New National Defense Strategy Requires Innovative Approaches

New National Defense Strategy Requires Innovative Approaches.

West 2018 SIGNAL Magazine Show Daily, Day 1

Quote of the Day:

The U.S. National Defense Strategy provides an accurate picture of the challenges faced by the United States as the world moves into a new era, but the path to solutions is not so clear. Merely aligning to defeat an adversary or two is not enough, nor is increased reliance on new technologies. All the military services must undergo a sea change to be able to deter or win a conflict in any of a number of scenarios.

These challenges and potential solutions were topics of discussion on day one of West 2018, being held in San Diego February 6-8. While the conference’s focus has a maritime flavor, its issues apply to all the services, several speakers and panelists noted.

Speed, efficiency and innovation are the cornerstones of progress necessary for the new U.S. National Defense Strategy to succeed, according to the deputy secretary of defense. Patrick Shanahan told the large audience at the opening keynote address that internal changes will be as important as external approaches.

“It’s not about China; it’s not about Russia: It’s about competing, and there are no such things as fair competitions,” Shanahan said of the new strategy.

He continued that the department does not have the speed to integrate products and services. “We are out of balance,” he offered. The Joint Staff will be establishing priorities to a greater degree than previously, he added.

Shanahan emphasized the need for reform. “Everything [reforming] we’re trying to do is to make it so you can’t go backwards,” he said. He lauded the less-experienced military personnel—E-1 to O-3—and their inherent ability to innovate, adding that the department’s leadership’s responsibility is to turn over to them an environment in which they can flourish to everyone’s benefit.

Industry will play a major role. “The department shouldn’t be setting standards. Industry should be setting standards,” Shanahan stated. He added the department will be an advocate for foreign military sales, but industry must help by setting priorities for needed changes. The two sides also must come to an understanding of what “good” is in terms of affordability.

“When the collective we—government and industry—are aligned, we have a history of dominating,” Shanahan declared. “It takes time to [modernize defense], but we’re going to run out of time. We have to do it.”

While China and Russia were cited as peer adversaries in the defense strategy, the Middle Kingdom represents a special challenge. Adm. Scott H. Swift, USN, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said that war with China is not inevitable, but the United States is in a competition with which it is unfamiliar. He added that China is using its own means to coerce others as it pursues its long-term goals.

“China is applying national law in international space … including economic coercion,” Adm. Swift declared. That includes ignoring international laws and organizations while imposing its own wishes on any nations it chooses. The United States must meet this competition lest it lead to war. “If it comes to a military conflict between two great powers, the consequences will be enormous,” he warned.

Speaking to news media after the luncheon, Adm. Swift elaborated on this challenge: The United States must engage in a discussion about meeting this challenge. China’s economic coercion is having an effect, and the United States must decide if it wants to accept China’s “lawfare” economic model or work extensively with multinational organizations to support the rule of international law.

The admiral added that China is a revanchist power that wants to correct “perceived wrongs that happened over a century ago.” The United States must campaign accordingly, or else it may find itself having to put in place mechanisms to deal with reality after reality comes to pass.

Adm. Swift cited the analogy of a homeowner buying fire insurance for his or her house. That homeowner never expects the house to catch fire, but the insurance is there in case it does. The risk may be low, but the consequences may be high, and the United States must apply the same philosophy to military readiness.

And, despite the request for increased defense spending, planners cannot expect to have their wish lists fulfilled completely. “There are no easy answers out there,” he declared. “I don’t see manna from heaven falling on the military. So the responsibility will fall on us.”

New technologies will be a part of the effort to restore a competitive edge, but they must be applied properly. Now that the U.S. Navy is networked and fully cyber-enabled, it needs to ensure that its technologies improve efficiencies and effectiveness to a greater degree. A panel of experts discussed these technology needs for the sea services.

Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, USCG, assistant commandant, C4&IT and commander, U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command, pointed out that increasingly, technology in the physical domains is being networked in cyberspace. He added, “The most important elements in networks are people, and the most important networks are human networks.”

Vice Adm. Matthew J. Kohler, USN, commander, Naval Information Forces, said, “We need to go after smarter technologies that would make the network less labor-intensive.” Looking operationally, he added, “We must be able to maneuver all of our sensors, all of our networks, particularly in a contested environment.” And when the issue of spectrum arose, Kelly Fletcher, acting Department of Navy chief information officer, stated, “Just like the commercial sector, in tactical equipment we’re going to use less of the spectrum to do the same tasks.”

Panel moderator Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.), president and CEO, AFCEA International, asked the panelists point-blank: “What are the most critical technologies to fully operationalize the network? Kenneth W. Bible, deputy director, C4/Deputy CIO, U.S. Marine Corps, cited free-space optics, saying their incorporation could revolutionize operations.

Fletcher agreed with Bible, but added data analytics as her contribution to the wish list. With all the data being amassed and stored in the cloud, analytics are essential for the Navy to turn that information into knowledge, she declared.

Adm. Kohler, calling his contribution pedestrian, nonetheless cited better training tools for both uniformed and civilian personnel. This need is widespread and growing, as personnel need—and want—better ways of understanding how to exploit their growing technology base.