Look for the Visionary Thinkers
Look for the Visionary
Deputy Secretary of Defense Speech :
Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of
Defense Bob Work, Whitehall, London, September 10, 2015. (DoD
Well, good afternoon, everybody. I want to thank Trevor
Taylor for that introduction and also thank RUSI for having me this afternoon.
As Trevor told you, I spent about eight or nine years in think tanks and RUSI
has an admirable reputation as being among the best think tanks in the world. So
it's a great honor for me to be here this afternoon and share some thoughts.
Now, as I was told and reminded, this is the oldest surviving
think tank in the world. There might have been a couple that predated RUSI but
they have all gone to pasture in one way or another. So it started back in 1831,
by Duke of Wellington.
So here in the Duke of Wellington hall, I thought it fitting
to share one of my favorite anecdotes. As Trevor said, I’m a retired Marine, and
during the peninsular campaign Wellington passed the famed Grenadier Guards, and
to his utter disgust he saw the officers with umbrellas shielding themselves
from the rain. He immediately dispatched a subaltern who galloped up and
bellowed, "Lord Wellington does not approve of these umbrellas during the
enemy’s firing and will not allow the gentlemen's sons to make themselves
ridiculous in the eyes of the army."
As a Marine who has been inculcated with a disdain for
umbrellas, I could really get into that. But more importantly, I hope this
afternoon, after I finish my comments, I'm not ridiculous in the eyes of the
audience and RUSI.
It's great to be back here in the United Kingdom. Just over a
year ago I was able to join Her Majesty the Queen and Prime Minister Cameron for
the christening of the HMS Queen Elizabeth. And while I was utterly dismayed
that a fine bottle of single malt whiskey was smashed against the hull -- in the
United States we use cheap champagne -- the christening was simply a fabulous
event in every way.
And HMS Queen Elizabeth is going to be a fantastic ship that
will operate alongside our carriers, as well as independently for the next
several decades. In fact, we're preparing for that day right now. As you
probably know -- of the joint training between the Royal Navy and the United
States Navy pilots and flight crew.
Now that is just one small example of the tremendous
cooperation that happens as a matter of course between the militaries of the
United States and United Kingdom. The U.K., without question, remains the United
States' closest and most capable ally. When we look out in the world, it is the
U.K. with whom we share the most similar values and the most similar global view.
And whenever we think of using military to address some type
of security situation, the first ally whose counsel we seek and whose support we
may ask is the United Kingdom. At this time, we are also continuing a very
productive dialogue that the Department of Defense has been having with U.K.
defense establishment on the Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR).
We are quite honored that the government is interested in our
input and we believe this dialogue is just another indicator of this special
relationship, which has been long in the making and not without some occasional
Dwight Eisenhower would often talk about the many challenges
faced by the British and American chiefs of staff, as they struggled to
establish an allied command structure early in World War II. Lacking experience
at that sort of thing, the staffs diverted to what staffs normally do. They had
to set about drafting elaborate charts and briefings. Thank God they didn't have
PowerPoint back then.
But they could have saved themselves many hours and wasted
days and nights, Eisenhower said as such a charter can't be made to stick
because nations will ultimately act in their own self-interest. He concluded
that there is really only one thing that made allied commands work, and that was
if they could establish mutual trust and confidence in each other.
And it is that shared mutual trust and confidence that exists
between the U.S. and U.K. military, and which makes this special relationship so
special. Trust that we will be there for each other, and confidence in each
other's stated goals. We have seen it demonstrated again and again, in World War
II, in Korea, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, where the British military was with us
from the very beginning. And we see it today in contributions by British troops
in the fight against ISIS.
The bottom line is the United States values and trusts and
hopes that this special relationship with the U.K. remains special, and will
remain enduring. And we believe that it's based upon two important things: the
United Kingdom's ability to operate on its own when needed, as well as its
ability and will to operate with the United States when appropriate.
For that reason we're greatly heartened by the United
Kingdom's recent decision to continue with the NATO defense investment pledge,
to dedicate two percent of GDP to defense spending. We know this was a difficult
political decision, and it makes them only one of four nations in all of NATO
that are there and committed to remain.
In our view, this commitment sends an extremely clear
decision for one and all within NATO and around the world that the United
Kingdom is determined to continue its contribution to collective defense and
maintain a global leadership role.
We believe that leadership role is now more important than
ever, as Europe and NATO have shifted its focus from out of area of operations,
which we have done for about the last 14 years, to challenges closer to home, on
no less than three flanks. To the south NATO now confronts the continued
terrorism challenge posed by ISIL and other extremist groups, in an arc reaching
all the way from northern Africa across the Middle East to Afghanistan. This is
causing a major migration of displaced people who are trying to leave the area
and protect themselves, and a wave of refugees that are coming into Europe.
On NATO's eastern and northern flanks, including the Baltics,
the North Atlantic and the high north, we must once again consider how best to
deter further Russian coercion and aggression. Now this shift in focus from out
of area operations to deterring Russia is largely unexpected, coming as it has
after 25 years of working together to try to embrace Russia within the European
Community, and partnering with them on a variety of global issues. And we still
desire both of those outcomes, without question.
However, after modernizing both its nuclear and conventional
military capabilities and its war-fighting doctrine, Russia is rattling its
nuclear saber, seeking to annex Crimea and destabilize eastern Ukraine,
undermine NATO's solidarity, create a sphere of influence in its near abroad and
possibly militarize the Arctic.
Now these actions all suggest that NATO will most likely have
to contend with a more aggressive and antagonistic Russian neighbor. And in the
face of this unexpected behavior, NATO and the European Community and the United
States must once again respond together to preserve peace and security.
Now as we've come to expect, the United Kingdom has taken the
lead in crafting a strong European response, including imposing tough sanctions
against Russia. We believe that the primary means by which to maintain peace and
security is through economic means and diplomacy. But as the military aspect of
it is also quite important, and the British military has contributed to Baltic
area policing, their stepping up exercises and training in Europe is making an
enormous contribution to NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which it
will lead in 2017, and is providing a great deal of support to the Ukrainian
For our part, through our new European Reassurance
Initiative, we have substantially increased NATO and partner exercises over the
past 18 months, both to reassure our allies that we will be there if necessary,
and also to deter further aggressive behavior. We've invested in training and
activities to build resiliency among our most vulnerable allies and partners,
particularly those susceptible to Russia's so-called hybrid threats.
Now these actions are all very welcome but they are unlikely
to be enough, given Russia's declaration that it believes that the United States
and NATO is a direct threat to its existence. And that is why, as Secretary
Carter said, we are working with our allies to develop a new playbook for NATO
to strengthen conventional deterrence.
Now I'd like to underline, this is nothing more than
activities to strengthen conventional deterrence to make sure that there is no
miscalculation that might lead to a more destructive confrontation. And in our
view that means this playbook has to have three interrelated things. The first
will be new, innovative operational concepts, with highly integrated
interoperability and command and control integration. The second will be new
capabilities that we develop, that hopefully will overmatch any potential
competitor who threatens Europe or the United States. And the third will be
frequent demonstrations of both these new operational concepts, as well as the
capabilities that underwrite conventional deterrence.
Now I'd like to speak a little bit for just a second on both
new operational concepts and new technologies, because they are closely
intertwined. During the Cold War our operational posture as NATO was “Forward
Defense.” But we were outnumbered to a great degree and we could not match the
Warsaw Pact man-for-man.
In the early 1950s, President Eisenhower estimated that it
would take no less than 92 divisions to halt a Soviet assault across the
inter-German border. And that a NATO army of that size was nearly fiscally or
politically reasonable. This could not happen. So Eisenhower turned to
technologies to offset conventional numerical superiority. At that time the
United States enjoyed nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union. So the
operational concept was to use tactical nuclear weapons to halt any conventional
attack against NATO.
This concept also led to new organizational and operational
concepts, new dual-capability artillery units and rocket units were fielded in
NATO and in the United States. And the Army for a time actually reorganized its
division structure according to the triangular division that had fought in World
War II, the three regular combat units, to an atomic or five-part organization
that had five combat teams or battle groups that would spread themselves over
the battlefield. And the idea was that each of these battle groups would be too
small to attract a nuclear strike and they would coagulate and concentrate and
aggregate to attack when necessary and quickly disperse.
So this marriage of tactical nuclear weapons, new technology,
and new operational concepts bolstered conventional deterrence throughout the
'50s and into the '60s. However, as the United States exited Vietnam in 1972 -
1973, the Group of Soviet Forces Germany had amassed thousands and thousands of
modernized tanks, personnel carriers, artillery tubes and so forth. These forces
were postured to attack in successive echelons, powerful echelons, where one
echelon would attack, followed quickly by a second, followed quickly by a third.
And the whole idea was to punch a hole in NATO defenses to allow large, mobile
Operational Maneuver Groups (OMG) deep inside NATO territory to prevent them
from using tactical nuclear weapons even if they wanted to.
Now NATO's initial response was a doctrine called “Active
Defense.” The doctrine called for phased withdrawal in the face of these
successive echelons, and we would use short-range guided munitions, primarily
anti-tank munitions, to grind down Soviet echelons as they came into territory.
But the sheer size of the armored echelons meant NATO units would probably run
out ordinance before they could stop the OMG breaking into NATO's rear. And to
all of the professional military you were ceding the initiative to the Soviets.
So you were giving up territory and munitions.
So in many war-games and in think tanks that were looking at
Active Defense, the conclusion came back over and over, Active Defense would not
stop a breakthrough. And if the breakthrough occurred, even if the allies wanted
to use nuclear weapons to stop the breakthrough, at that time the Soviets had
achieved nuclear parity and the threat of us using tactical nuclear weapons was
not credible any more. So our conventional deterrence was undercut.
So consequently, in 1973 the Department of Defense launched
what was called the long-range research and development planning program (LRRDPP).
We have to have an acronym, LRRDPP. And the whole purpose of LRRDPP was to
bolster conventional deterrence, to make sure that the Soviet military or
general staff never felt comfortable ordering an attack.
And in the end it recommended two choices. For a time it
looked at either using more useful nuclear weapons, neutron bombs, smaller yield
nuclear weapons. But instead it said it that won't work. When there is strategic
nuclear parity in the use of nuclear weapons, it's too destabilizing, too likely
to cause an escalatory climate with strategic nuclear weapons.
So they chose instead to use conventional weapons with near
zero miss capability. That's the way they referred to it. Now, there were all
sorts of conventional weapons with near zero miss. The United States dropped
28,000 guided munitions over Vietnam, and in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, for a
short period of time the Israeli Air Force lost air superiority to the SAM-6,
along the Sinai, and the use of anti-tank guided missiles destroyed an enormous
number of tanks.
So it wasn't like they were new, but the United States said,
we will start to take this capability and use it in a different way to bolster
deterrence, and the way they would do it is they would start to attack the
second attacking echelon, and the third attacking echelon with long-range guided
munitions so that it can break up the Soviet attack before a breakthrough could
Now in 1978 there were all sorts of technologies people
looked at. They were labeled “Emerging Technologies” at the time, and they were
integrated into a system-of-systems designed to strike Soviet follow-on echelons
and prevent a breakthrough. These attacks combined far-ranging sensors like the
TR-1, that peered sideways deep into Warsaw Pact territory, coupled with
missiles and bombs that either scattered a lot of small sub-munitions that would
attack armor from the top, or scattered mines in front of the Soviet armor as it
At the same time, the U.S. began to pursue stealth
technologies because they knew they had to get the airplanes through a very
thick surface to penetrate the SAM belt and they had to make sure that our
airplanes could penetrate.
Now, everybody thinks this is all about technology. But that
would be the wrong lesson to learn because at this very time, while all these
technologies were being developed in DoD labs, both the United States and
British militaries were coming to the conclusion that Active Defense simply
would not work. There was a doctrinal revolution underway. British officers at
Sandhurst War Studies Department and United States officers in our respective
war colleges started to look at historical examples of maneuver and the
importance of the operational level of war.
And higher up the chain people [like then SACEUR Commander
U.S. Army General Bernard Rogers and General Nigel Bagnall of the British Army
of the Rhine, started to work together and said, let's look at this problem
differently. Let's inject maneuver into the equation. And when we did that, we
had a better chance of underwriting conventional deterrence.
So it was the combination of new operational concepts plus
technologies that were able to really move the ball forward. It led to the
adoption of the U.S. Army AirLand Battle, which again, attacked the echelons
deep combined with maneuver against the close-in fighting echelons to destroy
And meanwhile, the British were absolutely instrumental in
convincing NATO to adopt a conceptually aligned Follow On Forces Attack, or FOFA.
Both of these doctrines were very offensive-minded, they were multi-service in
character, multi-nation in character, and they were attempts to restore maneuver
on the battlefield rather than static defense.
By the 1980s these concepts and technologies were being
merged into demonstrations, the third thing in the playbook. And these
demonstrations had a profound impact on Soviet thinking at the time. The Soviets
calculated after their own exercises and after their own academic study and
analytical study that precision guided munitions and deep attack technologies
dramatically shifted the military balance on the Central Front.
And by 1984 the head of the Soviet General Staff, Marshall
Ogarkov, stated that the reconnaissance strike concept -- the Russian term for
this combination of deep sensors and attacks -- could achieve the destructive
effects of tactical nuclear weapons. So in other words, NATO would be able to
attack the Soviet attack with these and achieve the same thing that they had
hoped to achieve had they started to drop a lot of nuclear weapons on the
battlefield. This totally upended Soviet military thinking.
So without question the Second Offset, in our view, bolstered
conventional deterrence and helped end the Cold War. So again, the power of the
Second Offset was a combination of visionary individuals who combined different
technologies into new ideas and new concepts to do effective war fighting in
different ways. And it is absolutely important not to forget about the power of
The United States had a demonstration in 1977 called Assault
Breaker, and there were several other demonstrations of these technologies. And
when NATO adopted both in 1984, there were actually few systems fielded that
could allow us to execute the deep battle if we wanted to. But it didn't matter,
because the Soviets, who were so good at operational art, looked forward and
said, we can see the trends coming and they aren't good. So mere demonstrations
of the concept was enough to bolster conventional deterrence.
And as it turned out, these demonstrations led to real
capabilities, and the Soviet Union later disappeared, and the Second Offset
strategy gave the United States and the West a substantial tactical operational
and tactical overmatch against all potential regional adversaries. This was
demonstrated in the first Gulf War and the war in Kosovo and Operation Enduring
Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
But now, however, the security environment is changing. The
technological superiority the West has enjoyed for the past 25 years,
particularly in guided munitions warfare, has started to erode. This results
from two factors.
First, additional competitors are pursuing these
technologies. They are readily available and certain big state competitors, like
China and Russia, are able to throw guided munitions that are as capable as our
own, as far a range as we can and then the salvos. And second, our attention has
been rightly focused in the Middle East for the past 14 years, and the postwar
budget cuts have limited our investments in advanced capability which would
allow us to expand our range.
So we think that addressing the challenge is one of the most
important strategic tasks facing our militaries. It is absolutely, undoubtedly
true that we will most likely face hybrid –type threats in the future and we
need new concepts of operations to deal with those threats. We will need new
levels of integration between law enforcement and the military, both ministers
of interior and ministers of defense. All that is true.
But absolutely nothing can match the destruction of high-end
conventional warfare with guided munitions. And we militaries have to do
everything possible to prevent that from ever happening. That explains why the
United States is now pursuing what we call a “Third Offset Strategy.” New
combinations of technologies, operational concepts and organizational constructs
will once again bolster what we believe is a weakening conventional deterrent.
Now this is going to be different than the Cold War in a very
important respect. In the Cold War, most of those technologies were coming out
of government labs. Today many of the technologies that might be associated with
combat in the future, such as autonomous operating systems, visualization
technologies, biotechnology, miniaturization, advanced computing, big data
analytics, additive manufacturing. Those are all being driven by the commercial
So this competitive environment is going to be much less like
the Cold War and much more like the inter-war period between World War I and
World War II, when there was just a vibrant and enormous technological upheaval.
New airplane models were obsolete after building maybe six of them. There were
advances in technologies in engines, there was advances in radar, advances in
sonar, advances in radios, advances in mechanization.
And every military had access to exactly the same tools
because many of these things were just happening and were out there. But not
every nation was able to harness them all into a new operational concept like
the Germans did with Blitzkrieg and the American Navy did with carrier aviation,
and the RAF Fighter Command did with an integrated air defense system (IADS).
I'd like to talk about the British IADS. It was the first
real “battle network.” A battle network has three essential components. It has
very capable sensor grid. The British sensor systems had spotters, radio
interceptors and radar. It had a deadly effector grid, something that would be
able to achieve effects on the battlefield. It consisted of a variety of
elements: anti-aircraft weapons and very, very good air superiority fighters.
And it had an effective command-control communications and
intelligence grid consisting of underground interconnected command-and-control
centers that had a good common operating picture and were able to achieve
effects on the battlefield with a good knowledge that they were doing was going
to have effects.
This changed the operational framework of air combat by
allowing Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding to send up his fighters to intercept
incoming bombers at the right place and the right time rather than having to fly
continuous air patrols, which would wear out the pilots.
And again, these tools again were available to all forces.
Everybody could have had radar, everybody could have had spotters, everyone
could have had barrage balloons, everyone could've done underground
command-and-control centers that were interconnected, but only Dowding put them
He was a visionary thinker who could say, hey, if I use these
tools in different ways, I will change the rules of the game. There's a really
great story about Dowding experimentation with new technologies in the pre-war
years. This was before radar. In wargames what he would do was place a radio
intercept van in the likely path of incoming bombers. So he would have his
fighter groups available to intercept at the right place at the right time.
Well, the wargame umpires said, unfair, unfair. You can't
possibly be correct all of the time. So he said, okay, I'll put a radio in one
of my fighters, which was highly unusual at that time. And he had it follow the
enemy bombers back to their bases. And so they radioed back the position of the
bases and then the RAF would fly offensive counter air by bombing the bases
where the airplanes were.
It was this agility of Dowding’s mind that allowed him to
create the most modern IADS, which was quickly copied by the U.S. Navy in
carrier warfare, by the Germans that honed their anti-aircraft defense.
So there are two lessons here for us. First, we have to be
actively looking for these visionary events. We can’t be afraid to say, hey, if
RUSI has a good idea or CSBA back in the United States, or if it comes from the
Army War College or comes from the Navy War College, or it comes from Sandhurst,
it doesn't matter. Look for the visionary thinkers
who are able to put these pieces together.
And second, we are going to be in a much more level playing
field, as I said, so we have to be ready to be surprised constantly over the
next 25 years as different adversaries use these pieces in ways that we didn't
foresee and we will be initially surprised. So we have to be able to adapt
quickly to surprise.
Now what concerns me about this task before us, because I'm
talking about conventional deterrence, is we have to focus on a highly capable
adversary for a long time, and we have lost our proficiency in high-end combined
All we have to do is look at what's happening along the
border of Ukraine between eastern Ukraine and western Ukraine, and you can see
that this is a pretty serious thing. There is electronic warfare right along the
line of troops. There's all sorts of jamming in EW, there's cyber attacks,
there's all sorts of precision attacks. The Ukrainians have lost literally
battalions because they were targeted quickly and attacked quickly. We need to
be considering this and upping our hand.
This doesn't mean we need to ignore hybrid warfare. As I said,
that's probably the most likely of the threats that we will face. But it is
important that we also consider the most consequential in order to underwrite
conventional deterrence. So we have to be able to operate in this very, very
That means two things. We have to limit the guided munitions
competition. Everyone is going to have guided munitions and you'd better have
the ability to operate with them. We call this Raid Breaking technologies. We
have to lower the cost to counter enemy or adversary precision guided attacks.
We have to use electronic warfare. We have to use decoys, we have to use
If you can dominate a guided munitions salvo then that
underwrites conventional deterrence. But you also have to be able to shift and
to maneuver because you're going to be fighting on this very highly lethal
battlefield swept by short-range guided munitions and attacked by EW and cyber.
So we need another doctrinal revival like we had in the '80s.
So my message to the Army and the Air Force in the United
States is we need to develop AirLand Battle 2.0. And we need to have an
organizational doctrine to make sure that we can meet these threats, and we have
to demonstrate it, we have to train for it.
My message to NATO is to underwrite the conventional
deterrence, and to put teeth behind our Article 5 responsibilities we need to
have new operational concepts -- what's the next Follow On Forces Attack.
So for the last six or eight months we've been looking hard
at this problem, and we don't know whether we have the answer, but we do know a
couple of things. One, large units aren't going to survive on those battlefields.
They're going to have to disaggregate. So we're going to have to get comfortable
in doing this. And over the past 10 to 12 years you have seen militaries
disaggregating on the battlefield during counterinsurgency operations. They
disaggregated. This gives us a big leg up. Now we will be able to disaggregate.
Before we were rather static in doing patrols from these disaggregated
locations. Now they've got to be able to do it on the move.
Smaller units are going to seek sanctuary where possible that
try to operate outside the major guided weapons ranges of the enemy. But when
they can't, they're going to have to disperse over wider areas, just like the
atomic division in 1956, because they don't want to be targeted.
Unmanned systems, just like we dropped 28,000 guided
munitions over Vietnam, everybody sees the trends in unmanned systems. In the
future autonomous is going to be seen as very ubiquitous. They are going to be
capable of perfecting autonomous and human-machine operations. And they are all
going to be linked. So once one machine learns, this passes into the network of
other machines and you're going to have a very dynamic flow of operations,
dynamic maneuver enabled by dynamic memory.
So what we think is there is going to be an increase in what
we call human-machine collaboration and combat team. Collaboration in the sense
of machines helping humans. This is human-centered autonomy. This isn't about
Skynet. This is about allowing machines to help human decision-makers make
decisions at the campaign and tactical level which will be either faster or
better than the adversaries'.
Now Wall Street traders use algorithms and high-speed trading
all the time. Using big data analytics and new types of visualization, we should
be able to provide our commanders in combat, either in the cockpit of an F-35,
which has all this information in use, or at the campaign level, using big data.
And then combat teaming you see all the time. Right now the Army is matching
Apaches with unmanned aerial systems. The Navy is taking their P-8's and
matching it with the unmanned Global Hawk or Triton. This combat team is going
to take new forms that we just don't have.
The other thing we know is that we have to get allied
participation. Having NATO involvements in the 1980s was absolutely essential.
What we can do is do wargames. We can look at doctrinal innovation, we can
demonstrate together. Not every country has to be able to operate in large
maneuver units on the battlefield, but if some countries were able to be really
good at unmanned underwater vehicles in the Baltics, for example, that would
quickly propagate throughout the other nations. So we have to work together to
play to our strengths, and again, to underline conventional superiority.
So let me just say that the British Strategic Defense and
Security Review is coming. We hope that we can work together to understand what
each of our militaries thinks needs to be done, and complement each other and
help each other as we consider all these new emerging problems.
I think it's a problem for all of NATO and for places like
RUSI, and for any place where there are new ideas on how we come about, again,
to have a Third Offset Strategy that bolsters conventional deterrence.
Again, I want to thank you for the invitation, Trevor, and
congratulate RUSI for its unbelievable reputation and the awesome work that it
does, and I look forward to all of your questions. Thanks.