Building The Future Force: Guaranteeing American Leadership In A Contested Environment

The comments highlighted in blue below are by/from Col. (Ret.) David Maxwell; and, his contact info is at the bottom of this page.  RCP,
David Maxwell Comment:  “The 40 page report can be downloaded here:
Interestingly there is no discussion of Special Operations in the future force nor irregular, political, or unconventional warfare, influence or psychological operations or the gray zone despite a focus on the “militarization of interstate politics” (or perhaps more specifically in my view “politics as war by other means”).  The focus on information operations is on cyber, AI, electronic warfare, C4ISR, et. al.,  and information dominance in the technical realm but not in the influence realm.  Apologies for my bias but the bottom line is there is no focus on “the way of American irregular warfare.”
This report is an exercise in long-term forecasting, an inherently difficult practice. Most attempts to peer into the future fail due to inadequate approximations of the relevant – and usually interacting – political, demographic, economic, ideational, and technological trends.
U.S. adversaries may seek to act offensively, striking political targets to deter attack. North Korea, for example, may seek to use its artillery to hold Seoul hostage.
Whether America is still a world leader – by any measure, inasmuch as political-economic strength is rooted in military factors – at the start of the 22nd century is in the balance.
While many aspects of this era in American military history are unique – take, for instance, the emergence of
the space, cyber, and electronic domains as primary areas of competition – the dilemmas facing U.S. strategists today are not without precedent. Arleigh Burke, Andrew Marshall, and Michael Vickers each faced variations of the same dilemmas in their time. Confronted with profound technological uncertainties, cast against a shifting and tenuous geopolitical backdrop, they were charged with imagining a way to protect or reassert America’s global military pre-eminence. In each case, they succeeded by looking past the emergencies of the day and grappling directly with the trends they knew to be reshaping the character of warfare beneath the surface.
The United States of America has earned its military edge these past many decades. Now that edge is under increased threat. Fortunately, the nation has the political, industrial, and military wherewithal required to reassert its military pre-eminence and, in so doing, ensure the safety and prosperity of its allies and partners around the world for decades to come.

Building the Future Force

March 29, 2018

Guaranteeing American Leadership in a Contested Environment

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Key Takeaways and Next Steps

  • The rates of technological advancement and proliferation are hastening. To understand what this means for the future requires long-term forecasting, an inherently difficult task. Admiral Arleigh Burke’s Task Force 70 effort, Andrew W. Marshall’s work within the Office of Net Assessment, Michael Vickers’ 1993 work for the Office of Net Assessment, and Robert O. Work’s 2014 Center for a New American Security work on robotic warfare all represent accurate predictions of the future threat environment. Successful forecasting does not always produce the necessary policy changes, however. The challenge is thus less one of recognition than of translating this recognition into an appropriately designed defense program.
  • The militarization of interstate politics should be expected to persist for the foreseeable future. This trend will be paralleled by the diffusion of advanced military technologies and new ideas for how to use them. The success of the future force will depend on its ability to find, fix, and finish targets more rapidly than its adversaries. Equally, the future force should expect adversaries that seek to conduct warfare at a pace unmatched by the United States or its allies.
  • The range and lethality of modern weaponry mean that whichever state’s forces are consistently able to stay hidden long enough to find and strike enemy targets first will have a significant military-strategic advantage. The challenge for the U.S. Department of Defense, then, is to procure a resilient intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) architecture, enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced computing, that allows for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of actionable information in real-time. This will require greater investment in space-based, hypersonic, and stealth ISR assets in addition to AI-enabled analysis capabilities.
  • Adversary access to a diverse array of defensive countermeasures means that sustained target acquisition cannot be assured. To ensure a kill, future forces will need to deliver one or more munitions on-target quickly, before an adversary is able to escape tracking. This is possible by either moving shooters as close to the target area as possible or by acquiring a suite of prompt strike weapons that can be fired from outside – or within, if feasible – an enemy’s A2/AD bubble. If the future force wishes to ensure a kill, smart small-diameter bombs, robotic swarms, hypersonics, and directed-energy weapons should be a critical procurement focus for the Department of Defense.
  • The pace of technological improvement, coupled with intensifying challenges to U.S. national security interests worldwide, demands that the United States dare to imagine ways of fighting that may defy conventional wisdom but that harness America’s unique advantages. American strategists must also identify the doctrinal innovations that will make best use of new technologies, or best mitigate the vulnerabilities of older systems, inasmuch as it is not the technology that wins a war, but how that technology is employed.

About the Project

This report supports the Evolving the Future Force effort. Evolving the Future Force is a multi-year project designed to examine how the joint force should adapt to adversary innovations across the spectrum of conflict. State and non-state actors are investing in novel capabilities and concepts of operation that challenge traditional U.S. modes of power projection. U.S. military forces must evolve and adapt to respond to these challenges. This project explores the necessary attributes and capabilities of the future joint force and how to evolve it in a cost-effective manner. This effort examines opportunities to build on existing programs, capitalize on emerging technologies, leverage a high-low mix of assets, and experiment with new operational paradigms.

The Evolving the Future Force project is assisted by a high-level advisory council composed of experts from industry, academia, and former government officials. The authors would like to thank the council members for their support through the multi-year effort.

Read the full report:

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David S. Maxwell

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