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New Threats Must Drive Big DoD Changes: DSB


Threats to the United States have outstripped "our intelligence, diplomatic, and investment capability," and the Pentagon must enact a broad series of institutional changes to cope with these new, often unexpected threats according to a major study by the Defense Science Board.

The nub of the problem is that "growing social, cultural, religious, economic and technical interdependencies have made things less predictable, more unstable and more prone to unintended consequences," the study said. The DSB study calls for the Pentagon to educate Congress about the problem and to create a new office to advise senior military leaders "of high risk potential red capabilities" and how to handle them. The new office, to be known as the Capability Assessment, Warning and Response Office, would warn senior leaders of high risks, come up with options to counter them, and recommend technological approaches, the study says.

The DSB also recommends that the Pentagon embrace red teaming throughout it structure. "It should become ubiquitous, should challenge all levels from policy and strategy to operations, and not just to manage surprise," says the 2008 Summer Study, titled "Capability Surprise." The study was led by Miriam John, former vice president at Sandia National Labs and now a member of the board of SAIC, and Robert Stein, former Raytheon corporate vice president. In addition to red teaming, the military must place much more emphasis on rapid fielding of capabilities and create a Rapid Capability Fielding Office that would report directly to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

The report, which has not been publicly released, calls for this new office to consolidate all OSD fielding initiatives, except the office dealing with IEDs, into one place and to use money that is not tied to any service or to the joint staff.

In addition, intelligence capabilities must improve their ability to warn leaders about new "critical" threats and to focus on foreign denial and deception efforts. The study recommends the DNI warning office establish a cell within the new CWRO advising the SecDef and, more broadly, the intelligence community needs to focus on detecting adversary denials and deception.

One of the most revealing parts of the study is a top ten list of why the U.S. gets surprised at the strategic level.

* Thought we could respond without doing anything new

* Knew it was likely, understood the magnitude of the implications, but didn't pursue it appropriately

* Did it to ourselves

* Believed they were not up to it

* Believed they wouldn't dare

* Knew it might happen, but were trapped in own paradigms

* Didn't imagine or anticipate the strategic impact

* Lost in the 'signal to noise' of other possibilities

* Imagined it, but thought it was years away

* Were willing to take the risk that it wouldn't happen.

With these in mind, the study breaks the threats down into two broad categories, "known surprises" and "surprising" surprises. Among the "known surprises" are threats in the cyber realm, space and nuclear regimes. The study's authors conclude that the US has made a start in dealing with the cyber threat "but we still have a large, difficult and costly way to go." To mitigate those risks the chairman of the Joint Chiefs must initiate a series of exercises to gauge "what and how deep our vulnerabilities are." Also, the services and combatant commands must improve the ability of critical information systems to resist attack.

In space, the situation is somewhat similar to cyber. We know we have threats and we haven't done enough to cope with them. But space is in better shape in that the services and combatant commanders know the operational impact of degraded space capabilities and how to fight through them.

The nuclear regime, which has come under such high level scrutiny by DefSec Robert Gates, faces grim challenges. With the "rest of the world modernizing and/or trying to obtain nuclear capability" and the U.S. suffering from a decade-long impasse between Congress and the executive branch on how to move forward, the country must reestablish nuclear issues "as "a top priority in national security policy and strategy.” The study’s authors direct the defense secretary to make the next nuclear posture review a high priority. The services and acquisition community must modernize critical force elements, assess how survivable conventional forces are to nuclear attack and reintroduce nuclear attack into training and gaming by the combatant commanders and the services, according to the study.

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