By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, April 8, 2015 – On stage today at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work summoned up scenes from a future war where soldiers and machines join forces in a multidimensional “informationalized” zone, using advanced tools to fight adversaries from space to cyberspace.
During a keynote address on international security and future defense strategy on Carlisle Barracks, Work described a daunting array of challenges for warfighters.
“In the future, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine forces and our allies who fight with us are going to have to fight on a battlefield that is swept by precision-guided munitions but also one that is swept by persistent and effective cyber and electronic warfare attacks,” he said.
That fighting will include regular warfare, hybrid warfare, nonlinear warfare, state-sponsored proxy hybrid warfare, and high-end combined-arms warfare, Work added, like what might be seen on the Korean peninsula.
To prepare for the threats, the deputy secretary offered three principles of future war.
The Future of War
The first is that the future of ground warfare, regardless of the type, will see a proliferation of guided munitions and advanced weaponry, he said.
“We should just assume that is the case. If we're wrong, so much the better,” Work said. “If we're right, we'd better be prepared for it. And this proliferation of precision will continue because we see it continuing today.”
Ground forces will be faced with what many call G-RAMM -- guided rockets, artillery, mortars and missiles with GPS capability and laser guidance, infrared homing, anti-radiation weapons, and fire-and-forget anti-armor weapons, he added.
“We're not too far away from guided .50 caliber rounds. We’re not too far away from a sensor-fused weapon that instead of going after tanks will go after the biometric signatures of human beings,” Work said.
The second principle of future ground combat on the front lines will have to contend with what the Chinese call “informationalized” warfare, he said.
Work defined informationalized warfare as the combination of cyber, electronic warfare, information operations, and deception and denial to disrupt command and control and give the enemy an advantage in the decision cycle.
The third principle is that the combination of guided munitions and informationalized warfare will span all types of ground combat, meaning that the foundation for ground-force excellence will be combined-arms operational skill, Work said.
Defense Innovation Initiative
“It's also why we applaud the fact that the U.S. Army will not declare its [brigade combat teams] full-spectrum combat ready until they have completed two decisive-action rotations at the National Training Center,” the defense secretary said.
Training and the familiar operational and organizational constructs will take U.S. forces only so far, the deputy secretary said.
New operational and organizational constructs and technological capabilities must be deliberately identified, he said, and that’s what the Defense Innovation Initiative is all about.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has expanded the initiative, which was announced in November, and Work said Carter wants the department focused on three things:
-- Increasing competitiveness by attracting talent. This includes the future of the all-volunteer force, the way the services train the force and their leaders, and the way the department trains the future civilian and contractor force.
-- Improving competitiveness through technological superiority and operational excellence.
-- Increasing competitiveness through accountability and efficiency throughout the department.
Work said a key part of the initiative is called the “third offset strategy.”
Third Offset Strategy
“The whole purpose of the third offset strategy,” the deputy secretary said, “is to identify the technologies, the operational and organizational constructs, and the new operational concepts to fight our future adversaries.”
A big part of the offset strategy will be to identify, develop and field breakthrough technologies and to use current capabilities in different ways, he added.
“We just demonstrated firing the Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile against a ship without changing its seeker-head, completely doing it by off-board sensing. Well,” Work said, “now we have 2,000 potential 1,000-mile-range anti-ship missiles.”
Work said that since World War II, American military strategy and the national defense strategy have been built on an assumption of technological superiority and better-trained men and women organized to employ the technologies in an innovative way.
A Wall of Flesh and Blood
“I like the way Dwight Eisenhower explained it after World War II,” he said. “While some of our allies were compelled to throw up a wall of flesh and blood as their chief defense against the aggressor's onslaught, we were able to use machines and technology to save lives.”
After 40 years of an all-volunteer force, Work said, the United States has an enduring advantage in its people.
“I will stack this all-volunteer force up against any potential opponent and especially those that are authoritarian in nature, because they will never, ever be able to match the creativity, the initiative, the mission drive that our people have,” the deputy secretary said.
“But our technological superiority is slipping,” he said. “We see it every day … the fact is we want to achieve an overmatch over any adversary from the operational theater level all the way down to the fighter plane, Navy ship or infantry squad.”
New Ways to Fight
The department’s focus on innovation is about finding new ways to fight, train and create organizational constructs, he said.
“Battlefield advantages in the future are going to be very short-lived because the amount of technology that is out there right now is unbelievable,” Work said.
Work said he believes the third offset strategy will revolve around something called free-play combat in each dimension of combat.
The deputy secretary described a book called “Average is Over” by an avid chess player and economist named Tyler Cowen.
Cowen wrote about how people used to think that a computer could never beat a grand master at chess. That proved to be wrong, but he found out that in a person-machine chess game, in three-play chess, the combination of a person and a machine always beats a machine and always beats a person.
“How far do we take three-play combat in air-sea battle 2? How does it affect our command and control? Where are we comfortable having autonomous decision-making? Where are you going to have a person in the loop? How will you net all of this together to give you a decisive, enduring advantage on the battlefield?’ he said.
Work added that these are fundamental questions for organizations like the Army War College to think through.
Another aspect of future war will be at the squad level, which will be operating in a far more disaggregated way than they have in the past, the deputy secretary said.
Disaggregating Infantry Battalions
“When I went to Afghanistan to visit Marine units, I asked [Marine Corps] Gen. Joe ‘Fighting Joe’ Dunford about the record for the disaggregation of a single infantry battalion across the battlefield,” the deputy secretary said. “He said the record was a single battalion disaggregating into 77 discreet units spread over a wide area.”
This has big implications for leadership and command and control, Work said, “especially in an informationalized warfare environment in which the enemy is constantly trying to get into your networks and disrupt your command and control.”
The key to ensuring that these disaggregated small units have overmatch is by providing support in fires, intelligence and logistics, Work said.
“If we combine them into well-trained, cohesive combat teams with new advances in robotics and autonomy and unmanned systems, three-play combat at the squad level, we can create super-empowered squads, super-empowered small units with enhanced situational awareness and lethality,” he added.
Exciting Times for the Force
The Defense Advanced Projects and Research Agency's Squad X program, among others, is working on several ideas now to increase human and machine collaboration at the lowest tactical level, including ground robots and small microdrones, Work said.
The deputy secretary said this is an exciting time for the force.
“This problem requires thinking,” Work added. “We need to tackle it together and not worry so much about the resources as the intellectual capital that we need to put in the bank to allow our joint force to be successful in the future.”