Today, defense leaders are calling for a “Third Offset Strategy” to “help identify, develop, and field breakthroughs in the most cutting-edge technologies and systems—especially from the fields of robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, big data, and advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing.”2 While a network, of sorts, is referenced in the development of the strategy by both Department of Defense (DoD) officials and defense policy experts, both miss the emphasis on the links among forces as key to any new offset strategy.
To leap ahead of our enemies we must increase the speed at which we ingest, secure, mine, analyze, and act on data. The U.S. military should create a networked, interoperable, human-machine collaborative force. This world–wide mobile force would be interconnected by a secure network, supported by collaborative autonomous computing devices—machines capable of processing unimaginable volumes of structured and unstructured data through multiple layers of ever-evolving data analytics.
Network-centric computing is governed by Metcalfe’s Law, which asserts that the power of a network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes in the network.3 The power or payoff of network-centric computing comes from information-intensive interactions among very large numbers of heterogeneous computational nodes.4 For the U.S. military-industrial complex, the sum of the parts—when linked, networked, and fully interoperable—significantly amplifies the power of the whole.
The Missing Link
To overcome the shrinking capability gap between the United States and its enemies, DoD is pushing to take a revolutionary leap that will gain a strategic advantage. The aim is to widen the capability gap with our enemies for the next 20 to 30 years. With a wide range of missions—from humanitarian efforts, such as peacekeeping, to major wars—the new strategy must leverage U.S. military and political influence to support U.S. national interests. Regardless of the threat or mission, the new strategy also must assist the force in becoming more efficient, agile, and interconnected to increase our strategic and tactical advantages. Embracing information technology (IT) as a weapon could exponentially improve the quality of our decisions and the speed of command. As Sun Tzu states, “The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon that enables it to strike and destroy its victim.”5
According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the current platform of computing—social, mobile, cloud, and big data—is transforming IT much faster than the first (mainframe) or second (client/server) platform developments ever did.6 This computing transformation—which is just getting started—is the foundation for advances in sensors, emitters, networks, robotics, autonomous vehicles, and cyber weapons. Today, only 1 percent of all applications use cognitive services. By 2018, that number is expected to reach 50 percent. Essentially, analytics soon will be embedded in every application and used to facilitate functionality or convenience.7
The data revolution demands that organizations make the most from data in seeking new levels of performance. Organizations should not be content with just their own data, though it is an excellent place to start. Insights and new discoveries are to be found both in combining existing data in new ways and in leveraging the data of others. This includes harvesting structured and unstructured data. To this end, a new era of experimentation and innovation will bring us into the new realm of the predictive enterprise, with profound implications for the U.S. military.8
Revolutionary thinkers such as the Navy’s late Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski recognized the game-changing nature of networks in the mid-to-late 1990s. Cebrowski’s January 1998 Proceedings article, “Network-Centric Warfare: Its Origin and Future,” encouraged the U.S. armed forces to capitalize on computer linkages among military systems. A networked force’s comprehensive awareness of the battlespace would allow it to act with greater speed, precision, and reach. One of the strengths of network-centric warfare is its potential to offset a disadvantage in numbers, technology, or position.9 It could achieve mass effects—without massing forces—to rapidly foreclose enemy courses of action. The shock of closely coupled actions could disrupt the enemy’s strategy and stop something before it starts.
More recently, French Air Force General Denis Mercier, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, pointed out that the “combat cloud is . . . a game changer for the future.” Mercier suggests the best way to neutralize antiaccess area denial (A2AD) systems “is not to have more and more assets” but to “integrate in real-time, many different sensors that could detect those systems and how they are integrated, and use the best effectors, whether provided from an aircraft, cruise missile, ship, or special forces.” Mercier also emphasized the need for the human-machine relationship and the ability “to deal with all this big data. . . . And do you need artificial intelligence, probably yes.”10
Embrace Learning Machines
The Third Offset Strategy must place importance on integrating the force by an interoperable, networked solution, supported by highly developed analytical machines. This notion was emphasized by Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work at the Reagan Defense Forum in November 2015.
So when you are operating against a cyber-attack or an electronic warfare attack, or attacks against your space architecture, or missiles that are coming screaming in at you at Mach 6, you’re going to have to have a learning machine that helps you solve that problem right away. . . . In 1997, Garry Kasparov was beaten by a computer, Deep Blue. Everybody thought that was a big deal. Well, what was a bigger deal was in 2005. Two amateur chess players using three PCs won a chess tournament against a field of supercomputers and grandmasters. The way we will go after human-machine collaboration is by allowing a machine to help humans make better, faster decisions.11
Informed decisions to act or react currently require a significant amount of human capital to establish communications, transmit information, mine data, and analyze information among units, elements, services, and theaters. In the future, information and data—such as units, sizes, capabilities, time, fuel, ordnance, threat data, and enemy positions—must be made available at various levels of detail on mobile applications in all types of command centers and weapon system displays. Tablets must support decision making and the speed of command. Every piece of equipment is a sensor and an emitter, receiving and sharing up-to-date information across a networked force. Sensors must provide information to feed predictive analytics allowing us to counter threats around the world. This allows command cells to make decisions with critical information at their fingertips, manned and unmanned systems to tie into every piece of the interoperable network, and friendly forces to be constantly aware of all threats identified across the battlefield. Ultimately, the network enables ships, aircraft, and personnel to position themselves to deny the enemy freedom of movement and prevent his anticipated actions.
Achieving the required level of interoperability will be a challenge. Overcoming barriers—such as budgetary constraints, burdensome governance, unaligned service requirements, undefined standards, and cyber-security concerns—to fund a fleet-wide interoperable network with state-of-the-art human-machine collaboration is essential. Current governance on the acquisition of IT will need to be rewritten to become agile and flexible enough for software and technology that are evolving at unprecedented rates. The services must forge a path toward interoperability by making it a priority across their portfolios. To do this, DoD will need to define standards and requirements that provide the foundation for program managers to succeed. Some first steps include:
• Establish standards for interoperability and networks so programs can focus on the appropriate requirements to join the link and become part of the integrated force.
• Institute open standards with a modular infrastructure that is easily scalable to enable processes for the rapid development of analytics and applications so that all users can map from data to actionable information in a timely manner.
• Build modern, consolidated data centers, a DoD-wide cloud, and a satellite constellation to connect U.S. forces, no matter their position on earth.
• Develop machine-driven, automated responses to threats, making decisions required to mitigate a threat to which the human response is too slow.
While many arguments have been made for new and improved weapon systems (railguns, lasers, unmanned systems, and robotics) and improved human-machine interfaces, a significant drive to integrate the force has been missing. As our enemies are attempting to match our current global reach, it is the time to take a giant leap toward a networked, interoperable, human-machine collaborative force. While we must improve current weapon systems, procurement of individual weapon systems must be subordinate to our focus on the link.
2. Chuck Hagel, “Reagan National Defense Forum Keynote,” 15 November 2014, www.defense.gov/News/Speeches/Speech-View/Article/606635.
3. George Gilder, “Metcalfe’s Law and Legacy,” Forbes, vol. 152 no. 6 (13 September 1993).
4. Arthur K. Cebrowski and John J. Garstka, “Network-Centric Warfare: Its Origin and Future,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 124 no. 1 (January 1998), 28-33.
5. Sun Tzu, and Samuel B. Griffith, The Art of War (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964).
6. Bernard Golden, “As IDC Sees It, Tech’s ‘Third Platform’ Disrupts Everyone,” CIO, 27 March 2014, cio.com/article/2377568/cloud-computing/as-idc-sees-it-tech-s-third-platform-disrupts-everyone.html?page=2.
7. Bernard Golden, “5 IT industry predictions for 2016 from Forrester and IDC,” CIO, 20 November 2015, cio.com/article/3006976/it-industry/5-it-industry-predictions-for-2016-from-forrester-and-idc.html.
8. William Koff and Paul Gustafson, “Data Revolution,” CSC Leading Edge Forum, assets1.csc.com/innovation/downloads/LEF_2011Data_rEvolution.pdf.
9. Cebrowski and Garstka, “Network-Centric Warfare: Its Origin and Future,” 28-35.
10. Denis Mercier, “Allied Commander Transformation Prioirites,” Defense News, 6 March 2016, defensenews.com/videos/defense-news/tv/2016/03/06/defense-news-tv-natos-supreme-allied-commander-transformation/81403936/.
11. Bob Work, “Deputy Secretary of Defense Speech, Reagan Defense Forum: The Third Offset Strategy,” 7 November 2015, defense.gov/News/Speeches/Speech-View/Article/628246/reagan-defense-forum-the-third-offset-strategy.
12. Steven Metz, “Eisenhower as Strategist: The Coherent Use of Military Power in War and Peace,” Strategic Studies Institute, February 1991, strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/summary.cfm?q=359.
13. Chuck Hagel, “Reagan National Defense Forum Keynote.”
14. Bob Work, “Deputy Secretary of Defense Speech, The Third U.S. Offset Strategy and its Implications for Partners and Allies,” 28 January 2015, defense.gov/News/Speeches/Speech-View/Article/606641/the-third-us-offset-strategy-and-its-implications-for-partners-and-allies.
Lieutenant Colonel Pappas is a Marine aviator. He is currently a Program Manager at the CH-53 Program Office, NAS Patuxent River. He recently completed a year long Secretary of Defense Cooperate Fellowship at EMC Corporation.
When President Eisenhower took office in 1953, he was convinced that major changes were needed in U.S. national security policy. He was concerned that former President Harry S. Truman’s military buildup had made the nation’s grand strategy insolvent.12 By 1953, the Soviet Union’s conventional forces outnumbered those of the United States. Eisenhower assessed that matching the Red Army soldier-for-solider and tank-for-tank was unsustainable. Instead, he developed a “New Look” national security policy, one that emphasized large numbers of nuclear weapons and long-range bombers and missiles to counter the Soviet Union’s advantage in conventional forces. Known as the “First Offset,” these policies proved extremely effective.
Early in the 1970s, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering William Perry drove a new national defense policy entitled “Long Range Research and Development Plan (LRRDP).” The LRRDP became known as the “Second Offset” Strategy. The plan sought to identify current and emerging technologies and concepts that could provide significant military advantage to the United States, its partners, and allies. It centered on developing stealth aircraft, precision weapons, and improved command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR). Brown, recognizing the United States as the world leader in information technology, reasoned that this initiative would give the U.S. military a huge competitive advantage.
In a November 2014 speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said, “The critical innovation” of the first two offset strategies “was to apply and combine these new systems and technologies with new strategic operational concepts.”13 That basic principle, he explained, would guide us toward our next offset strategy. Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work was assigned to guide the development of this initiative. In a January 2015 speech, Work cited key differences between the Third Offset Strategy and its predecessors: “First, it’s going to have a much more trying temporal component. In 1975 and in the 1950s, we knew our adversary and we said, ‘We can pick something where we will have an enduring advantage.’” Today, he went on, “We face multiple potential competitors, from small regional states like North Korea and Iran, to large advanced states like Russia and China, to non-state adversaries and actors with advanced capabilities . . . [This] is going to require a different approach and a different strategy, which is why we actually say offset strategies.”14 Another difference, Work explained, is that the military labs were key to bringing along technical advances. But now innovations in robotics, autonomous systems, visualization, biotechnology, miniaturization, advanced computing, big data, and additive manufacturing such as 3D printing are “all being driven by the commercial sector.” 15