Hybrid Adversaries Will Pose a Qualitative and Quantitative Challenge
Hybrid Adversaries Will Pose
a Qualitative and Quantitative Challenge
Deputy Secretary of Defense Speech :
Army War College Strategy Conference. As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of
Defense Bob Work, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2015. (DoD
It’s great to be here this beautiful Susquehanna Valley – and
visiting Carlisle Barracks, which is the cradle, in my view, of Army strategic
thought, the Army War College.
Now, the theme of this year's conference is exactly the right
one, "First Principles for 21st Century Defense." It's especially apt. That's
exactly what the entire Department right now is trying to do. We're wrestling to
try to figure out what the future shape and structure of our Joint Force is
going to be because we want to make sure that we get those principles right that
will shape what our force will look like.
And one of the first principles of successful innovation for
any military organization is correctly identifying those specific future
challenges that demand solving today, and then making the right adjustments and
changes to get after it. Hopefully, he's right. Sometimes, he'll choose wrong.
But if we do choose right, then you've set yourselves up to be among the best
competitors in the future landscape.
So I want to begin today by discussing some of the trends
we're seeing on today's battlefield. And I'd like to focus my comments this
morning, especially as they pertain to our ground forces. Because as we go about
developing new operational concepts and new capabilities, it's important to
understand what our future ground forces may be up against.
Now, it's also important for everyone in this room to know
and everyone in the Department of Defense to know that the pace of strategic
change that we see right now, which Gen. Odierno calls the velocity of
instability, and the pace of technological innovation that's going on, primarily
in the commercial sector, will not allow us to simply graft incremental changes
upon our existing operational and organizational constructs with which we are
familiar and comfortable with.
I cannot overstate the sense of urgency that our new
Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, has right now. There is a clock in his
head. It's ticking down. And he shares the sense of urgency, and he is
determined to really try to make some significant and lasting changes over the
next two years. And he is intent on talking about the big strategic issues that
face us and make the big changes necessary to prepare ourselves for them.
Now, one of the big strategic issues facing us is going to be
the nature and character of future ground warfare. Now, as you all know too well,
in the last 13 years, the United States military has focused intensely on
fighting an irregular warfare campaign and counterterrorism operation in both
Iraq and Afghanistan and now back to Iraq and Syria.
And our ground forces undoubtedly have honed their skills in
these two particular areas. And it's important that all of us retain these
skills because it is certainly possible, as has just been demonstrated in Iraq
and Syria, and even probable that we are going to fight similar campaigns in the
But if the streets of Baghdad and the valleys of Afghanistan
were a laboratory for irregular warfare, I believe that ground forces will
increasingly need to prepare for future hybrid war, which my good friend Frank
Hoffman, who I see in the audience today, defines as combat operations
characterized by the simultaneous and adaptive employment of a complex
combination of conventional weapons, irregular warfare, terrorism and criminal
behavior to achieve political objectives.
Now, we all caught a vivid glimpse of what hybrid warfare is
all about in 2006, when the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) battled Hezbollah. Now,
Hezbollah had gone to school on the IDF, without question. They transformed
themselves from a purely guerrilla organization to a formidable quasi-conventional
righting force that for a short period of time was able to fight the IDF to a
In earlier wars, the IDF had demonstrated their mastery of
high-tempo combined arms operations. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in the face of
swarms of anti-tank guided munitions and advanced air defenses, they countered
those threats by combining artillery suppression with mechanized infantry and
armored forces, and they unhinged the entire Egyptian integrated air defense
system through combined arms maneuvers.
But as many of you know, especially here in the Army in our
heavy forces, in our mechanized forces, these skills are very perishable. And
over the course of the Second Intifada which lasted from 2000 to 2006, the
Israeli army started to focus almost exclusively on irregular warfare. Dave
Johnson from RAND in a study, estimated that in the years leading up to the 2006
Lebanese war, the IDF trained for high-intensity combat only about 25 percent of
the time. The remainder of their time, they focused on irregular warfare and
As a result, when the IDF crossed swords with Hezbollah, they
were caught by surprise. Hezbollah – fighters were armed with advanced anti-tank
missiles, thousands of long-range rockets, Chinese-made Silkworm anti-ship
missiles, advanced man-portable anti-air missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs). They had very simplistic, but very effective battle networks to employ
them. They practiced irregular warfare, but at the same time maneuvered
effectively against Israeli armored columns, proved proficient in indirect fire,
and they used swarms of heavy anti-tank missiles to great effect.
In the future, without question, hybrid
adversaries will pose a qualitative and quantitative challenge. But they
probably will be smaller, but like Hezbollah, they will be disciplined,
organized, have effective command and control, and will be equipped with
standoff weapons with large quantities. As Gen. McMaster has described it,
“These state-sponsored adversaries are small in number, moderately trained, and
often decentralized. But what they lack in manpower, they make up for in fire
power.” Hezbollah showed us that defeating hybrid adversaries will demand
entirely different skills than those needed for counterinsurgency. It is
important that we do not forget that.
Now, being prepped for irregular warfare and hybrid warfare
will be challenging enough for our nation's ground forces. But there is no rest
for the weary, I fear, because our land warriors must now also consider the
operational and organizational constructs to fight wars like we have seen in
Crimea and Ukraine.
In both places, the Russians have unleashed what their chief
of the general staff called "non-linear warfare,” which evolves from covert
actions by special operations forces, to sustained unconventional combat waged
under an umbrella of denial. And then ultimately escalating to high-end
force-on-force proxy warfare with the state actively involved in combat
What's so challenging about this type of war is that in a
straight up conventional fight that we all are kind of familiar with, the
avenues of approach are often very well understood. Think of the Fulda Gap on
the inter-German border. By contrast, non-linear adversaries make those avenues
harder to detect, using agents, paramilitaries, deception, infiltration, and
persistent denial to make those avenues of approach very hard to detect,
operating in what some people have called "the gray zone."
Now, that's the zone in which our ground forces have not
traditionally had to operate, but one in which they must now become more
proficient. But as difficult and challenging as the gray zone will be, it will
pale in comparison when that type of conflict then escalates from the shadowy
actions of “fifth-columnists” and “little green men,” to state-sponsored and
state-directed hybrid proxy war.
Now, as we saw in Ukraine, the state-backed proxy separatists
have access to advanced capabilities, provided in some cases by the state to the
separatists, and in some cases operated by the state itself, can quickly ratchet
up a conflict's intensity to a point that is largely indistinguishable from high
end warfare. Today in Ukraine, Russian-backed separatists resemble Hezbollah on
steroids. They're backed by modern fire and counter-fire capability that the
Army and the Marine Corps simply has not had to consider since the end of the
Historically, as you all know, artillery has been the biggest
killer on the battlefield, and that is proving once again to be the case in
Ukraine. Separatist forces use advanced counter-battery radar to accurately
pinpoint Ukrainian fires capability and command and control. They use UAVs to
identify targets Ukrainian commanders are telling us that within minutes of
coming up on the radio, they were targeted by precise artillery strikes. As Lt.
Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, told an Army audience last week,
none of us have ever been under -- as massive as a Russian artillery attack in
the way that Ukraine -- the Ukrainians have.
Now, making matters much worse. In addition to this new era
of precision and guided fires, Russian-backed separatists and their state
sponsors were very definitely using advanced electronic warfare equipment, which
we were just trying to understand how effective they were in jamming GPS
frequencies, command and control networks. And these technologies are
proliferating as widely as conventional guided munitions.
So in the future, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine forces and our
allies that fight with us, are going to have to fight on a battlefield that is
swept by precision-guided munitions, but also one that is swept by persistent
and effective cyber and electronic warfare attacks.
So how’s that for a daunting list of challenges? Irregular
warfare, hybrid warfare, non-linear warfare, state-sponsored hybrid warfare, and
high-end combined arms warfare, like we might see on the Korean peninsula.
But how do we best prepare for all of these threats? Well,
first thing is to get down first principles. Now, one is in my view that future
ground warfare, regardless of type, is going to see a proliferation of guided
munitions and advanced weaponry. We should just assume that is the case.
If we're wrong – so much the better. If we're right, we
better be prepared for it. And this proliferation of precision will continue
because we see it continuing today. So our ground forces are going to be faced
with what many people call G-RAMM -- guided rockets, artillery, mortars and
missiles, with GPS and laser guidance, infrared homing, anti-radiation weapons
and fire-and-forget anti-armor weapons.
We're not too far away from guided .50 caliber rounds – we’re
not too far away from a sensor-fused weapon, and instead of going after tanks,
we'll go after the biometric signature of human beings. Now, our air and naval
forces have been faced with fighting and a guided-munitions regime for decades.
Our ground forces will now have their chance to do so, and it is a formidable
challenge that we have to prepare for.
Second principle of the future as a ground combat on the
front lines is going to have to contend with what the Chinese call
“informationalized warfare”. This is the combination of cyber, electronic
warfare, information ops, deception and denial to disrupt our command and
control to give the enemy an advantage in the decision cycle.
At the National Training Center (NTC), if our decisive-action
rotations are not being faced by a sophisticated EW and cyber threat, then we
are shortchanging the men and women that are going to have to fight on future
So the third principle, this is the combination of guided
munitions and informationalized warfare, will span all types of ground combat, a
regular, hybrid, nonlinear, state proxy and high-end combined-arms warfare. And
that means, like the Israelis found out, that the foundation for ground force
excellence is going to be combined-arms operational skill. It's no wonder right
now that the IDF has flipped the script, and 80 percent of their training time
is now spent on combined-arms warfare, because it is proven to be effective
against all the different types of adversaries that the IDF has had to face.
It's also why we applaud the fact that the U.S. Army will not
declare its BCTs full-spectrum combat-ready until they have completed two
decisive-action rotations at the National Training Center. Now, I believe that
the threats that we portray to our forces going through the NTC rotations has to
change and has to more reflect what we think they might see on the battlefield.
But as the IDF experience tells us, we simply cannot let our excellence and
combined-arms operations slip away.
Now, training is only going to take us so far, using the
operational and organizational constructs that we are familiar with. We are
going to have to go about identifying these new operational and organizational
constructs and technological capabilities in a deliberate fashion. And that is
what the Defense Innovation Initiative is all about. Now, although it was
announced in November, Secretary Carter has expanded it, and he wants the
Department focused on three things.
He wants us to focus on increasing our competitiveness by
attracting talent. And this is a broad idea, talking about the future of the
all-volunteer force, the way we train our people, the way we train our leaders,
as well as the future civilian and contractor force that supports us. He wants
to improve our competitiveness through technological superiority and operational
excellence. And that's what we're talking about primarily here today. And the
third thing he wants to do is increase our competitiveness through
accountability and efficiency throughout the Department and the way we going
about doing our business, finding new technologies, fielding them and using them.
And a key part of the DII, the Defense Innovation Initiative,
is what you might've heard a lot of people talking about: the Third Offset
Strategy. It's probably even more accurate to say Third Offset Strategies,
because unlike in the past when we were faced with a single monolithic
competitor, like the Soviet Union, we're going to be faced with a plethora of
different types of competitors, and each of the strategies that we pursue
against them might be different.
But they will be -- the whole purpose of the Third Offset
Strategy or Strategies is to identify the technologies, identify the operational
and organizational constructs, the new operational concepts to fight our future
adversaries. Now, unquestionably, a big part of this is going to be identifying,
developing and fielding breakthrough technologies, in addition to using the
capabilities we have now in a different way. So we just demonstrated firing the
Tomahawk land attack cruise missile against a ship, without changing its
seeker-head, completely doing it by off-board sensing. Well, now we have 2,000
potential thousand-mile range anti-ship missiles.
It is using the weapons that we have differently, as well as
looking for these breakthrough technologies that are going to provide our troops
with a competitive advantage. And one of the things that places like the Army
War College can do is to think about this in a strategic way, and how we ought
to approach looking after these technologies and the technologies we field that
will provide us with an enduring advantage.
Now, I am often accused of being too technologically oriented.
Well, the only thing I can say is that since World War II, American military
strategy and our entire national defense strategy has been built upon an
assumption of technological superiority, and the better-trained individual --
individuals, men and women, organized to employ these technologies in an
innovative way. I like the way Dwight Eisenhower explained it after World War II.
He said, “While some of our allies were compelled to throw up a wall of flesh
and blood as their chief defense against the aggressor's onslaught, we were able
to use machines and technology to save lives.”
Now, during the Cold War, we pursued two broad technological
offset strategies to counter Soviet conventional authority. The first one was
laid on top of a conscript force. It relied upon nuclear weapons. We did not
want to conscript enough people to numerically match 175 Soviet divisions, so we
explicitly decided to rely upon tactical nuclear weapons as an offset for
numbers. In the 1970s, when the Soviets achieved strategic nuclear parity with
the United States and the threat of tactical nuclear warfare was too great, was
no longer an effective deterrent, we changed sites and we went after what was
then called conventional weapons with near-zero CEP, or conventional error
probability -- what everybody knows today as smart guided munitions.
That was on top of an all-volunteer force in which we said we
will explicitly choose a smaller, all-volunteer, highly trained professional
force using advanced technologies to offset Soviet conventional advantage. But
please don't confuse my attention to technology with my inattention to the human
domain of combat. I was commissioned in 1974, the year before we introduced the
all-volunteer force. So when I arrived in Okinawa in July of 1975, the last
conscript had washed out of the U.S. military and we were an all-volunteer
Between 1975 and 1981, I can tell you, and anyone who was on
active duty at that time can tell you, moving to the all-volunteer force was not
a sure thing. Quite frankly, three years in, I wasn't certain it was going to
work. And it was because of the people dimension. Sure, we were getting the M1A1
tank. We were buying the F-15. We were buying the F-117 Stealth Fighter. We were
doing all sorts of things technologically sound.
But I've got to tell you, I went to sleep at night not
knowing if we were going to be able to swing it because the quality of the
people that we had between 1975 and 1981 was nowhere near where we needed to be
to make the all-volunteer force and the second technological offset strategy
So after 40 years, I assume and I am confident in my
assumption that we have an enduring advantage in our people, that I will stack
this all-volunteer force up against any potential opponent and especially those
that are authoritarian in nature, because they will never, ever be able to match
the creativity, the initiative, the mission drive that our people have. So I
assume that superiority.
But I'm telling you right now our technological superiority
is slipping. We see it every day. And that is why I talk about it so much. But
please do not think that my time and attention on technology in any way, shape,
or form keeps me not focused on making sure we retain the best people that we
can possibly get. The fact is we want to achieve an over-match over any
adversary from the operational theater level, all the way down to the fighter
plane, Navy ship or infantry squad. As General Dempsey has often said, we never,
ever want to send our troops into a fair fight.
So it's all about innovation, it's all about staying ahead of
potential adversaries. It's all about questioning our comfortable assumptions
and asking whether things that have worked in the past for us are going to work
in the future. And if we say they won’t we have better have the courage to do
something about it.
So this is all about trying to find new ways of fighting.
It's all about to find new ways of training. It's all about trying to find new
organizational constructs. The American way of war that we've grown accustomed
to over the past three decades -- and believe me, we have had three decades of
All of the potential regional conventional adversaries we've
had to think about were generally far inferior to our own capabilities. But in
the same time, just like Hezbollah, our enemies have gone to school on us at
least since 1991 Desert Storm. And they have adapted with a vengeance. They
spent the past few decades investing heavily in capabilities that counter our
own. And you hear a lot about anti-access area denial at the theater level, but
they have been investing as heavily has Hezbollah did at the tactical level.
Now as any good student of Clausewitz knows, the fundamental
nature of war is an interactive clash of wills. It's a two-sided dual. Any
action we take is going to cause a reaction to the enemy, which will cause our
reaction to that reaction. Battlefield advantages in the future are going to be
very short-lived, because the amount of technology that is going out there right
now is unbelievable. And different adversaries will pick technologies in ways
that will surprise us. Without question, we have to be very, very adaptable.
As Professor Conrad Crane of the Education and Heritage
Center has famously said, there are two ways our enemies will fight us,
asymmetrically or stupidly. And we can rest assured, that they will not choose
And since our potential adversaries have adapted, we have to
do the same. And that's what the Defense Innovation Initiative and the Third
Offset Strategy is all about. We want to confront our adversaries with multiple
dilemmas and relying on one service or two services or mastering one domain,
operational domain, is destined to fail because of this range of threats that we
see, because a thinking adversary is always going to develop a counter.
And what don't want to cede any domain. And that last point
is important, because I don't want the enemies to think that we are overly
focused on one domain or one type of way of fighting that they will be able to
block us. So the real essence of the third offset strategy is to find multiple
different attacks against opponents across all domains so they can't adapt or
they adjust to just one, and they died before they can adapt again.
Now, that's, kind of, at the strategic level. Let me just
give you three examples.
The thing that's kicked off the second offset strategy was an
ACTD -- an advance capability and technology demonstration called Assault
Breaker. The United States Army had adopted active defense. After the 1973 Yom
Kippur War, active defense was going to be a guided munitions fight right on the
FEBA -- the forward edge of the battle area.
And we were going to try to stop the penetration of Soviet
forces by out-missiling them; by using TOWs, Copperheads, and Apaches. Well, the
Soviets fought in echelons, and that wasn't going to work. Active defense was a
failure. And luckily enough, leaders in the Army recognized it. And they said, "We
are going to have to start to go after the second and the third echelon before
it reaches the FEBA or we will lose."
And the Assault Breaker technology demonstration was designed
to show that sensors, coupled with long-range guided munitions, conventional
guided munitions, would be able to break up the assault and therefore make the
guided munition exchange at the FLOT, forward line of troops, we were going to
And sure enough, the Soviets cranked their models after
seeing this demonstration, and they said, "You know what? Conventional weapons
with near-zero miss will achieve the tactical effectiveness of tactical nuclear
weapons." And the game was over for them. And they could not compete in that
Well, now a whole lot of our enemies have guided munitions
also. And they are going to be able to throw guided munition salvos as dense as
our own and sometimes over long range. So what we need to be thinking about
right now is raid breaker because the competitor who can demonstrate the ability
to defeat the guided munitions salvo competition is going to have a unique
advantage at the operational level of war.
Now, you're saying: Why are you telling me this? We always
think about THAAD and PAC-3 missiles. That's all going to be great. But now what
we need to be thinking about is electromagnetic railguns and powder guns. Right
now, every Paladin that the Army owns might be a very effective counter-swarm
weapon by combining the smart projectiles with our hyper-velocity guns, our
electromagnetic railguns, using the exact same rounds, and advance computing.
All of the modeling right now is telling us that every single Army artillery
piece using powder guns, using these advanced guided munitions, will be able to
knock down heavy missile raids.
Now, what that means for us is the electromagnetic railgun is
going to provide us deep magazines and high volumes of shots. It's going to
change the cost-imposing strategy on its head. Right now, we're firing $14
million missiles to go after a $50,000 missile. It doesn't make sense. But when
you have electromagnetic railguns and powder guns, using the same smart
projectiles, now you can start to break the raid.
And what Paladin will provide the Joint Force is a mobile
raid-breaking capability. We’ve already demonstrated this on the Navy's
five-inch guns. This summer, we're going to demonstrate it on the Paladins. It's
something the Army needs to think about. The Army, with its THAAD and its PAC-3s
and potentially Paladins in the future will be the mobile raid-breaker for the
Now, a lot of this is talking about A2/AD, because enemies
will try to keep us out of theater. But the thing that you all have to realize
is in many instances, we will take the first salvo simply because we will not
initiate combat. So Raid-Breaker for the Army is as important for the Army as
it's important for the Navy and the Air Force.
But once we break into theater, we're going to have to think
about AirLand Battle 2.0. We are going to have to think about fighting against
enemies which have lots of guided rockets, artillery, mortars and missiles, and
are using informationalized warfare to completely disrupt our heavily netted
force. So what does AirLand Battle 2.0 look like? I don't know. The Army needs
to figure this out.
And they need to be having experiments, like they had on the
Louisiana Maneuvers, and then they have to transport it over to the National
Training Center, and then they have to inculcate it into the force. Here is what
I believe. It is a hypothesis.
Tyler Cowen wrote a book called "Average is Over." He's an
avid chess player. What he said was, "It used to be a matter of faith that a
machine would never beat a human," because a machine would not have the
intuitive cognition. You know, it just wouldn't be able to have the intuitive
spark to think through an interactive dual like chess. That proved to be wrong.
Now machines consistently beat grandmasters. And what he found out in a thing
called three-play chess is the combination of a man and a machine always beats
the machine and always beats the man.
I believe that what the Third Offset Strategy will revolve
around will be three-play combat in each dimension. And three-play combat will
be much different in each dimension, and it will be up for the people who live
and fight in that dimension to figure out the rules.
We will have autonomy at rest, our smart systems, being able
to go through big data to help at the campaign level and to be able to go
through big data at the tactical level. So autonomy at rest and autonomy in
motion. And I will tell you right that autonomy in motion on the human domain is
the hardest nut to crack. Just getting robots to move over terrain is one of the
most difficult things that you can imagine. Much, much more difficult than
either in space, in air or on the sea or under the sea.
So how far do we take three-play combat in AirLand Battle
2.0? How does it affect our command and control? Where are we comfortable having
autonomous decision-making? Where are you going to have man in the loop? How
will you net all of this together to give you a decisive, enduring advantage on
the battlefield? This, I think, is the fundamental challenge for organizations
like the Army War College to think this through and to give us some ideas.
I talked about the kind of strategy level, this whole idea of
having to go against guided munitions, and I talked about AirLand Battle. But it
will come all the way down to the squad level, and the squads are going to be
operating far more disaggregated than they've had in the past.
When I went to Afghanistan to visit Marine units, I asked
General Joe Dunford, "Fighting Joe" Dunford, "What is the record for the
disaggregation of a single infantry battalion across the battlefield"? And he
told me that the record was a single battalion disaggregating itself into 77
discreet units spread over a wide area. That's astounding to me. A
single-infantry battalion disaggregating to 77 different units. That means, in
some cases we’ll have to go to smaller than squads. But that has a big, big
implication for leadership, command and control, especially in an
informationalized warfare environment in which the enemy is constantly trying to
get into your networks and disrupt your command and control.
So the key to ensuring that these aggregated small units have
overmatch by providing support in fires, intelligence and logistics. And if we
combine them into well-trained, cohesive combat teams with new advances in
robotics and autonomy and unmanned systems, three-play combat at the squad level,
we can create super-empowered squads, super-empowered small units with enhanced
situational awareness and lethality.
DARPA's Squad X program, among others, is working on a number
of ideas right now to increase human and machine collaboration at the lowest
tactical level, including ground robots, small micro-drones, and trying to
figure out how to push the squad situational awareness and lethality out to a
large, large battlespace area.
And this is not as far away as you might think. The Army is
-- right now is kind of leading the way in manned and unmanned teaming with the
Apache in the shadows, which is going on in the Army's Aviation Restructure
Initiative, which we think is exciting and kind of a leading indicator of where
we need to go.
Automated driving seemed like the work of fiction not long
ago, but there's a race going on between big-tech companies and some of the
larger auto makers who are looking to develop self-driving cars. So, in the
not-too-distant future, squads are going to operate with robotic support, sapper
robots, counter-mine robots, counter-sniper robots. And much of this technology
is going to come from the commercial sector.
This is an exciting time for the force. We spend far too much
time worrying about sequestration. Now, do I think sequestration is stupid? I
absolutely do. Do I think there's a 50/50 chance we might see sequestration?
Unfortunately, I would say yeah. Maybe even a little better than 50/50. Because
I'm not certain that Congress is going to figure out how to de-trigger it.
There are positive signs. But we spend far too much time
worrying about that, and not enough time worrying about this. Because it doesn't
matter how much money we have. This problem requires thinking. And we need to
tackle it together, and not worry so much about the resources as the
intellectual capital that we need to put in the bank to allow our joint force to
be so successful in the future.
You know, I tell everybody -- you've heard -- probably many
of you have heard me say this. In fact, I've said it so many times, I went to a
speech and somebody else said it. You know, I sleep like a baby every night. I
wake up crying every two hours.
But the thing that always allows me to go back to bed is,
one, the incredible advantage we have in our people. That is the thing that I'm
most confident -- I am most confident saying that we have an enduring
competitive advantage. We can screw it up. We better not. But that is a place
that always says we're going to be able to figure this out. And I know with
people like you in this room, and all of the people that you represent --
whether it's in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the Coast
Guard or our allies, we can figure this out, but we have to get after it. And I
look forward to doing that with you over the next couple of years.