Guide Sustainable Pre-eminence: Reforming the U.S. Military at a Time of Strategic Change

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For more discussion of these and other unimpressive qualities demonstrated by drones, see a five part series on the Reaper drone at Time 's Battleland blog. Moreover, in advocating "integrated" by that they mean multi-role, multi-service drones -- the embodiment of the F hardware design approach -- CNAS is merely advancing existing conventional wisdom, the available facts notwithstanding.

It is such thinking that causes our forces to grow less effective at higher cost -- the antithesis of reform. While there are several other CNAS proposals that fail to impress, the one to create "Red Teams" to "independently assess The participants that CNAS proposes for these independent Red Teams would come from the Joint Chiefs, the office of the secretary of defense, the special operations command, and federally funded research centers, presumably such as the Rand Corporation, which by the way is largely funded by the Air Force, the Army and the secretary of defense.

There is no generically independent advice to come from those in-house entities; it is a simple feed-back loop, an incestuous one. Furthermore, each of these entities has always had, and has exercised, the standing -- collectively and individually -- to advise DOD decision-makers, and yet here we are calling for more of the same. The concept of a Red Team to open DOD decision-makers' eyes to the consequences of their ongoing decisions and to advise real alternatives is an excellent and needed concept; CNAS's notion, however, is too transparent to be taken seriously.

It is a "change" that means no change; it should be understood as conceptually identical to CNAS' thinking on Fs, drones and the budget. And, there will be more reports from more think tanks: Some of them, like the CNAS report and what seems likely from CSIS, will be old wine in new bottles, and it will be behind opaque glass to mask how much wine is really there. The majority of policy-makers in Washington from both parties will almost certainly welcome the vintage; the familiar taste of ersatz budget restraint and weapons reform without the any real content goes down easily with them.

Do you have information you want to share with HuffPost? From basic commodities such as steel and aluminum to the major subsectors such as shipbuilding and even textiles, the United States has seen the decline of domestic production and increased reliance on offshore suppliers, including such competitors as China. The globalization and offshoring of critical industries challenge the U. In the event of war, the U. Even in major industrial sectors such as automobiles, there is no longer the domestic capacity to support a major, protracted high-end conflict. Consequently, the U.

Increasingly, advances in defense capabilities, whether they result from upgrades or from modernization, are due to the introduction of technologies developed by private companies for the commercial market. Many of these companies provide goods and services to the military, but for the majority, the Department of Defense is but one of many customers. This is particularly the case with respect to IT products, logistics services, and activities critical to the sustainment of military forces and operations.

Sustainable Pre-eminence: Reforming the U.S. Military at a Time of Strategic Change

For example, in order to save money and improve functionality, the Pentagon is shuttering its own data centers and increasingly buying cloud services from commercial suppliers. Defense leaders are increasingly aware that the impetus for innovation for much of the next generation of military equipment, both hardware and software, will come from the commercial sector and that this sector is increasingly globalized.

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This is particularly true with respect to information technologies, software development, artificial intelligence, robotics, and the biological sciences. This has created a host of challenges for U. The primary challenge is the defense acquisition system, which has a set of standards, practices, timelines, and incentives that are orthogonal to those that operate in the commercial world.

The technology playing field is changing. Important technology breakthroughs in many fields are now driven by commercial and international concerns. Our strategy acknowledges the imperative of a global, networked and full-spectrum joint force. It responds to the new fiscal environment and emphasizes new ways of operating and partnering. In a world where all have nearly equal access to open technology, innovation is a critical discriminator in assuring technology superiority. It often takes 15 or 20 years for major defense programs to go from initial concept to full-rate production.

In the commercial world, it can take only two years. In the words of Under Secretary Griffin:. We need to think again, as we have really not since the s, about our approach to acquisition. Government acquisition across the board—not restricted to space—is a mess. We take far longer to buy things that we need on behalf of the taxpayers, and we spend more money trying to prevent a mistake than the cost of the mistake. When it comes to software, the contrast between defense and commercial practices is even starker. It can take the Pentagon two years to write a request for proposal for a new software system and another two years to award a contract.

In the commercial world, six months can be a long time for the delivery of software. More broadly, the argument made by critics of the current defense acquisition system is that it lacks the characteristics that enable agile and innovative organizations like those in Silicon Valley. The NSIB is the American network of knowledge, capabilities, and people—including academia, National Laboratories, and the private sector—that turns ideas into innovations, transforms discoveries into successful commercial products and companies, and protects and enhances the American way of life.

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The genius of creative Americans, and the free system that enables them, is critical to American security and prosperity. Beyond achieving the goal of greater innovation, defense modernization also depends on the ability to produce advanced military capabilities and related software rapidly and in volume. The ability to respond to changing demands from the field and to increase the production of defense end items is limited by the state of the defense industrial base and by cumbersome acquisition processes.

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Each of the military services has created its own rapid capabilities office RCO. These organizations have demonstrated that improved capabilities that address critical capability gaps can be fielded more rapidly. These offices:.

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There will be two program managers under the new structure, one for rapid prototyping and one responsible for rapid acquisition. The RCO also is working very closely with Army program managers to ensure that the latter benefits from the insights and data that the former develops. In essence, they have proven that there is an alternative approach to acquisition, one that is agile, creative, willing to take risks, and able to pull ideas from traditional defense companies, large commercial ventures, start-ups, government laboratories, and academia.

However, the work of both the SCO and service-based rapid capability offices is more about adaptation than innovation. They are working to fill critical capability gaps largely by repurposing or modifying existing systems. Their work does not require significant changes in organizations or operating concepts.

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Modernization—the transition to a new generation of capabilities with possibly revolutionary effects—is a more involved, complex, and time-consuming activity. The Air Force has been rapidly depleting its stockpiles of smart munitions in order to meet the demands of the fight against ISIS. The loss of this design and production capability could result in costly delays, unanticipated expense, and a significant impact to many current and future missile programs, damaging the readiness of the Department [of Defense] and negatively impacting a foundational national defense priority by placing the ballistic missile production capability at risk.

In some instances, where foreign producers have the best products, it makes sense to acquire designs, components, and even entire platforms from foreign sources. In the case of the F Joint Strike Fighter, eight foreign allies are part of the consortium to develop and build the aircraft. However, over the past half century, more and more production of items that go into U. It is difficult for DOD even to track the sourcing of many components that end up in U.

30th Annual Jefferson B. Fordham Debate

There have been numerous reports of faulty and even fraudulent parts from China showing up in U. This is a problem for us as we move forward. Finally, the defense acquisition system and companies engaged in defense-related production and sustainment face a critical workforce shortage. The secular decline in manufacturing has resulted in a loss both of aerospace and defense workers and of the skilled technicians and artisans that produce the machines and tools needed to construct next-generation weapons systems.

The retirement of the Baby Boomer generation and the lack of sufficient opportunities for technical education are also exacerbating the workforce problem. An additional workforce issue is the backlog in security clearances. The number of engineers, scientists, and even procurement officers awaiting clearances has grown exponentially over the past several years.

Major defense programs are being hampered by the inability to get critical technical personnel cleared expeditiously. As one longtime observer of the aerospace and defense industry has observed, this shortfall also acts like a tax on defense procurement:. The government is not keeping up with the demand for clearances. Delays in granting initial Top Secret clearances are averaging over days. These delays have been particularly hard on industry, because it is difficult to attract and retain talent when new employees may have to cool their heels for a year or longer before beginning work on classified programs.

The hidden cost to taxpayers of these long delays is huge. But the waste does not end there. When clearances take a year or longer to process, programs are delayed, workers are under-employed, and holding on to the people who are most in demand becomes a challenge. Nobody rigorously tracks what all this inefficiency costs the government, but over time it is undoubtedly in the billions of dollars….

Procurement programs must always balance performance against affordability or cost. The Secretary of Defense recently provided a very clear example of what he means by relevance and why speed in modernizing U. I want to repeat here that we have no God-given right to victory on the battlefield. And in that regard, make no mistake that our adversaries are right now making concentrated efforts to erode our competitive edge.

You know it, I know it. We can see it in the world around us. And I would say, too, that by contesting our supremacy in every domain, we can see it working against us in aggregate….

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Seeming to borrow from the theory of RMAs, Mattis asserts that reestablishment of meaningful military advantage in future conflicts requires changes to organizations and employment concepts.