Sea, Land, Air, Space Superiority – Why are Near-Peer Adversaries able to Excel?
Guest Blogger: Townley Cozad, Associate Partner, Defense & Intelligence, IBM
Even as the United States remains the strongest, most capable military in the world, U.S. leadership in all domains is being challenged by “near-peer” competitors aggressively seeking to close the capability gap. The military calls this “near-peer” (against someone who has similar weapons and abilities) warfare.
In a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated, “We need to adapt the U.S. military — really, the entire U.S. government — to be able to compete at that level below war” involving “information operations, cyber, political influence, economic coercion and information operations.”
Competing at this level will be a significant challenge and departure from the traditional civil-military divides that have dominated U.S. national security thinking in recent decades. Countering the quick, agile, and hidden efforts to influence governments and alliances requires a sophisticated, integrated approach. In this new environment, the U.S. government needs to shift its thinking away from single functioning government entities towards solutions capable of supporting Whole-of-Government practices that will more broadly protect citizens, critical infrastructure, and core institutions.
Actionable recommendations for improving Whole-of-Government coordination include:
- Each Government Department or Agency Could Appoint a Chief Defense Liaison - The new executive position, Chief Defense Liaison (CDL) would be responsible for overseeing near peer adversary activities that could harm Americans as seen through that specific Department or agency perspective, working with DOD, the lead agency. The Chief Defense Liaison would both review near peer adversaries and report suspicious activities focused on their specific government mission.
- Whole-of-Government Review of Near Peer Adversaries – The Chief Defense Liaison position would participate in quarterly meetings with the Joint Chairmen of Staff and colleagues for “Whole-of-Government Review of Near Peer Adversaries” activities and new developments. This builds off of General Dunford's testimony of competing at that level below war, involving “integrated information operations, cyber, political influence, economic coercion and information operations.”
- Build Subject Matter Expertise Across GovernmentThis effort brings other government expertise together looking at near peer adversaries that could help DOD, the Department of State, Department of the Treasury and other government agencies to strategically plan for more agile campaigns of “levels below war.”
- Collectively Bring Best Technology Forward – This effort leverages each department’s advanced analytics, information interoperability, cybersecurity, and cognitive computing capabilities for subject matter experts reviewing the peer adversaries.
A few examples would be as follows:
Department of Health and Human Services Chief Defense Liaison (HHS CDL) – would be prepared to assess any near peer adversary intentional action against human food and health. Possible intentional planned virus or contaminated food near locations of troops might be discussed. CDL would leverage the advanced analytic capability HHS has underway.
Department of Treasury Chief Defense Liaison (TREAS CDL)– would be prepared to assess near peer adversary intentional actions on the banking and financial system that could stop global commerce. CDL would leverage the possible blockchain capability within the global banking system.
Office of Personnel Management Chief Defense Liaison (OPM CDL)– would be prepared to assess near peer adversary intentional actions on the personnel system for the U.S. government system that could possibly stop government from functioning. CDL would leverage the possible cyber security and cognitive computing capability within the human employment enterprise of the U.S. government structure.
In summary, the US Government must be prepared for a wide range of national security challenges. The more government can share expertise, experience, and technology, the less threatened we will be with near-peer competitors aggressively seeking to close the capability gap.