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Look for the Visionary Thinkers

Look for the Visionary Thinkers

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 News).

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 bumps.

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 armed forces.

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 occur.

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 pushed through.

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 the attack.

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 demonstrations.

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 sector.

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 all together.

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 arms warfare.

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 trying environment.

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 lower-cost interceptors.

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.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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