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What the C-Suite needs to know about a Return to “Great Power Competition” and DoD Capabilities (per the Congressional Research Service)

This post provides insights into what the C-Suite needs to know about the rise of great power competition, based largely on a recently released report by the policy and legal research agency of the United States Congress, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), titled Renewed Great Power Competition: Implications for Defense—Issues for Congress.

Great Power Competition:  U.S. DoD and Strategic Transformation

The report sees a “new or renewed emphasis on the following, all of which relate to China and/or Russia”:

  • Defense issues need to focus on a “grand strategy and the geopolitics of great power competition,” including DoD changes in organizational structure.
  • Nuclear weapons, nuclear deterrence, and nuclear arms control need to once again be center stage.
  • Military force deployments and their global allocation new to be looked at anew, especially U.S. and allied military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • The continued commitment to Europe in the form of U.S. and NATO military capabilities; and
  • The maintenance of superiority by the U.S. in conventional weapon technologies.

Great Power Competition:  U.S. DoD Operational and Technological Innovation on the Horizon

The defense planning activities described in the report eventually become defense capabilities and funding opportunities. To assess risk and opportunities, the C-Suite level bridge to understanding this new era of “Great Power Competition”  is found in the CRS report’s breakdown of organizational and technological innovation currently underway at the DoD:

Discover innovative operational concepts for the U.S. military:   The U.S. military is focusing on new operational concepts that “focus on more fully integrating U.S. military capabilities across multiple domains (i.e., land, air, sea, space, electromagnetic, information, and cyberspace).  The goal is utilizing military forces that are less centralized, based on distributed architectures powered by the increased use of information and communication technology (ICT), bringing these “distributed forces together into integrated battle networks, and making greater use of unmanned vehicles as part of the overall force architecture.”

  • Does your organization you have the capacity for an innovative approach to these situational awareness, distributed architectures, and networking technology challenges?
  • Has your company explored connectivity, control, and visualization solutions in a military (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) architectural framework (C4ISR AF)?
  • Has your company applied machine learning for information technology (IT) operations management, predictive analytics, IT operations analytics (ITOA) or organizational analytics? Is so, is there a military use case for your company’s innovative AI-based computational techniques, SDKs or APIs?   
  • Are you innovating with situational awareness, visual intelligence, platform and ecosystem business models, or autonomous vehicles in your vertical industry which is applicable to these desired military capabilities?

Fast-track advanced R&D (aka “Moonshot” or “Skunkworks”) projects into applied technologies for military use: Understanding the renewed emphasis by the DoD on high-end conventional warfare (defined as “large-scale, high-intensity, technologically sophisticated conventional warfare against adversaries with similarly sophisticated military capabilities”[i]) needs to translate into an understanding of DoD acquisition programs, with a renewed focus on advanced technology product innovation and “exponential technologies” such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, additive manufacturing, and synthetic or industrial biology.[ii]

Component systems and technology platforms will be needed for the systems integration of the high-end conventional warfare systems listed in the CRS report, such as the:

Ballistic missile defense (BMD) capabilities, and land-attack and anti-ship weapons with a longer range than previously fielded systems are also itemized in the report.

DoD innovation priorities also include new laser-based weapons systems, ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance), military space, electronic warfare, military cyber, and hypersonic weapons technologies.  Programs with military uses of robotics, autonomous unmanned vehicles, quantum technology, and artificial intelligence are also highlighted.[iii]

  • Is your company adequately informed about the new acquisition and procurement priorities at the DoD? 
  • Is your company an exponential organization (ExO)? 
  • Are your employees encouraged to think exponentially and formulate moonshot programs? 
  • If so, are your “Moonshot” or “Skunkworks” advanced technology initiatives able to fast-track to become applied technology platforms and products for use by the military?

Understand “performance at the speed of relevance”: This emphasis for DoD is an area we think the OODALoop readership will find very interesting.  It is a specific “new emphasis on innovation and speed in weapon system development and deployment, so as to more quickly and effectively transition new weapon technologies into fielded systems.”  It is easy to assume that this is literally a physical deployment issue or sophisticated weapons systems logistical or installation issue.  It is not.  It is about the fundamental transformation of military operational doctrine.  From the report:

Performance at the speed of relevance. Success no longer goes to the country that develops a new technology first, but rather to the one that better integrates it and adapts its way of fighting. Current processes are not responsive to need; the Department is over optimized for exceptional performance at the expense of providing timely decisions, policies, and capabilities to the warfighter. Our response will be to prioritize speed of delivery, continuous adaptation, and frequent modular upgrades. We must not accept cumbersome approval chains, wasteful applications of resources in uncompetitive space, or overly risk-averse thinking that impedes change. Delivering performance means we will shed outdated management practices and structures while integrating insights from business innovation.[iv]

  • Does your company culture and mission, allied with operations and human resources allocation innovation, inform this challenge for the DoD? 
  • Does your company have program offerings which can be submitted to the DoD in areas of business innovation such as performance metrics and assessment platforms, collective intelligence systems, business model generation, value proposition design, crowdsourcing, open innovation, enterprise design thinking, social media analytics and social listening platforms, procurement, acquisition, distribution and delivery operations and human resources allocation, to name just a few? 
  • And again, has your company applied machine learning for information technology (IT) operations management, predictive analytics, IT operations analytics (ITOA) or organizational analytics?  Is so, is there a military “performance at the speed of relevance” use case for your innovative AI-based computational techniques, SDKs or APIs? 

Know the future of wargaming, scenario planning and special forces transformation: All this renewed focus on great power competition will spur on the revision of U.S. military training and exercises, including “reorienting the missions and training of U.S. special operations forces.”

  • Does your company possess innovative organizational behavior, brand strategy, scenario planning/foresight strategy, computer visualization and simulation, game theory, gamification, enterprise design thinking, lean start-up methodology, experiential marketing, participatory culture and media, behavioral psychology and/or innovative interactive, transmedia, or traditional narrative storytelling techniques and capabilities to contribute to this space?

Understand how mobilization has been redefined:  Large-scale conflicts of an extended length call into the question the very nature of mobilization in a “21st century great powers competition” context.  Emphasis is now on the activation of the industrial base of the U.S.  in a myriad of activities to support military operations, moving away from the traditional definition of “preparations for activating U.S. military reserve force personnel and inducting additional people into the Armed Forces.”  Mobilization, then, in a great power conflict scenario would require the induction and training of military personnel with a speed and scale never required in the Cold war and post-Cold War periods.  This “new mobilization” is also concerned with expediting new weapons production, damaged ship, aircraft and vehicle repair, support asset replacement (including satellites), and manufacturing spare parts and consumable items.

  • Has your company explored computer-aided design, computer visualization, rapid prototyping, modular construction, building information modeling (BIM), additive and advanced manufacturing, engineering data management and data collaboration, 3D printing, material science innovation, lightweight construction materials production, mass customization or design automation?
  • Hase your company explored innovations in transportation and the future of mobility? How about training (physical and online) or data-driven, 360 video and immersive experiences, virtual/mixed/augmented reality and mixed cross-reality paradigms for induction, onboarding, and training – at scale?

Explore supply chain security initiatives:  The CRS report also discusses the “awareness and minimization” of the reliance by U.S. military systems on foreign components, subcomponents, materials, and software.  Supply chain security concerns have also been reinforced by the Biden Administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, which has recently delivered its final report.  In the next year, supply chain security assessments are due for a variety of industry sectors.

  • Are your products “Made in America”? 
  • If so, are you prepared to track the new procurement requests from the Federal Government designed to rectify supply chain security concerns with American made components, subcomponents, materials, and software? 
  • Does your company track supply chains and global commodities using multiple sources of data (geospatial, etc.) which can be used to evaluate supply chain disruptions and security?  If so, does your technology have military use cases?  

Analyze hybrid warfare and gray-zone tactics and provide innovative solutions:  Frank Hoffman, a professor at the National Defense University, defines hybrid warfare as “transcending traditional notions of one military confronting another by incorporating conventional and unconventional forces, information warfare such as propaganda, as well as economic measures to undermine an enemy.”[v]  Gray-zone tactics are best exemplified by the recent Chinese activities in the South China Sea.

  • Does your company offer influence campaign awareness and sense-making, disinformation research, ransomware detection, behavioral analysis and advanced threat analytics using machine learning, decision analysis, high-frequency trading risk mitigation, geospatial data and analytics, geospatial situational awareness datasets (mobile, satellite), forensic accounting, or bitcoin and blockchain innovation? 
  • Does your company provide products, services, solutions, or platforms which answer questions about geopolitical events, demographics and/or national security using proprietary sources of data and artificial intelligence? If so, do your solutions mitigate the risk of any of the specific threats created by a hybrid warfare and gray-zone military tactical context? 

Notes

[i] See, for example, Connie Lee, “ASC NEWS: U.S. Military Re-Emphasizing Large Warfighting Exercises (UPDATED),” National Defense, September 14, 2020. See also Christopher Layne, “Coming Storms, The Return of Great-Power War,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2020.

[ii] “Exponential technologies refers to the exponential acceleration of technologies such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, additive manufacturing, and synthetic or industrial biology. These and other exponential technologies are creating new competitive risks and opportunities for enterprises that have historically enjoyed dominant positions in their industries.”  An Exponential Organization (ExO) is one “whose impact (or output) is disproportionally large – at least 10 x larger – compared to its peers because of the use of new organizational techniques that leverage accelerating technologies.” See: (https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/tr/Documents/technology-media-telecommunications/Cognitive-Technologies.pdf).

[iii] See, for example, CRS Report R43848, Cyber Operations in DOD Policy and Plans: Issues for Congress, by Catherine A. Theohary.

[iv] Department of Defense, Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge, undated but released January 2018, p. 10. See also Larrie D. Ferreiro, “Outperforming with Doctrine, Not Science,” Defense Acquisition University, November 1, 2018.

[v] SEE: The ‘new’ type of war that finally has the Pentagon’s attention – The Washington Post
(https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/the-new-type-of-war-that-finally-has-the-pentagons-attention/2015/07/03/b5e3fcda-20be-11e5-84d5-eb37ee8eaa61_story.html)

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Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira is research director at OODA. He is a foresight strategist, creative technologist, and an information communication technology (ICT) and digital media researcher with 20+ years of experience directing public/private partnerships and strategic innovation initiatives.