Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Strategic Environment 2025 (Update)

An article by Greg Grant discussing the strategic vision of Frank Hoffman caught my eye.  In it he notes that Hoffman warns against getting too hung up on China as the next “near peer” rival of the United States.  Hoffman argues that the U.S. Navy needs to develop a “tri-modal” capability which would include (1) power projection, i.e., aircraft carriers, (2) an expeditionary capability to offset the decline in overseas basing, and (3) an ability to operate in the littoral environment.  The last capability is brought home most distinctly as we are seeing a rise in piracy off the coast of Africa.

It seems a good time to reprise an earlier post on this blog, about where we see the United States strategically in another fifteen to twenty years.  Much of what Hoffman calls for we thought a good idea, too.  While we have a slightly different idea about the future of aircraft carriers, we are not far from each other.  Building an armed force that is preparing to fight World War III is not in the best interests of the United States.  It is important to understand what the world will look like in the next few decades to best decide how to develop a military force that will be effective and useful.  We call it the Strategic Environment 2025.  It is reprinted below with some modification from its original form.

The principle issues of the strategic environment which will impact military planning by the year 2025 are (1) decreased forward basing, (2) increased anti-access tactics, (3) increased asymmetric attack, and (4) increased technological development, particularly in information systems. This will drive the American force structure to obtain an ability to assure access to anywhere in the world without the requirement of permanent basing.

Building a force designed to fight a specific number of Major Theater Wars is a mistake. The force should be designed to respond to a realistic assessment of requirements and have certain capabilities built in and based on a realistic estimate of future conflict.  Most of that conflict will occur within the region of the world described by Thomas P. M. Barnett as the “non-integrated gap.”  It is the locations within this “gap” wherein the United States will find itself increasingly fighting and involving itself in humanitarian operations.

The US must be able to discern developing problems in time to do something about them, i.e., information dominance, then move the necessary power, be that combat or humanitarian, to the needed point of crisis. This information dominance must not be restricted to agencies within the Department of Defense.  Other agencies, such as the Department of State, U.S.A.I.D., and Department of Energy, among others, must have the capability of input as well as retrieval of data from this information dominance “system.”  While such a “system” will have a technical component, it is a mistake to believe that it is entirely such, as input from people on the ground within those regions as well as from non-traditional sources like academia, humanitarian agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the United Nations will be critical.

Once taking full advantage of Information Dominance, the Force of the Future will have three fundamental characteristics: (1) Strategic Agility, (2) Precision Strike, and (3) Integrated Defense. Exploiting information dominance made possible by advances in technology will enhance all of these characteristics.

Strategic Environment.

Decreased Forward Basing.  By 2025, Europe will have continued the maturation progress already demonstrated. The need to maintain American forces in Europe will have passed. The Koreas will have either reunited or North Korea will be increasingly irrelevant, and the need to maintain forces in Northeast Asia will have been reduced considerably. Should the European and Korean/Japanese bases become unavailable, which is increasingly likely, the United States military must be able to transport itself anywhere in the world in sufficiently short a time to be strategically useful.  This will also entail increased and innovative use of pre-positioned equipment and stockpiles.

Increased Anti-Access Tactics.  Potential enemies recognize that they can make military access to their countries more difficult by using various relatively inexpensive anti-access tactics. Cruise missiles, mines (both land and sea), anti-aircraft artillery and missiles, and small surface craft make forced entry into any area problematic. The increasing sophistication of improvised explosive devices (IED) will require continued scientific and tactical innovation to reduce that threat.  The United States military must be able to counter these tactics in order to assure access to strategically critical areas.

Increased asymmetric attack.  Most potential enemies will recognize that they cannot meet the United States in conventional military combat. They will increasingly resort to asymmetric tactics. Such attacks will be by conventional terrorism (bombings, shootings, kidnapping), unconventional terrorism (NBC attacks or holding cities or areas hostage to NBC attack), small unit attacks (irregular paramilitary units and raids by specially trained military units), use of increasingly sophisticated and difficult to detect IEDs, and information attacks (computer hacking, destructive viruses, stealth-spy viruses, conventional espionage). It will also take the form of piracy, arms trade, drug trafficking, and trafficking in human beings.

Increased technological development. Technology will continue to develop and faster rates in the next quarter century. Computer and network-related technology in particular will drive the developed world. Use of the technology will enhance an ability to counter anti-access tactics and asymmetric attack.  This will also require an increasingly technologically capable and highly trained force structure, including forces specifically specialized in computer and network operations.

Force Structure Characteristics.  In 2025, the military of the United States will be a smaller, essentially CONUS-based force. It must be able to see the enemy first, decide what to do quickly, get to the scene with sufficient force to be decisive, sustain and protect itself while doing the job, and be able to extract quickly and efficiently when complete. Central to the entire force and the peg upon which the national defense hat will be hung is Information Dominance. This will entail revitalizing and likely reorganizing national intelligence gathering and processing, to include collection and exploitation of new communication technologies such as the internet, computer encryption, internet traffic analysis, and cellular communications. This will include national and joint level sensors that can be used by tactical units for targeting and a system of communications that can allow small combat units to call in fires from remote areas. From the central position of information dominance, the three legs of the National Military Strategy can then be brought to bear.

Strategic Agility. It will be essential that the force be able to deploy quickly to anywhere in the world. This will necessarily involve both air and sea lift capability. The force itself must be easily moved and easily formed into combat-effective units upon arrival. The force must also be agile enough to counter anti-access tactics, preferably by-passing such defenses either by maneuver or fire. Strategic agility also includes the ability to sustain such a force at a distance from the United States.

Precision Strike. Application of fires on the precise targets necessary to bring about the desired effects has always been the goal of military leaders. By use of increased information dominance and technology, US forces will be able to accurately decide which targets are critical and then place the necessary force exactly where needed. This will take the form of conventional precision guided munitions. These munitions, launched from ships and aircraft (both crewed and un-crewed), and land-based launchers, will be guided by an integrated system that combines sensors, launchers, and targeting sources. Better precision weapons will be necessary to isolate the damage to just that required to accomplish the mission and reduce collateral damage to a level less than has been accepted today.  However important this capability will be, we must maintain the ability to put specially trained soldiers and operatives on the ground to accomplish particularly difficult missions.

Integrated Defense. Defending the force from anti-access tactics and asymmetric attack as well as conventional attack will be the new challenge. Information technology will greatly assist by integrating various systems and providing protection and warning. By integrating systems, the resultant flexibility of response and better sharing of information will better enable local commanders to understand the nature of security problems. Integrated defense begins at the national level, combining service-centric systems into national or joint systems providing service to all forces. National intelligence systems will be combined and streamlined to provide better indications, warnings, and recommendations.

The Force of the Future.

The US military of 2025 will be lighter (better able to be strategically transported and providing less of a footprint when deployed), more mobile (strategically, operationally, and tactically), more lethal (better able to deliver precise fires), and better protected (taking advantage of stealth, integrated defenses, and new countermeasure technologies). The force will not be platform-centric, i.e., based upon the concept that the only effective way to deliver fires is to take them into battle on one’s own platforms. The ground force will be optimized to fight in close, urbanized terrain under confusing conditions. The air force will be optimized to provide air domination and precise fires. The naval force will be optimized for forcible entry, counter anti-access tactics, and provide precise fires. The Special Operations Force will be optimized to execute unconventional warfare, but also include Civil-Military Affairs and countering asymmetric attack.

Transition Plan. In order to achieve the Force of the Future, transition must begin now. The first priority is to establishing the information dominance necessary for the plan to work that will require resources to begin RDT&E.

Army.  Pull the Corps out of Europe and maintain only one heavy Corps in Fort Hood. Stop production of M1 tanks and use existing tanks to maintain the heavy Corps in the near to mid-term. The heavy Corps will eventually be phased out. The Army will develop six medium highly mobile Divisions, organized to be easily deployable as separate brigades.

Navy.  Stop production of large aircraft carriers. Maintain the current carrier force for the near and mid-term, but as they age and retire, replace them with smaller carriers capable of a smaller number of manned aircraft and large numbers of UAVs. Eventually, they will be phased out. Stop production of the DD21. Continue production of the DDG-51 as the near and mid-term solution. Develop and produce a new Low Observable High Speed (LOHS) amphibious assault ship/craft, that can operate in or near littoral areas, supporting the Marine OMFTS concept. Develop the Streetfighter concept or a follow-on concept that permits small, maneuverable, low observable craft to operate in a dangerous littoral environment, while able to provide or direct precision fires. Except for a few hulls, decommission the SSBN fleet and convert them to SSGN (strike arsenal ships). These vessels will be used in the near and mid-term, but as they age and are retired, they will be replaced by a submersible, high speed, arsenal ship armed with precision guided munitions. Maintain the SSN force and continue development of smaller more capable submersibles, as these ships are most useful in providing access to contested littoral areas. Maintain development of the F/A-18E/F, stop development of the JSF(Navy), and concentrate on the JSF(STOVL) or next generation beyond that. Combine all sealift under the Military Sealift Command and produce more RORO type ships capable of lifting Army or Marine Corps forces and operating offshore.

Marine Corps.  Continue development of the JSF(STOVL) and V-22 or next generation. Stop production of the AAAV, and work with the Navy on a LOHS concept of ship and craft capable to delivering combat power ashore. Concentrate on how to deliver precision munitions to areas with a minimum of personnel and equipment on the ground. The Marine Corps will take over the traditional UDT functions formerly provided by the SEALS.

Air Force. Stop production of the F-22 and concentrate on the Joint Strike Fighter or a next generation beyond that. Maintain production of the F-15/F-16 as the near and mid-term solution. Decommission B-1 and B-52 bombers. Maintain the current B-2s, but replace with unmanned, high altitude, precision bombers. Increase development of unmanned strike aircraft capable of launching from either shore or sea basing.  Begin training enlisted personnel to fly the unmanned aircraft.  Build more C-17 aircraft and develop a low cost replacement of the C-130.

Special Operations Forces.  Combine USAF special forces and the SEALS into the Army, operating under the auspices of SOCCOM, in effect creating a separate special forces service. Develop a new “Cyber Force,” operating in close conjunction with the National Security Agency and CIA, capable of countering Internet and computer virus attack and able to conduct offensive cyber attack.  The SOF must be able to move quickly and unobtrusively around the world in order to carry out “black” operations either in conjunction with other organizations (CIA), or by themselves.  Regular forces must be trained to be able to provide the necessary support to SOF operations in their vicinity.   Most counter-terrorism work in the future will be carried out by these forces in conjunction with the CIA and similar forces from other countries.

National Missile Defense and Strategic Nuclear Weapons.  Cancel NMD and reduce strategic nuclear weapons to a small number (as few as 100 or 200.) NMD does little to ensure the security of the United States and requires the use of resources better applied into development of Information Dominance. With the reunification of Korea (or the increasing irrelevance of North Korea) a principle ballistic missile threat will disappear. China has shown no propensity to develop a large number of strategic missiles.

Intelligence Forces.  While all services will maintain tactical intelligence forces specializing in supporting operating forces, all military intelligence functions will be combined under the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. This function will take advantage of the information dominance and provide joint intelligence support to the theater CINCs and better enable cooperation with the CIA.  This, combined with the newly invigorated SOCCOM, will enable better work against terrorist and global criminal/pirate organizations.  New law by Congress to ensure the rigorous cooperation between military intelligence, the CIA, and FBI will likely be necessary.

Chairman, JCS.  The Chairman (or possibly SECDEF) will control programming for all information systems within DOD. By controlling such systems, he can drive the development of the force structure necessary to take full advantage of the new information dominance. The services will have to develop forces that can effectively use the information systems provided by the Chairman. This will take legislation by Congress to effect and should be an early priority of the SECDEF and CJCS.


The Force of the Future will be able to deploy from CONUS to anywhere in the world quickly (within hours to days) and with sufficient combat power available to be decisive. Not all of the combat power will necessarily be with the deployed force, but may be on remote platforms or locations supported by remote sensors and targeting systems. The forward forces will be able to integrate with the combat power and sensors increasing effectiveness.

Heavy forces will be maintained in the near term, but replaced by lighter forces in the long term. Some early force retirements and program elimination will be used to begin the transformation. As information dominance is realized, other legacy forces can be replaced by the newly developed forces and capabilities.
Information Dominance will enable the US to see the problem early, define the problem accurately, and begin action in time to make a difference. The force selected will be able to move quickly to the scene and be effective upon arrival, taking advantage of integrated information systems to precisely place combat power (fires) where it will be most decisive and protect itself while employed.

We will see the enemy earlier than ever before and clearer than ever before. We will deliver combat power more quickly than ever before and with more precision than ever before and the force will be better protected than ever before.   But, above all, we will be smarter in when we apply such force.