The Unipolar World Is Starting to Fade
The Unipolar World Is
Starting to Fade
Deputy Secretary of Defense Speech CNAS
Defense Forum, As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, JW
Marriott, Washington, D.C., December 14, 2015. (DoD
Thank you for that kind introduction and in fact, all of the
people at CNAS, our CNAS family, and it’s really great to be back here this
It reminds me of a story that's told of a travelling preacher
who wanders around in the Pacific Northwest and through Idaho and Montana,
visiting different towns and giving sermons. He walked into one small town near
Montana and he found himself on the pulpit and there was only one person there
in the church.
And he said, "My son, you know, I'm here and I'm prepared to
give you a full sermon and to attend to your spiritual needs, but you're only
one person, and so what would you like me to do?" He goes, "well, Padre, I'm a
cattle farmer, and if I went up on the north 40 with enough food to get to 40
head, and I only found one, I wouldn't leave him hungry.
So the preacher said, "All right," and he launches into a
full-up sermon, fire and brimstone, I mean he gave it his all. And he really was
proud of himself after it was over. But when he did, the cowboy stood up and
started to walk out, and the priest goes, "Gosh, I've got to find out what
happened." So he hurries up to the Cowboy and and says, "Well, my son, did I
meet your spiritual needs?"
And he goes, "Well, Padre, if I went up on the north 40 and I
had food for 40 head and only found one, I wouldn't dump the whole load on him."
What I'm going to try to do in 30 minutes is dump the whole
load on you and I look forward to your questions. But what I want to talk about
is something very, very important, and that is a pressing need for us to make
corrections in our defense program to meet evolving threats in our national
So I'm going to talk to you specifically on why the civilian
and military leadership of the Department are pursuing a significant and
hopefully enduring effort to extend our military, technological and operational
edge well into the future.
We began this initiative because we are at a pivotal moment
in the post-Cold War. I firmly believe that historians will look back upon the
last 25 years – I actually snap that 25 years between May 12, 1989, when
President Bush said containment would no longer be the lens through which the
defense program was built. That was the end of the Cold War for all intents and
purposes for defense planning, even though it took a couple of years for the
Soviet Union to finally implode.
And I'd look in December 2013, that's when China started to
do its land reclamation project in the South China Sea and in March 2014, Russia
illegally annexed Crimea and started to send its troops and support separatists
in east Ukraine.
So that 25-year period, I believe, is remarkable and is
unlike any other period in the post-Westphalian era, because during that period,
the United States reigned supreme as the only world's great power and the sole
military superpower. It gave us enormous freedom of action.
But the circumstance is now changing.
The unipolar world is starting to fade and we enter a more multipolar
world, in which U.S. global leadership is likely to be increasingly challenged.
So among the most significant challenges in this 25 years,
and one in my view that promises to be the most stressing one, is the
reemergence of great power competition.
Now, for the purpose of this discussion and for the purposes
of building a defense program which is focused on potential adversary
capabilities, not necessarily intentions, I'll borrow John Mearsheimer's
definition of a great power: A state having sufficient military assets to put up
a serious fight in an all-out conventional war against the dominant power --
that would be the United States -- and possessing a nuclear deterrent that could
survive a first strike against it.
And by that narrow definition, getting away from what are
their economic peers or what is the attractiveness of their soft power and their
stickiness, from a defense program perspective, if Russia and China are not yet
great powers, they're well on their ways to being one.
And for its part, Russia’s destabilizing actions -- a
resurgent great power while they are trying to establish a sphere of influence
in their near abroad, which is typical behavior of a great power. This comes on
the heels of a failed 25 effort to include Russia within the European community,
and try to partner with it on a wide variety of global issues.
We still seek both of those outcomes. However, after
modernizing its nuclear and conventional forces, sharpening its war fighting
doctrine, specifically aimed towards NATO, rattling its nuclear saber, seeking
to undermine NATO and intimidate the Baltic states, and attempting to rewrite
the international rulebook, we are adapting our operational posture, contingency
plans and programs to deal with Russia and to deter, we hope, any further
So we consider Russia a resurgent great power. Its long-term
prospects, we still think, are very challenging, which may or may not make them
more aggressive in the next 25 years rather than less aggressive.
China, a rising power with impressive latent military
technological capabilities, probably embodies a more enduring strategic
challenge as its ambitions and objectives expand in Asia, the Western Pacific
littoral, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere.
Now, China's words have been about peaceful rise, and about
defense. But its actions will be the true test of its commitment to peace and
stability in the current international order.
DOD, therefore, continues to pursue military-to-military
cooperation with China, as well as a wide range of confidence-building measures
to make sure that we never come to blows. But while we do so, we can't overlook
the competitive aspects of our relationship, especially around our military
And that's about what? DOD focuses on the capabilities of
potential challengers, and both Russia and China present the United States, our
allies and our partners with unique and increasingly stressing military
capabilities and operational challenges.
So while we understand the importance of engaging the
potential competitors, we do so cognizant of our central purpose, which is to
reassure our Allies and partners and tell them that we will be there, if
necessary, in their time of need and to protect U.S. forces and our allies from
direct attack, and should deterrence fail, make sure that we are able to roll
back any aggression that occurs.
We are in the competition business, and we build war plans --
that's what we do. Our defense strategy and defense program will therefore
reflect the realities of new great power competition in new ways.
Now, before I explain how we are going to do this, I want to
make it clear that the Department's not forgetting one bit about the threat of
violent extremism, which is tearing apart the Middle East and is threatening
countries well beyond that region.
How could we? We have thousands of service men and women in
uniform -- out uniform, our contractors and civilians who are battling the
terrorist networks everyday across the globe, and with a particular focus, of
course right now, on Iraq and Syria, where the Islamic State, a particularly
savage and dangerous opponent, is operating. And as Secretary of Defense Carter
has said, we are expanding our offensive against them across Iraq and Syria and
elsewhere, and ultimately, we will defeat them.
Well, as stressing as this fight is, that is not my intent to
talk about that this morning, because nothing can match the destructive
potential of high-end conventional war between great powers. Nothing can up-end
or disrupt or possibly even destroy the global world order more than a potential
collision between great powers.
So we have to continue to field capabilities that strengthen
our conventional deterrence. This is all about deterrence, to make sure that
such a collision never happens. The best way to prevent great power competition
from becoming great power conflict is for the United States to maintain a safe,
reliable and secure nuclear arsenal for so long as those weapons exist, coupled
with strong conventional deterrent capabilities, which will be the focus of my
presentation here this morning.
Now, whenever you're trying to build strong deterrent
posture, you strive to do three things. The first is you try to achieve a
technological overmatch against potential adversaries. The Robert M. Gates
fellow here at CNAS, Bridge Colby, and another good friend calls technology the
“elixir of military strength,” and he couldn't be more correct.
So what we want to do is develop successive generations of
many warfighting capabilities. The technology is never, never the final answer.
You have to be able to incorporate those technologies into new operational and
It might be a new unit that does something a new way, that
employs a technology in ways that we haven't seen in the past or it might be a
new doctrine, such as AirLand Battle, which completely changes the focus of the
entire Army and really undermines our adversary's confidence that if blows
really did come to pass, that they would not prevail.
So you need new technological capability to try to achieve a
technological overmatch. You need to have new organizational and operational
constructs to make it real and to gain operational advantage. And third, you
have to demonstrate these capabilities to suggest that any attempt to achieve
operational success in the warfighting campaign is likely to fail, even if they
were to achieve an initial advantage in time and space.
Now, this is the very essence of what deterrent theorists
call deterrence by denial. It is perhaps the most effective type of conventional
deterrence, in our view. And as Professor Lawrence Freedman says, as it just so
happens, a force developed for deterrence by denial is also best postured for
victory if deterrence fails.
So this talk is all about conventional deterrence. We seek
cooperative engagement and a cooperative relationship with both Russia and China
over the long term. But in the Department of Defense, we know there will be
competitive aspects and we want to make sure that we can assure our national
leaders that we are ready in case someone makes a miscalculation.
Now, let me talk about offset strategies. You've heard us use
this a lot. In terms of great power competitions, the United States generally
pursues deterrence by denial, not by trying to match every tank for tank, person
for person, ship for ship, missile for missile. That's not our thing.
We try to do things smarter, to strenghten conventional
deterrence by offsetting or pursuing a combination of superior technological
capabilities and innovative operational and organizational constructs that
offset the strengths of our potential adversaries. And we've done this twice
before. We know it works.
In the 1950s, the first offset strategy sought to blunt
Soviet numerical and geographical advantage along the inner German border by
introducing, demonstrating and developing the operational and organizational
constructs to employ battlefield nuclear weapons. This proved very effective as
a conventional deterrent, using battlefield nuclear weapons to offset the
conventional superiority of the Soviets. It seems a little counterintuitive, but
Now, up until the '70s, what happened, however, is the
Soviets achieved strategic nuclear parity. So, the threat of trying to go up the
escalatory ladder, that might end in a general nuclear exchange, was simply too
great a risk for our national leaders to tolerate. And we didn't believe our
deterrent was effective. It just wasn't believable.
Moreover, the Soviets, because they believed that we were
going to employ battlefield nuclear weapons, it changed their entire operational
art. They were going to attack in successive echelons of forces at one single
penetration point on the forward line of troops. And they really didn't care if
the first echelon was entirely annihilated. And they didn't really care if the
second echelon was entirely annihilated.
They just wanted to punch a hole, like a jackhammer, into
NATO's defense and get operational maneuver groups deep into NATO's rear, and
they thought, probably rightly, that if they did that, that we would be deterred
from trying to employ battlefield nuclear weapons.
So some of the leadership at DoD said we have to do something
different. And in 1973 -- they launched what was called the Long-Range Research
and Development Planning Program, the LRRDPP.
And they said we only have one of two choices. You can make
nuclear weapons more usable; you can have micro-nukes; you can have neutron
bombs; you can have high-altitude HEMP explosions; EMP -- electromagnetic pulse
But our senior leaders said that we still cannot risk going
up the escalatory ladder. What else have you got? And they said, well, we think
that you could go all-in and go after conventional weapons with near-zero miss
-- what we know today as precision-guided munitions. And that's what our
national leadership decided to do. And the Soviets call these “reconnaissance
strike complexes,” and we really got their attention.
We did a big demonstration called "Assault Breaker" in 1977.
The Soviets had a big exercise based on what they thought happened in the
Assault Breaker technology, and it really shook them up. Within five years, the
head of the Soviet General Staff concluded that conventional guided munitions
with near zero miss would be as effective as tactical nuclear weapons in keeping
the Soviet Union from achieving their operational aims, and for them, a very
deterministic, doctrinal opponent, the game was over. And unquestionably, I
would say that it helped lead to the end of the Cold War.
Now, as it turned out, the Soviet Union imploded just as the
United States was culminating the second offset strategy. And that allowed us to
dominate guided munitions and irregular warfare for the next 25 years. And it
was used to great effect in conventional campaigns, and I underline conventional
campaigns. People say, "Yeah, but it didn't solve all of the problems," but it
was continually refined.
Second offset strategies and technologies were continually
refined, and I would argue that our global manhunting campaign is completely
consistent with second offset technologies and is far better because of it,
because we can now find, fix and finish terrorists much more effective than we
But without doubt, this 25-year period is coming to an end.
And the sizable margin of conventional technological superiority we have enjoyed
for the past 25 years, and have become essentially used to, is eroding. This
results primarily from two factors. One, at least two large states are putting a
lot of money to achieve rough guided munitions parity with the United States.
They say they are doing it. They are programming to do it. They are budgeting to
do it. And they are doing it.
A corollary of that first one is that second offset
technologies are proliferating throughout the world. So Iran can use these
technologies, as can Hezbollah, as can ISIL if they so choose to do so.
And the second is that for the last 14 years, we've been
really focused down on this really hard problem in the Middle East, and fighting
a war against Islamist extremists. And as a result, our program has been slow to
adapt as these high-end threats have started to reemerge.
Now, I would argue that, while we've been slow to adapting
the program, we're not surprised by what's happening. In 1993, Andrew Marshall
said, "I project a day when our adversaries will have guided munitions parity
with us and it will change the game." And that ultimately became expressed in
the Department of Defense as the anti-access/area-denial challenge (A2/AD).
So, it's not that we are totally surprised that this is
happening. But what is different is that now we say we can no longer wait to
respond in our program, and should we have a third offset strategy because of
these conditions, and if so, how best to go about it.
Now, the third thing I'd like to say about offset strategies
is they're generally informed by the toughest operational problem that you face.
And we have several of them, all of them kind of related to the A2/AD challenge
I just said.
Our conventional deterrence posture, without question, is
based on the assumption that we can project overwhelming power across trans-oceanic
distances and exert our will on any opponent. So, the first problem is breaking
into a theater where the opponents enjoy guided munitions parity and can throw
long-range missile strikes as dense as our own and as accurate as our own, and
as long as we can. That's the anti-access or the A2 part of the A2/AD threat.
Then, once you're in the theater, the second problem is
fighting against an adversary with conventional capabilities that are as
advanced as our own. And that is the AD -- area denial part of the A2/AD problem.
And the third is doing both of those while under intense
cyber and electronic warfare attack.
Now, we can get a rough sense of the A2AD problem just by
reviewing Russian demonstrations of long-range conventional strikes that are
occurring right now in Syria. They're firing missiles from surface ships, from
submarines, from strategic bombers, and from medium-range bombers.
You could also get a sense of what's happening by seeing what
the Chinese do in their massive exercises by their Second Artillery Corps and
the way that they are forming their forces to conduct what they call "counter-intervention
And as for the last two, all we have to do is analyze what
was going on in eastern Ukraine, which is arguably and unfortunately for our
partner in Ukraine, an emerging laboratory for future 21st century warfare.
Russian units employed advance sensors and imaging, enabled by a liberal use of
small, unmanned aerial systems backed up by very high-capable collection
And they introduced new levels of battlefield transparency
and lethality, which really started to catch the attention of senior U.S. Army
leadership. Ukrainian commanders reported to us that, within minutes of coming
up on the radio net, they were targeted by concentrated artillery strikes that
included cluster munitions, which we're getting rid of; thermobaric warheads,
which are absolutely nasty; and top attack submunitions. They jam GPS signals,
causing Ukrainian UAVs to drop out of the sky. And they jam proximity fuses on
artillery shells, turning them into duds.
The operations in Ukraine highlighted the new speed of war,
driven by automated battle networks, boosted by advances in computing power,
network attacks – we are moving at cyber speed, and intense electronic warfare
battles to dominate the information war along the forward line of troops.
This trend is only going to continue as advanced militaries
experiment with these technologies, as well as others like hyper-sonics. In the
not-too-distant future, we'll see directed energy weapons on the battlefield
which operate at the speed of light.
Now, the next thing I'd say is Shawn Brimley, also from CNAS,
is going to publish a monograph today about this competition. So whether it's a
1,000 nautical mile anti-access challenge that he talks about, the inter-theater
area denial challenge, or the challenge of closing the last tactical mile, all
while operating under intense cyber and electronic warfare (EW) attacks.
We're going to have to have technical solutions for these
problems. And it is the identification and prioritization of those new
technologies and capabilities -- again, what my friend Bridge Colby called "the
elixir of modern military strength." That is the first step that you have to do
when building out a third offset strategy.
So for the last 18 months, the department has been
considering these operational problems, exploring the direction of technological
trends, and is trying to determine where we might be able to exploit technology
and create new operational advantage.
We commenced our own Long Range Research and Development
Planning Program, led by Steve Welby, our Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense
for defense research and development, and I hope to have him no longer "acting"
this week. We'll see. Fingers crossed.
We asked the Defense Science Board to assess key technology
trends. We've reviewed work by DARPA on what they were doing. We studied
high-tech challenges to our space constellation and our ability to project
power, the A2/AD problem, and conducted what is called the Strategic Portfolio
Review to look at our program and say, "where are we missing capabilities, and
where would we like new capabilities?"
And when you consider the whole body of work, and you have
kind of Venn diagrams, there was remarkable consistency between them. That gives
us confidence that we know the first step to take and test.
This is not about certainty, it is about testing and moving
forward. And the theme that came out over and over and over again, is what we
call human-machine collaboration and combat teaming.
Now, miniaturization of nuclear weapons components was the
key driver of the first offset. All you have to do is take a look at "Fat Boy"
and the size of that thing, and you say, how did they get that down to a
football-sized munition called the Davy Crockett.
And the Davy Crockett was a missile that we were going to
give to our battalion commanders, and give them nuclear release authority in
1956. That is a scary thought. But we were going to do it, and the technology
allowed us to do it, if we were so disposed.
The key drivers in the second offset were the digital micro
processors, which first appeared in the F-14 in 1972, and changed the whole game
in terms of sensors and combat capability onboard platforms, as well as
So, what is it that really is going to make human-machine
collaboration and combat teaming a reality? That is going to be advances in
artificial intelligence and autonomy that we see around us every day.
And even though we are unable to scientifically prove it,
members of the Defense Science Board (DSB) Summer Study on autonomy believed
that we are at an inflection point in the power of artificial intelligence and
Now, the commercial world is moving in that direction. A
recent study by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch of robotics and artificial
intelligence, said that the rise of the intelligent machine will define the next
And that the adoption of this disruptive technology in the
private sector is now a foregone conclusion. It estimates that smart machines
and robotics will be performing 45 percent of all manufacturing tasks by 2025,
versus 10 percent today.
From manufacturing, to self-driving cars, 3-D printing,
robo-analysts, traders and advisers in the financial community, to voice
recognition software, all you have to do is look and see where that is going.
And this is the advice from that report to the business community: “Early
adoption will be a key comparative advantage, while those that lag in investment
will see their competitiveness slip.”
And we believe this conclusion applies directly to the
military competition we find ourselves in, and our work suggests that artificial
intelligence (AI) and autonomy will allow entirely new levels of what we refer
to as man-machine symbiosis on the battlefield.
And our intelligence suggests that our adversaries are
already contemplating this move. We know that China is investing heavily in
robotics and autonomy, and the Russian Chief of the General Staff, Gerasimov,
recently said that the Russian military is preparing to fight on a roboticized
battle field, and he said, and I quote, "In the near future, it is possible that
a fully roboticized unit will be created, capable of independently conducting
military operations," unquote.
I'll talk about that in just a second.
So, the DSB Summer Study perhaps said it best, "We're already
in this competition whether we like it or not, we better get ready for it. And
better yet, we better be prepared to dominate it."
So, let me tell you the five building blocks that we have
identified -- and these are broad, technological building blocks that will
contribute to the third offset strategy.
The first are autonomous deep learning systems. Now, deep
learning systems are already changing the way we analyze data in the financial
community, in the intelligence community. But we are going to use them to
improve indications in warning. The AI guys say that what is happening in the
“grey zone” with “the little green men” is nothing more than a big data
And they are absolutely convinced that we could create
learning machines that will give us indications and warning that something is
happening in the grey zone.
They're going to help queue intelligence systems. NGA, the
National Geospatial Agency, has a program called Coherence Out of Chaos, taking
all of the data that is coming down from the overhead constellation and making
sense of it, and queuing human analysts to really take a look at certain things.
And in DOD, they're going to use some situations that require
faster than human reaction.
Now, we believe, strongly, that humans should be the only
ones to decide when to use lethal force. But when you're under attack,
especially at machine speeds, we want to have a machine that can protect us.
So, an example is air defense systems, where the engagement
windows are steadily shrinking. Right now Israel’s Iron Dome, essentially takes
over. The Iron Dome takes a look at all of the shots of incoming missiles and
says, this is going to land on dirt. Don't fire. And the machine makes those
decisions. That will continue.
And the same thing on cyber defense; you cannot have a human
operator, operating at a human speed, fighting back against a determined
cyber-attack. You're going to have to have a learning machine that does that.
There are DARPA programs right now, called ARC and BLADE. In
the past, what would happen is you'd send out your EA-18, it would find a new
waveform. There was no way for us to do anything about it. The pilot would come
back, they would talk about it, they'd replicate it, they'd emulate it, it would
go into the "gonculator", goncu-goncu-goncu-gonculatoring, and then you would
have something, and then maybe some time down the road, you would have a
Right now, we know that these machines are going to be able,
through learning machines will be able to figure out how to take care of that
waveform in the mission while it's happening.
So, that's one component, and it's important. The second
component is what we call human-machine collaboration, decision making.
In 1997, a computer beats Garry Kasparov, world champion in
chess. Everyone goes, wow. But in 2005, two amateurs, working with three
personal computers (PCs), defeated a field of chess champions, grand masters,
and machines themselves.
It was the machines -- well, Garry Kasparov using the
strategic analysis of a human, combined with the tactical acuity of a computer.
The F-35 helmet is very much a human-machine
collaboration-type system. Three hundred and sixty degrees of information is
being crunched by the machine and portrayed in an advanced way on the heads up
display on a helmet. It is designed to reduce friction. It will never reduce
chance, but it can simplify the speed of operations by allowing humans to make
better decisions faster.
The third component is what we call assisted human operations.
Assisted human operations, not enhanced human operations. We will have a much
broader debate on whether to go after enhanced human operations, but for right
now, when we say assisted human operations, think of your car. Think of the lane
departure warning, ding, ding, ding, you're getting read to cross over the line.
Or when you're backing up -- beep, beep, beep, beep you're
getting closer to something. Using wearable electronics, heads-up displays,
perhaps exoskeletons to assist humans to be better in combat.
Our adversaries, quite frankly, are pursuing enhanced human
operations. And it scares the crap out of us, really. We're going to have to
have a big, big decision on whether or not we are comfortable going that way.
But we are very comfortable going after assisted human operations.
Right now, there is a program in DARPA -- I think it's called
Alice, but I'm not -- I'm sorry, it's not Alice, that's the logistics system.
But it is a system designed specifically to have enough automation to allow you
to reduce the number of crew in the cockpit at any given time.
So, that is what assisted human operations really mean. And
it won't be long, I guarantee you, before our combat infantry men and women are
using wearable electronics with uploadable combat apps, and heads-up displays of
Now, the fourth ingredient is what we refer to as advanced
human-machine combat teaming. Human-machine collaboration is using machines to
help decision-makers make better decisions. Human-machine combat teaming is
where a human, working with unmanned systems, are able to do cooperative
Now, you already see a lot of this happening right now.
Army's Apache and Gray Eagle UAV are designed to operate together. The Navy's
P-8 aircraft, and the Triton UAV are designed to operate together.
While we're actively look at a large number of very, very
advanced things, right now, we're looking at large-capacity UUVs that cascade
medium-size UAVs that cascade out smaller diameter UUVs and form networks.
We're looking at all sorts of different electronic warfare
networks. We're looking at small service vessels operating as swarms. And
proving collaborative autonomy will help transform operations, we're requiring
multiple operators per UAS, Unit Unmanned System. We're just having one mission
commander simultaneously directing the swarm itself.
By integrating micro UAVs, and the fighters on 11 meter
unmanned surface vessels onto surface combatants, you're going to see a lot more
mother ships whose offspring work to execute the mission.
And finally, we're developing new types of network-enabled
semi-autonomous weapons that are hardened to operate in an EW and cyber
Just like in the Cold War, when EMP hardening,
electro-magnetic pulse hardening was required, every weapon and system is going
to have to be hardened for cyber.
We know our reliance on GPS is a vulnerability. So, we're
modifying existing systems like the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) to operate
completely without GPS if it's denied.
We're looking to all sorts of new horizons, over the horizon
targeting and stand in airspace jamming. Believe me, this is a wonderful time to
be a scientist in the Department of Defense.
So those are the five components: learning machines,
human-machine collaboration, assisted human operations, human-machine combat
teaming, and autonomous weapons. Those are the five components, and they're
going to ride on the back of a learning network.
If we launch seven missiles at a surface action group and one
missile goes high and is looking at all of the different things that the battle
group is doing to defend itself and it sees something new that's not in its
library, it will immediately report back on the learning network, which will go
into a learning machine, which will say there's something you should do. It will
pass it over to human-machine collaboration so the mission commander can make an
adjustment on the next salvo and then make a command change inside the software
of the missile so that the next seven missiles launched will be that much more
Believe me, there's a lot of skepticism right now within the
Department of Defense that we'll be able to perfect and protect such a network,
but if you do the smart design up front coupled with learning defenses, we
believe it is not only possible, but it is a requirement.
Now, everyone says, oh, this is another one of these things
where all you're talking about is technology. That is why human machine is
explicitly in what we talk about. The way we will approach this is that this is
designed to make the human more effective in combat. Remember what Gerasimov
said, and I will make a hypothesis that authoritarian regimes who believe people
are weaknesses in the machine, that they are the weak link in the cog, that they
cannot be trusted, that they will naturally gravitate towards totally automated
Why do I know that? Because that's exactly the way the
Soviets conceived of their reconnaissance strike complex. It was going to be
completely automated. We believe the advantage we have as we start this
competition is our people, the tech-savvy people who've grown up in a democracy,
in the iWorld, will kick the crap out of people who grow up in the iWorld in an
And guess what? If this changes the authoritarian regime to
the way they allow their people to have more initiative, that in the long run
will help us because that will inevitably lead to a more meritocracy and a more
democratic approach inside their armed forces that may over the long term
actually help us.
Colonel Norvell B. DeAtkine, when we were going into the
first Gulf War and everyone said wow, we're going to have an awful lot of
casualties here -- holy crap, I've talked too long.
Where was -- someone was supposed to stand up and tell me I
went 30 minutes. Okay, let me through this real quickly. Look, the second thing
about the third offset strategy is it is a competitive strategy. We have to deal
with two great powers, not one. Luckily, a lot of things we would do have
maritime characteristics in one theater and continental characteristics in the
other. But that's okay. There's a lot of overlap.
We have to worry about nuclear armed regional powers like
North Korea. This completely covers them. We have to worry about Iran with
advanced capabilities; completely covers them.
So we know we have more competitors than we did in the Cold
War. That makes it more stressful. We know that advances in AI and autonomy are
driven by the commercial world and not government, which means they'll be
available to everybody. We know that second offset technologies are widely
proliferated. So this environment, unlike '75 when we said, hey, you know what?
If we went after something that was really based on these high-end information
technologies, we knew the Soviets couldn't follow. And we were right.
We can't make that assumption. This is more of a temporal
competition. So this is much more like the inter-war period, where everything
was available and all you had to do -- it was the competitors who put the
components together into operational and organizational constructs that gave
them the advantage. We're going to have to have a vibrant, global S&T and
scouting in our IC community.
So we shouldn't count on a lasting advantage. You have to be
able to do this from a very competitive aspect. It's going to require strong
top-down governance, it's going to rely initially on wargaming experimentation
and demonstration, so don't expect the '17 budget to see $30 billion in this.
What you're probably going to see is closer to the order of $12 billion to $13
billion to $14 billion to $15 billion on wargaming, experimentation and
demonstrations to verify that our hypothesis on these five components is sound.
Under any circumstances, we have to really focus on agility
and cost, we have to reduce cycle times, which is why we're so focused on
acquisition reform. And this is the last point before we go to questions. In
this environment, there will be a lot of fast followers. I'm okay with that, as
along as we're a fast leader. If people are chasing our exhaust, that's okay
The way we will do this is through much more information
management. We will reveal to deter and conceal for warfighting advantage. I
want our competitors to wonder what's behind the black curtain, and we’ll make
specific decisions on when, how and where we reveal items so that we underline
conventional deterrence. That's what this is about.
And collaboration with Congress, because a successful offset
strategy will go from administration to administration. So for the year, we are
focused on doing the intellectual underpinning and doing as much of the
demonstration work as we possibly can so that Congress will help us keep this
going so that we can maintain a lasting advantage.
I've spoken too long. I will end here. I look forward to your
questions. And thank you very much.
Shawn Brimley: Thank you Mr. Secretary for that great speech,
that’s why we would let you go as long as you would stand there and talk, so
that's why no one stopped you. We have time for a few questions. I think what
I'm going to do is maybe ask you just one question that I have and say thank you
for that opportunity. And Sydney [Freedberg] I see you in the audience. I'm
going to come to you for the second question. If we have time for more, that's
I must say I've been a little bit surprised by some of the
skepticism that I've been seeing around the defense community, both in the
Pentagon and outside, that seems to argue that advocates -- some say you're an
advocate -- of investing in emerging technology somehow misunderstand the human
nature of war and forget about other important strategic pillars like readiness,
personnel systems, global posture.
How do you respond to these types of arguments that you're
putting the technological cart before the horse?
Mr. Work: Well, if you look back through history, you'll see
cases where there was a technology pull of forces and there was a technology
push from the technology side. You can't separate technology from the
operational or organizational constructs which are all about the unit.
Now, the whole purpose of the third offset is to make humans
more effective in combat because as a student of Clausewitz, you know, I --
there -- no one has to try to convince me that war is primarily a human endeavor.
But if you take a look at the end-of-war period, it wasn't like you look back
there and say oh wow, the Germans were dumb because they -- look at what was
happening with mechanization. They looked at the radio and they looked at
airplanes and they said, hey, you know, if we put this together in an
operational construct call blitzkrieg, the humans would be more effective on the
battlefield, and we'd have to train the humans in this mission command. That's
all a virtual cycle.
If you take a look at the second offset, it really started to
kick off when the Air Force and the Army said let's use this in a way to have
Air Land Battle, and then NATO used it for follow-on forces and tactical. So it
frustrates me when I hear these -- the -- these concerns that we're somehow
forbidding people because people are central to the whole way we're going about
the second offset and the third offset.
Shawn Brimley: Can I pull an audible just briefly, it strikes
me that the proliferation of guided munitions -- because in my mind, that's
essentially what's happening, where, you know, the essential question at the
root of the offset strategy is how does the future joint force operate in a
world in which guided munitions are sort of fully proliferating the
And I'm looking at the ground forces and thinking, wow, that
is a particularly horrifying battlefield when you have -- or experimenting with
guided 50-caliber rounds -- bullet rounds, for instance. Can you walk through
how a joint war -- sort of ground warfare changes given the proliferation of
guided munitions? Because it strikes me that for the last 10 years, (inadible)
of these air and maritime power projections, or the classic A2/AD scenario, that
has received a lot of attention in the broader defense community.
But this other equally essential question, how do our lance
corporals and soldiers that are tasked with closing that last hundred yards, how
do they operate in a world where they're facing guided munitions?
Mr. Work: Well, I'll be the first to admit that we have not
spent as much time on studying the last tactical mile as we have breaking into
the theater and then operating in a more general sense. We've been here before,
1950s. The Army had organized its divisional structure, going from the wartime
triangular formation to a battle -- five battle groups because they dispersed on
the battlefield to avoid atomic attack, they would re-aggregate to --
(inaudible) -- and then they dispersed.
They tried this for six years -- or five years, from 1956 to
1961, and the technology was beyond them. They concluded that they could not
execute that operational concept, so they went back to their triangular division
when we adopted the flexible response strategy.
You have the same problem with guided munitions. You have to
disaggregate to keep from getting smashed and you have to aggregate -- and
that's -- not necessarily now, to achieve effects. So the next part of the
LRRDPP is looking at this problem right now, and we will have a strategic
portfolio review that reviews this specifically.
My intent will be to have a program set up for the next
administration that they will be able to pick and choose. We're tightly linked
to the Army and the Marines on this, and I spoke with General Perkins from
TRADOC, and as far as keeping the humans completely central in our thinking,
we're totally aligned there.
So I will say that you'll see advances in electronic warfare
systems along with -- (inaudible). We'll try to decide whether we want to re-aggregate
or if we can achieve effects disaggregated. Marines call this disaggregate to
re-aggregate. There's still a lot more for us to describe.
But let me say this. Ten years from now -- you probably heard
me say if the first thing going through the door of a breach isn't an unmanned
system, then shame on us. And if there are not more unmanned systems than U.S.
Army and Marine Corps ground units, shame on us. And there is a lot of stuff
that we can do to help them win this last tactical mile.
Shawn Brimley: Thank you for that. Sydney [Freedberg], I'll
go to you for the last question.
Q: Thank you very much. Bob -- Mr. Secretary, question. We
talked about, you know, our humanness are our advantage, and -- which is very
uplifting, although -- (inaudible). But is there -- thank you -- is there any
source of enduring advantage, or do you always have this red queen's race in
Is there something that the U.S. military -- you know, be it
-- with its long history of joint operations or, you know, its ties to --
(inaudible) -- whatever the case may be, is there something that we have
institutionally, culturally, that a China or Russia can't duplicate the way they
duplicate the tech?
Mr. Work: Did everybody hear the question? It really is --
look, I'm not willing to say that we will have an enduring advantage in human
capital over the course of this competition. I believe we have a marked
advantage as we start. And, you know, everybody says, oh, there's this huge
brain drain going out of the Department of Defense.
I would argue that historic -- the historiography is pretty
clear that after wars, a lot of people who join and really got -- I have this
mission, I am committed to the mission, I'm in the field every day -- a lot of
those people say I don't want to stay around for a peacetime military. And
there's as many people who are leaving because of that as people who are saying,
oh, I'm surrounded by a bunch of idiots and I'm the smartest guy in the room, so
I think I'm going to go to where there are smarter people.
I totally reject that type of thinking because all you have
to do is work with the people in the field every day, and you say holy crap, if
you give them a problem and say let me get to a solution, I guarantee you
they're going to come up to a solution.
I mean, one of the stories -- or one of the stories I
remember is in the early days of the Cold War when we started to send our
boomers, our strategic ballistic launch missile subs. You know, they'd go out
for 90 days; this was unheard of. They'd be under the water, they wouldn't see
the sun, so they didn't have a lot to do. What would you do? And so they took
big bags and candy, and the candies had individual little things inside the
candy. Some had marshmallows, some had peanut butter, some had caramel. And the
peanut butter ones were the ones that everybody loved.
And so what did you do? Well, what they did is they created a
machine that checked the electronic resistance of the candy, and by doing --
choices, they found out which ones were the peanut butter ones and they found
out the ones which were crap. And you sit there and go, man, why would they even
do that? It's because they had a problem. "I like these damn things, I want to
get them!" And they fixed it.
Now, that's just one little example. I can give you a million
examples. I will put the innovation of this armed force against any frickin'
other force on the planet, and we will ride that for a good period of time. And
if they start to really say we want to empower our junior leaders, we're willing
to let them make mistakes, we're going to let them try innovation and fail, if
they can do that better than us, well, that's going to be a problem because
right now, we are absolutely confident in our people. And heck, if I was going
to put my money on the table, I'd bet it on our folks before any others.
Shawn Brimley: Thank you for that. We have time for one more.
Sir? Wait for the microphone.
Q: (inaudible) Bloomberg government and former Comptroller in
OSD (inaudible). You've got some budget pressure, I know. The -- the -- the
You've got some budget pressures. So the question for you is,
you talked about the difficulty of the department with the technology refresh
compared to the private sector. Is there an escape valve for you to reach out
and take advantage of stuff in the commercial world that makes your job easier?
Mr. Work: Absolutely. Now, I'll just point out that if you
look at what happened in the inter-war period -- if you look what happened in
the first offset, and you look what happened in the second offset -- all three
of those things occurred when defense budgeting was at its low end.
It forced you to think differently. And note the
experimentation and the demonstrations of the wargaming allows you to do is when
defense spending started to go up, you would be well prepared to put your money
in the things that you thought would provide you with an advantage.
And that's why I say, you're not going to see some big giant
ship in the '17 budget. But I will argue that when you look back between 16 and
17, there were a lot of technological bets that allows you to come as trade. As
part of this brutal in the commercial side, that's one of Secretary Carter's
most important things. That's why we went after InQTel and we copy the InQTel
model that the intelligence community -- where it is essentially venture
capitalist firm that puts money in companies that are pursuing some technology
that is really interesting to more of our profits. So we're following that. The
Defense Innovation Unit is experimental. It's designed to make matches between
the commercial sector and the Department of Defense. The secretary is
considering whether or not we ought to have more of those to expand it.
So this is early days. You can say, wow that's not going as
fast as you would have liked, nothing ever goes as fast as you would like, and
in the Pentagon. But we're making progress. So time (inaudible) approaches with
the commercial center. The time to make smart bets so that the next
administration is going to have a wide variety of options to go forward.
And just -- I know we're out of time -- I would just like to
say forums like this are absolutely critical. The Department of Defense listens
very carefully to what is happening in the think tank world and to the leading
-- the discussions among leadership of -- of a wide variety of defense
industrial bases. And think tanks -- I can't tell you how important it for you
to (inaudible) this along, to tell us where we're wrong, to tell us where we're
headed down the rat hole.
Thank you very much for everything you do. And God bless you.
Thanks Sean for having me.