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What The Business Strategist Should Know About Congress’s Latest Report On Future Threats and Defense

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chartered a special task force to assess what the nation should know about the dynamic national security environment and produce a report to guide future action. The report was just issued. It evaluates strategic priorities of the US DoD to seek better matches of national resources to next-generation threats and sets goals for the entire national security community to achieve to ensure success in the coming decades.

The report was not meant to inform action in corporate America, but there are some considerations that may be of critical importance to strategic planning. This report provides our cut on what this report means for business strategists and suggestions on what actions to consider because of the shifting national security environment discussed in this report.

The Report’s Key Findings:

The report of the HASC Future of Defense Task Force 2020 starts with 11 key findings. We believe these 11 findings are so consistent with the reporting we have provided OODAloop members here that none will be a surprise. They are:

  1. China represents the most significant economic and national security threat to the United States over the next 20 to 30 years. Because of its nuclear arsenal and ongoing efforts to undermine Western democratic governments, Russia presents the most immediate threat to the United States; however, Russia’s long-term economic forecast makes its global power likely to recede over the next 20 to 30 years.
  2. As a result of historic levels of government-sponsored science and technology research, and the inherent advantages of a free market economy, the United States emerged from the Cold War with a substantial economic and military lead over any potential rival. However, these gaps have dramatically narrowed. China will soon overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy, and despite historic defense budgets, the United States has failed to keep pace with China’s and Russia’s military modernization.
  3. Assuring the United States’ continued leadership will require dramatic changes to the structure and implementation of the defense budget, the effective implementation of a whole-of-government approach to security, and the strengthening of underlying institutions such as our education system and national security innovation base to out-pace our adversaries.
  4. Advancements in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, quantum computing, and space, cyber, and electronic warfare, among others, are making traditional battlefields and boundaries increasingly irrelevant. To remain competitive, the United States must prioritize the development of emerging technologies over fielding and maintaining legacy systems. This will require significant changes to the Pentagon’s force structure, posture, operational plans, and acquisition system and must be complemented by a tough and fulsome review of legacy systems, platforms, and missions.
  5. The Pentagon’s emerging operational concepts have the potential to provide the U.S. military a decisive advantage, but they are not yet fully viable. To address current and future threats and deter conflict, the Department of Defense must more aggressively test new operational concepts against emerging technologies.
  6. To endure as the leading global power with preeminent economic might, political influence, and a resilient national security apparatus, the United States must strengthen and modernize geopolitical alliances with longstanding allies while establishing new alliances to meet emerging threats.
  7. Technological advancements in artificial intelligence and biotechnology will have an outsized impact on national security; the potential of losing this race to China carries significant economic, political, and ethical risks for the United States and our free democratic allies for decades to come. Winning this race requires a whole-of-nation approach where the distinct advantages of both America’s private and public sector are harnessed and synthesized.
  8. Increased government investment in basic scientific research must be complemented by increased cooperation with the private sector to quickly adopt resulting technologies. The Department of Defense and elements of the greater U.S. government must adapt their culture and business practices to better support, and more quickly integrate, innovation from the private sector.
  9. Whereas emerging technologies offer tremendous opportunities for commercial and social transformation, many are also fraught with the potential for nefarious use. It is essential that the United States and our free democratic allies set and enforce the terms and norms for their employment.
  10. Authoritarianism is on the rise globally, whereas democracy is waning. A whole-of- government approach to national security should be led by diplomacy and economic cooperation, supported by development and humanitarian assistance, and strengthened by military-to-military relationships.
  11. The United States is most likely to succeed by playing to our strengths: a free, fair, and open economy, strong education system, and a culture for innovation that rests on the open market and free democratic principles.

Recommendations For The National Security Community

There are 14 recommendations from the report. A short summary of the recommendations follows:

  1. Win the AI race.
  2. Pursue global treaties for AI and other emerging tech that will help protect privacy and rights.
  3. Improve supply chain security and overall supply chains for the entire nation.
  4. Find legacy platforms in DoD to terminate
  5. Stop screwing around in cyber defense
  6. Create new national service programs
  7. Increase investment in foundational science
  8. Improve ability of DoD to leverage private sector innovation
  9. Foster new allied relationships
  10. Invest in education
  11. Create new DoD operational concepts
  12. Ensure Congress fulfills constitutional obligations
  13. Refine DoD acquisition
  14. Reconfigure the whole of government in appropriate ways to improve national security

The Emerging Threats Articulated in The Task Force Report

The report provided a succinct overview of threats the nation is facing. Upon review we have to say we have already captured those threats well. We maintain threat reports designed to provide our readers with high level insights that can inform your strategy, and when we see up to date reports like the one from this task force we capture relevant info to keep them current. For more on key threats see our page on Geopolitical Sensemaking.

Weaponization of Emerging Tech

The following summarizes how the report captured this critical issue:

A sophisticated array of emerging technologies and new weaponry will fundamentally change the nature of conflict along with the very battlespace where it will be fought. The stakes are high. Whoever achieves superiority in this technological race will enjoy significant military and economic advantage, perhaps forever. Achieving this supremacy will require a whole-of-nation approach, where the distinct advantages of both the private and public sector are harnessed and synthesized.

Advancements in artificial intelligence, quantum information science, space and cyber and electronic warfare, among others, are making traditional battlefields and boundaries increasingly irrelevant. To remain competitive, the U.S. must recognize this shift and prioritize the development of emerging technologies while also increasing its ability to defend against them.

Technology is pulling warfare into a post-conventional era, wherein the first hours of conflict will no longer be saturated with aerial bombings and sea landings followed by a ground assault. Initial campaigns will be fought with remote and autonomous systems in the realms of space and cyberspace, where an early attack will take out satellite and communication systems and dismantle the global positioning system (GPS). Opening salvos could inflict devastating harm on civilians through electronic attacks on critical infrastructure and power grids, along with financial and healthcare systems and networks.

Also, while most of the technologies will require substantial funding and development by state actors, others such as cyber and electronic warfare may allow less formidable foes to gain the operational upper hand with limited investment. Therefore, as adversaries build and recapitalize conventional and strategic weapons, a parallel effort will be underway to develop systems that adhere to the David and Goliath paradigm: instead of taking on the giant pound for pound, build nimble and inexpensive sling shots.

It is essential for the U.S. to increase its ability to defend against adversaries who will seek early domination in a conflict by disrupting and degrading both civilian and military systems and networks. The disruption of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) has become a bedrock operational concept of 21st century warfare. The ability of the U.S. to leverage offensive and defensive capabilities in this realm is paramount to maintaining the global balance of power as well as strategic and conventional military superiority.

Considerations For The Business Strategist

The national security environment is changing in ways that will impact almost every sector of the economy. How firms in the various sectors will be impacted will vary, of course, but we see impacts for all. Considerations include:

  • The information above should be provided to your strategic planning team and appropriate C-Suite leaders to initiate discussion on the specific impact the changing national security domain may have on your business. Consider pulling together your strategic planning team and providing a threat brief and then outlining a world order where the US and China lead two large coalitions of companies, one focused on open western style democracies and the other with hybrid systems under the influence of the Chinese Communist Party.
  • Any firm which depends on supply chains from China should clearly be rearchitecting now. When possible, manufacturing should be moved to companies not under significant influence from China or into the US.
  • Businesses which export to China should assess risk that products will be subject to tariff or other actions to add friction to sales.
  • All businesses should expect China will continue to expand efforts at digital theft and should take smart steps to raise cybersecurity posture. Our tips for doing so are available at our Cybersecurity Sensemaking site.
  • Expect continued increases in government R&D in AI, Quantum Computing, Quantum Networking, Quantum Security. Also expect continued and sometimes dramatic increases in capabilities in those domains. Track the status of these topic areas at our Technology Sensemaking Site
  • Consider if your strategy for support to the US federal government is optimized. If you have advanced technologies the government can leverage now is the time to bring them to the attention of government leadership.

This short list is just a start of course. Each company is different and you will need to assess the right actions for your firm. But this should help accelerate your strategic planning efforts and start you on the way to adapting to a coming change.

Other Related Reading

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When Artificial Intelligence Goes Wrong – By studying issues we can help mitigate them

Artificial Intelligence for Business Advantage – The reason we use AI in business is to accomplish goals. Here are best practices for doing just that

The Future of AI Policy is Largely Unwritten – Congressman Will Hurd provides insight on the emerging technologies of AI and Machine Learning.

Artificial Intelligence Sensemaking: Bringing together our special reports, daily AI news and references to AI from the most reliable sources we know.

The Executive’s Guide To Quantum Computing: What business decision-makers need to know now about quantum superiority

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Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of OODA LLC, the technology research and advisory firm with a focus on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity which publishes OODALoop.com. Bob is the co-host of the popular podcast The OODAcast. Bob has been an advisor to dozens of successful high tech startups and has conducted enterprise cybersecurity assessments for businesses in multiple sectors of the economy. He was a career Naval Intelligence Officer and is the former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Find Bob on Defcon.Social