for personnel and readiness his job.”
A Guidebook for Managing Military Talent
From Sebastian Bae, Foreign Policy: "At any mention of personnel reform, most defense wonks and service members will either jump on their soapboxes for a sermon or run for the hills as fast as their legs will carry them. Both reactions are completely understandable; reforming talent management within the colossal machinery of the military is no small order. The hyper-centralized and rigid nature of the Pentagon inherently resists change. So, unsurprisingly, recent attempts in changing how the military manages talent have all failed in spectacular fashion. And for this reason alone, anyone working in the defense sector should read Tim Kane’s Total Volunteer Force."
U.S. Anti-missile System
From Brenda Goh, Reuters: “China and Russia have agreed to take further unspecified "countermeasures" in response to a U.S. plan to deploy an anti-missile system in South Korea, state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday. The countermeasures "will be aimed at safeguarding interests of China and Russia and the strategic balance in the region", Xinhua said, citing a statement released after a China-Russia security meeting.”
Advancing Beyond the Beach: Amphibious Operations in an Era of Precision Weapons
From Byran Clark & Jesse Sloman, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments: “The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have been the world's most formidable amphibious force for more than seven decades. They have maintained more than 10 ships and 6,000 Marines continuously deployed since World War II, and conducted dozens of operations against contested beaches, islands, and cities in that time. The competition between amphibious forces and defenders ashore, however, is entering a new, more deadly, phase. Enemy surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles have gained the reach and lethality to protect long areas of coastline and significantly constrain America's options for an amphibious assault. To continue exploiting the maneuver space of the sea for operations ashore, U.S. naval forces require new operating concepts and capabilities to protect ships and aircraft, distribute amphibious forces to dilute enemy attacks, gain access to contested areas and deny it to the enemy.”
America's Navy and Marine Corps At a Tipping Point
From From Byran Clark & Jesse Sloman, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments: "Today the Navy and Marine Corps are facing a fundamental choice: maintain current levels of forward presence and risk breaking the force or reduce presence and restore readiness through adequate training, maintenance, and time at home. This choice is driven by the supply of ready naval forces being too small to meet the demand from Combatant Commanders, as adjudicated by the Secretary of Defense. To close the gap, the Department of Defense (DoD) will need to grow the fleet and force, base more ships overseas, or pay to maintain a higher operating tempo."
Doing Better at Teaching Army Doctrine
From Chris Budihas, The Military Leader: “As historian Hew Strachan states in The Direction of War, “Operational thinking finds its intellectual focus in doctrine.” Doctrine drives how leaders think and fight. But when the Army publishes new doctrine, as an institution we owe it to ourselves to do a better job informing, then educating, the Total Army force.”
Reorganizing the Joint Force for a Trans-Regional Threat Environment
From Chad Pillai, Strategy Bridge: “Entering 2017, the nature of the threat the U.S., and in particular the Department of Defense, faces will be more multi-polar due to the continued rise of China in the Asia-Pacific sphere; the revanchment of Russia in Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia; an unpredictable North Korea in Northeast Asia; Iran seeking hegemonic status in the Middle East; and the continued threat of terrorist organizations like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. While the U.S. remains the single most powerful actor on the international stage, its influence and ability to react to the growing threat that transcends its own internal artificial boundaries and planning processes is not keeping pace with the evolution of the environment. As a result, the Defense Department needs to change its planning and decision making model by breaking from its regional geographic combatant command (GCC) centric system to compete more effectively globally against the emerging trans-regional, multi-domain, multi-functional threats.”
The Submarine Is America’s "Strategic, Decisive Edge"
From Richard R. Burgess, Seapower Magazine: ““The submarine is the strategic, decisive edge we have, technologically,” Reed said. “The [Columbia-class ballistic-missile] submarine is the most critical part of the [nation’s nuclear] triad.””
The Revolution in Defense Acquisition
From Megan Eckstein, USNI News: ““The submarine is the strategic, decisive edge we have, technologically,” Reed said. “The [Columbia-class ballistic-missile] submarine is the most critical part of the [nation’s nuclear] triad.””
New Nuclear-Armed Subs Win Pentagon Approval
From Anthony Capaccio, Bloomberg: “The new Columbia-class submarine is part of a trillion-dollar program to modernize the U.S.’s sea-air-land nuclear triad over the next 30 years, including maintenance and support. Obama has backed the effort, to the chagrin of some arms control advocates, and President-elect Donald Trump has seemed to signal his support. “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump wrote in a Twitter posting.”
Land, Sea, and Air: U.S. Military Readiness in the Navy and Marine Corps
From Will Edwards, The Cipher Brief: “In broad terms, military readiness is defined by a unit’s ability to carry out what it was designed to do, and what it is being asked to do. The criteria include the training of personnel, number of personnel, and equipment quality and quantity. Each branch measures differently based on its core mission, and the platforms and personnel types it has available to it. Increased training and new equipment improve readiness, while extended deployments without adequate rotation of units diminishes readiness. The complexity of determining readiness means there is a variety of opinions, ranging from it being a military-wide crisis to being in need of perennial adjustment and alignment. The bottom line, however, is that the task of maintaining and improving readiness is never complete.”
Interview: From his perch in San Diego, COMSURFOR – the commander of US Naval Forces – oversees the preparation and training of all the US Navy’s surface warships – cruisers, destroyers, littoral combat ships, amphibious ships and mine warfare ships…He’s championed the concept of distributed lethality and the reinvigoration of combat power in the surface forces. Now, in a new Surface Force Strategy released Jan. 9, he’s harkening back to another classic naval concept. – Defense News
Rethinking Defense Acquisition: Zero-Base the Regulations
From Scott Chandler, War on the Rocks: “The defense acquisition system is clearly broken. It equips the most powerful military in the world, but the process alone devours far too much time and one third of procurement dollars. Writing for War on the Rocks, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said “our broken defense acquisition system is a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States.” The Defense Department’s own Defense Business Board made its number one recommendation to “zero-base the entire system, including all directives and regulations.” Or as Arnold Punaro suggested for the thousands of pages of acquisition regulations: just “[p]ut a match to it.””
Hacking Into Future Nuclear Weapons
From Patrick Tucker, Defense One: “Future nuclear missiles may be siloed but, unlike their predecessors, they’ll exhibit “some level of connectivity to the rest of the warfighting system,” according to Werner J.A. Dahm, the chair of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. That opens up new potential for nuclear mishaps that, until now, have never been a part of Pentagon planning. In 2017, the board will undertake a study to see how to meet those concerns. “Obviously the Air Force doesn’t conceptualize systems like that without ideas for how they would address those surety concerns,” said Dahm.”
Legacy Vs Modern Command & Control
From Defense Systems: "As the Department of Defense (DoD) seeks to modernize, its agencies are employing custom modern applications that do not play nice with legacy apps from bygone military eras. Aside from being larger and more difficult to manage, legacy applications often lack the scalability that is required in today’s cloud-based environments. The existing applications were independently designed, require their own custom configured runtime, and must be managed and configured individually. This makes routine management activities such as resource allocation, scaling, and monitoring particularly burdensome to developers, administrators, and operations teams."
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Madeleine Blackman write: [T]he virtual planner approach is a low-cost, high-reward strategy with enormous destructive potential, especially as ISIL and other terrorist groups continue to develop and refine the model. Thus far, adaptations in jihadists’ external operations efforts are outpacing states’ efforts to find effective ways to counter them. – War on the Rocks