As a detailed follow-on to The US National Security Strategy Needs Combined Effects, this paper integrates combined effects with the US National Defense Strategy (NDS), too.
The reason for considering combined effects in the US National Security Strategy (NSS) is to enable consideration of more ends, ways and means than the default method of separately constructed effects.
Or no effects at all, which tends to be the case for national-level strategies. Yet we know that proposed activities create effects, and that those effects interact among one another. So let’s design how they can combine.
This discussion of combined effects is necessarily limited to the unclassified summary version of the National Defense Strategy. As in the National Security Strategy article, we use the joint doctrinal language of strategic design. Its integrative logic is to creatively align activities to produce effects to achieve objectives to realize goals. We start by identifying key assumptions and logic in the National Defense Strategy.
Stated in the National Defense Strategy Introduction and repeated throughout the document is the basic function of the Department of Defense (DoD): to deter war and protect security. This purpose made sense for industrial age warfare when there was more time to prepare for war. Today however, there are more ways and means available to more actors seeking hostile ends. Effectively, we are at war and peace all of the time.
Neither national strategy recognizes this predicament. Instead, the NDS advocates a deterrent approach of “achieving peace through strength” by reinforcing diplomatic negotiations with potential military options. It’s a logic of peace or war. When peace fails—that is, war is not deterred—the DoD’s job is to prevail in the resulting conflict. For the grey zone in between peace and war, the DoD is to reinforce “traditional tools of diplomacy, ensuring that the President and our diplomats negotiate from a position of strength.”
Unfortunately these assumptions are dangerously inadequate for information age combined effects warfare. A densely interactive security environment rapidly changes how we gather, process and share information. Warfare, legitimate or not, has broadened to include many types of cooperative and confrontational effects happening at the same time.
Take deterrence and compellence as an example. These terms achieved prominence in the pre-information-age nuclear age, yet they still tend to be defined rigidly — as a sequence. A persistent academic approach is to assume that deterrence precedes compellence, and that both are types of coercion. In a convincing article about deterring North Korea, Duyeon Kim discusses how these two terms can be conflated, and the importance of clarifying targets. Deterrence threatens to punish a target to prevent certain behavior. Then, if we fail to deter behavior such as an attack, our next step is to compel the adversary to stop the attack.
This preferred order is less applicable, however, when there are many possible types of deterrence, compellence, and other effects in an information-rich security environment. Cultural interpretations matter, too. Dean Cheng’s work on information and cyber warfare explains a Chinese application of weishe 威慑 that combines deterrence and coercion (see p. 150). It’s a holistic, analytically conflated concept. Just like Sun Tzu’s book 5 thoughts on combined energy. So deterrence alone may fail to prevent acquisition of nuclear capability, but there are other kinds of preventive and causative effects that can work in combination with military deterrence—diplomatic, informational, economic, and social. Various forms of compellence may fail as well, and may precede, not just follow, deterrence. Why?
Specific intent is difficult to attribute, and often hidden. In circumstances where actors clearly convey intent, they also are trying to prevent and cause other related behaviors. Some may even be attempting to orchestrate a systemic effect. In this context of uncertainty, we see a widening array of options such as digital diplomacy, disruptive disinformation; currency manipulation, and social subversion.
What we end up with is a more complex reality than peace-or-war, and it raises two questions central to the stated purpose of the National Defense Strategy: (a) What kind of war are we to deter? (b) What kind of security are we to protect?
What kind of war then are we to deter? The National Defense Strategy delimits the answer as the use of violence. The document is locked into this Clausewitzian mindset from the Introduction through the next section, Strategic Environment. Ironically enough, the NDS description of the strategic environment is filled with examples of other actors waging complex warfare — state and non-state terrorism, political subversion, economic intimidation, coercion by proxy, targeted defamation, viral polarization, predatory invasion and territorial occupation.
The National Defense Strategy acknowledges the need for advanced capabilities such as cyber, data analytics, artificial intelligence, bio-engineering, automated processing, additive manufacturing, hypersonics, and directed energy. However, the doc does not say how new lethalities can create superior effects to achieve National Security Strategy goals and objectives. Too much detail?
This missing element of strategic design really matters as we seek whole-of-government-plus partnerships, such as those that have been claimed to defeat ISIL…for now. Adaptive threats reemerge using whatever tools on targets to create effects, that they can get away with. Smart adversaries design war to stay outside the scope of mutual defense treaties.
Witness “sharp power” from Beijing to see what a superior effect looks like. China’s construction-dredging warfare in the middle of disputed maritime territory is effectively one territorial invasion after another. Clausewitzian distinctions between the nature and character of war seem increasingly academic. Violence in particular, as one of the three elemental tendencies of war (violence, chance, rationality), is not always necessary.
What kind of security are we to protect? Given the emphasis that all national security strategies have placed on American values, a reasonable place to start is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1947-48). Its preamble states the desired causal effect of human rights: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
According to this logic, security includes freedom of speech and belief, freedom from fear and want, the right to rebel against oppression, equal rights of men and women, and rule of law. This democratic consensus is a broad ingredient of international security, at odds with the growing number of authoritarian states to include partners. It shows up in the National Security Strategy as Goal 4 of 4 — Advance American Influence. Authoritarian adversaries threaten this international order of security, exploiting its benefits while undermining its principles.
The next section in the National Defense Strategy, Department of Defense Objectives, is a partial list that generally supports the National Security Strategy. At this level of strategy, it’s unclear how. So let’s place defense objectives in strategic context.
Some of the ambiguity may be reduced with the following diagram and related table. The diagram is a matrix of National Security Strategy goals and their supporting objectives. NSS goals 1, 2, 3, and 4 are represented by the top panel of the cube. Each goal’s objectives are displayed on the front panel. The right-side panel refers to individual cubes where each goal-objective pair’s effects reside.
Diagram 1: US National Security Strategy Goals and Supporting Objectives
The following table displays the National Security Strategy alignment of desired effects intended to realize each NSS objective. Because such strategic effects are largely missing in the NSS, I deduced or inferred most of them from goals and objectives, respectively.
Table 1: US National Security Strategy Effects, Objectives, and Goals
We can use the strategy matrix diagram and the effects alignment table to try to improve the strategic impact of the National Defense Strategy. The idea is to explore how NDS objectives and capabilities might leverage combinations of effects in the National Security Strategy. The purpose is to discover synergistic combined effects. Effects are admittedly uncertain, but they are definitely contested, so we must compete in this arena of strategy.
The National Defense Strategy’s “DoD Objectives” section on page 4 opens with a general rationale for its stated priorities of prevailing in long-term strategic competition with China and Russia:
In support of the National Security Strategy, the Department of Defense will be prepared to defend the homeland, remain the preeminent military power in the world, ensure the balances of power remain in our favor, and advance an international order that is most conducive to our security and prosperity.
Next, we broaden and focus the eleven National Defense Strategy objectives to create combined effects at the strategic level of priorities — the National Security Strategy.
The method is to look for relationships among NSS objectives and goals from the strategy matrix diagram, and explore those linkages in the NSS strategic effects table to find combined effects that complement each other. Then for each NDS Objective, find capabilities that can contribute to an NSS combined effect. This process is a low-tech approach to hypothesize (and ultimately test) new relationships among goals, objectives, and effects. The purpose of doing this is to consider useful rearrangements of ends, ways and means in a dynamic security environment. Why?
We need to develop and practice (“wargame”) competing strategies in any competitive environment. Strategy should be mastered just as any new technology. This art and science will be even more critical in an age of quantum computing and general artificial intelligence. Even now, narrow artificial intelligence applications such as Savant X can be used to explore linkages in unstructured data sets with hyper-dimensional relationship analysis (HYDRA). The DoD, joint-certified Information Environment Advanced Analysis Course uses such visualized characterizations (linkage, pattern, trend, anomaly, cultural, technical) to anticipate and develop strategies in complex environments.
NDS Objective 1—Defending the homeland from attack
The definition of “attack” in the National Defense Strategy is kinetic and lethal. This constrains DoD strategists as malicious actors and cyber threats exploit narrow concepts. Our highly centralized authorities for information warfare sustain our self-inflicted vulnerability. Despite the economic and social threats posed by cyber theft and disinformation campaigns, the NDS does not regard these actions as attacks. The NSS does, so the NDS should. NSS Goal 1 (Securing the Homeland) includes securing critical infrastructure, and deterring and disrupting malicious actors. NSS Goal 2 (Rejuvenating the domestic economy) includes securing the national security innovation base and maintaining access to energy. NSS Goal 3 (Peace via Integrated Elements of Power) includes deterring, defending against and defeating cyber threats, developing intelligence that responsively anticipates the full range of threats, and achieving better results in cyber, space, diplomacy, and the national industrial base. If we are to achieve decision superiority at the level of integrated security strategy, not just military strategy, national strategies need to agree on what we are defending the homeland against.
Combined effect. Anticipatory analysis of threats identified in the NSS, combined with the integrated effects noted above under NSS Goal 3, can create new synergies and concepts. A combination of effects could be: assuring others with information statecraft to dissuade believing disinformation (NSS Goal 3 Objective 3); exercising economic diplomacy to induce trans-regional wealth (NSS Goal 3 Objective 3); and demonstrating access to diverse energy sources (NSS Goal 2 Objective 5). This combined effect could enhance deterring weapons of mass effect, not just weapons of mass destruction.
NDS Objective 2–Sustaining Joint Force military advantages, both globally and in key regions.
Joint Force military advantages are foundational to creating other advantages. A broad interpretation of multi-domain operations could stretch defense contributions into security effects. Take current multi-domain operations that seek to “connect any sensor to any shooter in any domain” to achieve joint all-domain command and control. Applying this concept more broadly to the level of the National Security Strategy means connecting any activity to influence any relevant will and/or capability to achieve desired effects. This thinking is more dimensional than a single spectrum of conflict defined by the absolute endpoints of peace or war. We are in broadly complex competition (the NDS cites diplomatic, informational, military, economic, financial, infrastructural, and legal [DIMEFIL]) and warfare that confronts and cooperates at the same time. The degree to which Joint Force advantages apply to any given fight largely depends on historical and cultural factors that shape our legal authorities and permissions.
Combined effect. Military advantages are strategically relevant when used with other instruments of power to realize broader effects. Consider the potential impact of a new Joint Force advantage such as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI). A more-than-military JEDI that provides global, securely networked, and rapid command and control might help orchestrate multiple effects. Besides deterring threats and assuring allies, a “National Security Enterprise Infrastructure” could strive to: (a) deny adversary economic espionage capabilities to better defend our defense industrial base (NSS Goal 3 Objective 2); and (b) demonstrate the will to secure critical infrastructure and defeat malicious cyber actors (NSS Goal 1 Objective 3).
NDS Objective 3--Deterring adversaries from aggression against our vital interests.
The National Defense Strategy’s kinetic-lethal definition of aggression may be necessary, but it’s insufficient to safeguard vital interests against contemporary threats. Deterrence relies on having credible capability–intent to use it. Adversaries know that violent aggression is likely to provoke a forceful response, so our nuclear and precision-weaponry deterrence can work in some of those circumstances. In most situations, however, adversaries have developed options short of violence that can be combined with violence or not, to attack vital interests. Consider: Russia interference in U.S. and European elections, and invasion and annexation of eastern Ukraine; Iran proxy terrorism, illegal finance and seizures of vessels transiting the Arabian Gulf; China territorial expansion and lawfare to reduce freedom of navigation, economic espionage, biotech weaponization, and information controls over the internet. There also are various coordinated influence operations, including some by authoritarian partners such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Clearly we need to broaden what we mean by “aggression against vital interests.”
Combined effect. A recent Princeton University study identified trends in foreign influence efforts between 2013-2018. Most of the 53 cases: (a) used an approach of “amplify, create, and distort;” and (b) combined the effects of “defame and persuade,” or “undermine institutions and shift political agendas.” To preempt or at least counter these effects, we need to consider how to combine most relevant effects under each NSS goal. For instance: critical infrastructure (Goal 1 Objective 3) should include the National Security Innovation Base (Goal 2 Objective 4); modernized joint military capabilities (Goal 3 Objective 2) should reinforce diplomacy and information statecraft (Goal 3 Objective 3); and all of that should contribute to shaping international rules in multilateral forums (Goal 4 Objective 2).
NDS Objective 4--Enabling U.S. interagency counterparts to advance U.S. influence and interests.
In its Strategic Approach (p. 4), the National Defense Strategy calls for “the seamless integration of multiple elements of national power—diplomacy, information, economics, finance, law enforcement, and military.” Yet the strategy clings to cooperation or confrontation: “Should cooperation fail, we will be ready to defend the American people, our values, and interests.” While calling for interagency combined actions to employ all dimensions of national power, and to build partnerships that address vulnerabilities, the strategy further acknowledges that “revisionist powers and rogue regimes are using corruption, predatory economic practices, propaganda, political subversion, proxies, and the threat or use of military force to change facts on the ground.”
The NDS answer to these threats is threefold: (1) rebuild military alliances as we build a more lethal Joint Force; (2) strengthen alliances as we attract new partners; and (3) reform the Department’s business practices for greater performance and affordability. To the interagency, the NDS exhorts fostering a competitive mindset to “out-think, out-maneuver, out-partner, and out-innovate…threat actors.” (p. 5). Bottom line: this mindset, an “on-off” switch of cooperation or confrontation, is a barrier to enhancing the quality of the National Security Strategy. We need to protect “the American people, our values, and interests” all of the time.
Combined effect. Let’s assume that the Department of Defense gets all that it wants as expressed in the National Defense Strategy. That force structure would: be bigger; be more prepared for war; possess modernized nuclear forces; integrate resilient space, cyberspace and C4 ISR networks; deploy layered missile defenses; be more lethal, deployable, survivable and adaptive; have autonomous advantages; and be supported by agile logistics. Nice. The problem is that nothing in the NDS suggests how a militarily superior force could prevent or degrade the types of complex operations adversaries have already been conducting. To fill this gap, we could relax the restraint on cooperation or confrontation and develop interagency effects that can do both simultaneously when and where appropriate. Sunzi would say such combinative methods are inexhaustible. The difference between an “on-off” and a “both-on” button becomes clear in the next objective.
NDS Objective 5–Maintaining favorable regional balances of power in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere.
Maintaining balances of power requires recognizing sources of power. Over the course of human history, military power has followed economic power. The ability of Europe by the end of the 19th century, then the U.S. by the mid-20th to supplant Asia as the dominant economic power, is again being contested. At play are long-term forces of economic integration (see Kent Calder’s bold analysis of the resurgent Eurasian “super continent”). Because the National Security Strategy includes economic prosperity as one of its four goals, there is strategic-level recognition of this source of power. Both national strategies mention the need for competition, innovation and risk-taking, but neither proposes to cooperate and confront in matters of national security. If matters of national security are narrowly viewed as military activities, this perspective inhibits strategic options. Consider the following procedure to expand strategic options.
Combined effect. Look at the first objective under each NSS goal: secure U.S. borders; rejuvenate the domestic economy; renew comparative advantages; and encourage new partners. Select the first NSS effect under each of these NSS objectives: defend against WMD; stimulate economic growth; reverse strategic complacency; support rule of law and infrastructure. Change WMD to WME (per our previous example for NDS Objective 1). Loosen the restriction on “defend” to include other effects, such as deter and compel. Assume we want to deter escalation and compel an adversary to stop WME attacks while we achieve the preceding NSS effects. A possibility is to invest in an economically performing, low corruption-rank, front-line NATO ally to support its rule of law, while increasing awareness of threats to that ally. Add more effects: assertive diplomacy and a social media truth campaign to compel taking sides in relationships; cyber operations against illegal activities; and deployment of a deterrent and coercive military capability to that ally. Finally, lead regional multilateral natural disaster relief exercises to socialize cooperation.
NDS Objective 6--Defending allies from military aggression and bolstering partners against coercion, and fairly sharing responsibilities for common defense.
Bolstering new and aspiring partners (NSS Goal 4, Objective 1) requires more than defending allies from military aggression and coercion, for at least two reasons. First, military aggression and coercion can be committed by proxies (gangs, religious extremists, private security forces) and specialized forces (spetsnaz, quds, maritime militia) to avoid triggering a formal defense treaty response. Second, power brokers of polarized politics have interests in maintaining confrontation and cooperation (see Mitchell Orenstein’s new insights on Russia and the politics of hybrid war). Therefore combined effects are needed to secure, induce, persuade and defend vulnerable partners. Fairly sharing responsibilities for various effects entails more flexibility than sharing like contributions to common defense. Agreements based on unlike contributions to security, in accordance with niche capabilities and strengths, may be more practical, feasible, and effective than in symmetrical alliances.
Combined effect. Security bargains that exchange different political, economic and military interests may be more appropriate than assuming happy agreement on common threats. I’ve argued that the US-Japan security arrangement, for instance, began and endures as a differentiated exchange of contributions due to the Japan’s constitutional constraints imposed during the American postwar occupation. Such arrangements can be controversial—Japan’s foreign minister in 1981 lost his job for stating that the security relationship included “military alliance” (doomei). Possessing credible nuclear forces can deter major threats and assure allies against massive attack; however, allies also need security from various dangers. These threats include unwanted foreign influence in domestic politics, economic intimidation, criminally induced corruption that facilitates coercion. Each partner seeks effects tailored to its context. These services and products can be provided by a security relationship that may or may not include military alliance.
NDS Objective 7–Dissuading, preventing, or deterring state adversaries and non-state actors from acquiring, proliferating, or using weapons of mass destruction.
NSS security goals and NDS concepts for Dynamic Force Employment and a Global Operating Model focus on lethal agility and resilience. Such force employment is for major combat that potentially involves nuclear, cyber, space, C4ISR, strategic mobility, and counter WMD proliferation. These capabilities are must-have, but are unlikely to dissuade, prevent or deter WMD activities unless accompanied by other types of effects. Consider the case of North Korea. Presidents and special negotiators have tried nuclear deterrence and high-tech defense, coercive economics, political dissuasion, and conditional concessions. Our current administration is extending economic inducements with political assurances, accompanied by nuclear deterrence and defense for South Korea (NSS Goal 3 Objective 3). Even so, North Korea’s periodic use of limited force and diplomatic balancing has thwarted U.S. and allied attempts to prevent nuclear and missile proliferation.
Combined effect. Pyongyang’s strategy of aggressive dependence attempts to compel the U.S. to reduce sanctions and accept a North Korean nuclear capability. A strategy to shape bilateral and multilateral relations could change North Korea’s incentives for nuclear weapons. A possible combination is diplomatic persuasion (NSS Goal 3 Objective 3), economic compellence and inducements (NSS Goal 3 Objective 3), and military defense and deterrence (NSS Goal 1 Objective 1, and Goal 4 Objective 1). Sustaining and adjusting compellence and inducement from one set of administrations to another (U.S. and Republic of Korea, at a minimum) requires political strategy. If these effects can be sustained, they could change North Korean strategy. The approach would “foster American values” (NSS Goal 4 Objective 3) indirectly to the extent democratic and economically successful South Korea projects similar values.
NDS Objective 8–Preventing terrorists from directing or supporting external operations against the United States homeland and our citizens, allies, and partners overseas.
National Defense Strategy capabilities are postured to prevent external operations against the U.S. The degree of integration among lethal-kinetic tools and C4ISR continues to improve as noted in the Strategic Approach. Expanding the competition, even within a cooperate-or-confront mindset, has improved interagency combined actions that reduce U.S. vulnerabilities. What about internal operations against the U.S.? The information environment blurs such distinctions. Exploitation of social media, criminal and interest-prone proxies, narrow constituency politicians, and corrupt officials provide terrorists ample attack surfaces for influencing U.S. citizens, allies and partners. DoD capabilities could be permitted to influence these adversary desired effects, to include creating vulnerabilities.
Combined effect. DoD capabilities can promote key NSS effects. Defeating jihadist terrorists and dismantling transnational criminal organizations (NSS Goal 1 Objective 2) can be combined with preventing theft and espionage (NSS Goal 1 Objective 4). This “defeat-dismantle-prevent” combination encounters the external-internal boundary we’ve erected to protect individual rights. For “prevent theft and espionage” to work, we would need to treat the other supporting effect for NSS Goal 1 Objective 4 – “identify threats to and responsibilities for protecting property” – as easement property. The public utility for the common good would involve authorized and accountable intelligence. That is, the right to protect one’s intellectual property should not become a safe haven for terrorist operations. This highly contentious domestic issue is related to the next NDS objective.
NDS Objective 9–Ensuring common domains remain open and free.
NDS objectives like this one may frustrate achieving other objectives, but they are central to distinctive American values. The free openness of common domains such as public information promotes treasured aspects of American society mentioned in the NSS — innovative risk-taking, rapid development of ideas, shared responsibilities, and broad opportunities. At the same time, these freedoms have to be defended, many more proactively than ever before. “Common domains” may imply cooperation, but adversaries do not share that assumption. Internet pioneers, for instance, envisioned unprecedented sharing, tolerance, diversity, prosperity and peace, only to see their creation also being used to filter information, socially profile individuals, amplify hate, induce trends, enable new forms of theft, and facilitate radicalization right in the homeland. Keeping contested common domains open requires a mix of incentives.
Combined effect. This NDS objective could help U.S. efforts in multilateral forums to shape international rules (NSS Goal 4 Objective 2). Most nation-states want common domains to be open and free if they can be kept safe. Mutually reinforcing desired effects would be: enhance geo-political access and deter strategic attack (NSS Goal 3 Objective 1); and, maintain access and freedom of action in space (Goal 3 Objective 2). These effects interact. Activities that expand operations in space can undermine influence in multilateral forums if the activities are seen to militarize space unnecessarily. Yet, we also desire geo-political access in all possible dimensions. These three effects might be combined as, favorable international rules for multi-domain access and deterrence.
NDS Objective 10–Continuously delivering performance with affordability and speed as we change Departmental mindset, culture, and management systems.
The NDS approach to Department of Defense performance emphasizes innovative, rapid relevance we can afford. Inside the dominant warfighting cultures of the DoD, however, performance means lethal-kinetic effects. This legacy metric judges the value of performance from weapons to commanders. That’s historically understandable, but to improve the National Security Strategy, DoD performance needs to make grand strategy more effective. For instance, prototyping and intelligence analysis to improve the development of capabilities can be designed to support national security priorities. Requirements should include shaping the security environment, not just responding to it.
Combined effect. DoD’s focus on effective performance can contribute activities to enhance strategic science & technology, and empower rapid risk-taking (NSS Goal 2 Objective 3). The Defense Innovation Unit generates such partnerships among government, academia and industry, and in ways that develop combined capabilities (NSS Goal 3 Objective 2). Just as corporations create prototypes to shape future markets, new technologies can transform operations and strategies. Extending this to allies and partners, 5th generation combat systems can empower joint, government, and private assets to build and sustain relationships (NSS Goal 3 Objective 3), deter and disrupt malicious cyber actors (NSS Goal 1 Objective 3), and support oppressed peoples (Goal 4 Objective 3).
NDS Objective 11–Establishing an unmatched twenty-first century National Security Innovation Base that effectively supports Department operations and sustains security and solvency.
The National Security Innovation Base should include more than technological advantages. We also need the advantages of better strategy. Better technology should help win wars. Defense industry can be incentivized to invest in “critical skills, infrastructure, and research and development,” but who will invest in superior concepts, stratagems, tactics, and effects? Innovation for national security is broader than the Department of Defense. Many departments and agencies contribute to the National Security Innovation Base. By seeking ways defense strategy objectives can enhance security strategy effects, the DoD can create impact beyond itself.
Combined effect. Prosperity (NSS Goal 2) is foundational to all of the other National Security Strategy goals: protecting the homeland (NSS Goal 1); achieving relative peace via integrated elements of power (NSS Goal 3); and advancing American influence (NSS Goal 4). A DoD weapon technologies and strategic concepts process could help: stimulate high wage manufacturing, science and technology (NSS Goal 2 Objective 1); support national security think tanks; expand energy capacity and innovation; and protect diversified energy sources (NSS Goal 2 Objective 5).
Now let’s look at some of the differences between National Defense Strategy effects and National Security Strategy effects. Recall that NDS objectives are presented under a DoD-level strategic approach of more lethality, stronger alliances with new partners, and reforming department performance and affordability.
Each of the eleven NDS objectives below is paired with two effects.
The Defense (D) effect is a supporting effect to help achieve that NDS objective.
The Security (S) effect comes from the combined effect example in the previous section. It’s an NSS-level supported combined effect to which the NDS objective contributes.
The following list highlights a duality in designing strategic effects. Effects can be planned for, and from, National Security Objectives. The choices and flexibility to make changes can help integrate defense and security efforts in proactive and adaptive ways. Acquiring situational awareness is indispensable to success, as Ron Machoian has so thoughtfully argued in ICSL Paper #4.
This paper offers ways that the National Defense Strategy can contribute to advantageous combinations of effects in the National Security Strategy. My caveat is a big one: what if the National Security Strategy spawns unrealistic strategies? Tendered answer: we need the flexibility to adjust NSS ends, ways and means, and find ways to realize NSS intent on the many subordinate strategies in the U.S. government.
Our efforts in Iraq provide an example of an ambitious follow-on strategy to an ambitious National Security Strategy. Take a look at the 2003 document, National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. Here’s the opening articulation of the broad strategy:
The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq’s new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.
Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own: we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more.
President George W. Bush
February 26, 2003
As the Iraq strategy became dutifully filled in, what happened? Expansive political, security and economic tracks for the short, medium and long term emerged. The main three desired effects were to: build an inclusive democratic state; reform Iraq’s economy; and clear areas of enemy control, hold those areas, and build the capacity of Iraqi security forces to advance the rule of law and nurture civil society.
The quality of the National Security Strategy and corresponding quality of the National Defense Strategy matter a great deal. Strategists, planners and operators work with the guidance they are given. They achieve extraordinary results with courage and commitment.
That said, in all of our NDS and NSS examples the main barriers to achieving superior combined effects are political, not technological. There are many policy implications to discuss. A critical issue is the question of permissions and authorities.
In closing, my recommendation is for policy makers to either update or reallocate permissions and authorities, rather than create more working groups. To succeed in a highly contested information environment, we need leaders who empower centralized command, distributed control and decentralized execution. This recommendation is based on the following hypothesis (which should be allowed to be tested):
National defense capabilities can better enhance national security effects if: (a) permissions are updated to fit the contemporary security environment; and/or (b) capabilities are moved or virtualized to accountable agencies that possess the permissions to use them.