CHESTER HAS MOVED!: Threat Scenarios and the Quadrennial Defense Review

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Threat Scenarios and the Quadrennial Defense Review

[the last of the Early Bird posts for today . . .] I'm posting this article in its entirety as the website, though free, requires registration. There is much here to discuss. My comments in brackets between paragraphs. ----------------------------------------- Defense News November 22, 2004 Pg. 1 US Revises Threat Scenarios Will Guide Military Restructuring, Weapon Choices By Jason Sherman The Pentagon is building a classified catalogue of new planning scenarios that will play a central role in restructuring the U.S. military and determining weapons and technology are needed for the war on terrorism in coming years. Dozens of scenarios that the U.S. military must prepare for — such as the collapse of a government possessing nuclear weapons — will be narrowed down in coming weeks. Eventually, these new “irregular, catastrophic and disruptive” scenarios will have a place alongside traditional war plans — such as potential conflict with North Korea, China or Iran — in guiding the agenda for the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a sweeping assessment of U.S. military strategy, force structure and equipment. [Good that they are revising planning from mere invasions and invasion-defense. There is too much going on to just rely on those plans.] Overseeing this effort is James Thomas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for resources and plans. [Couldn't find this gentleman's bio on the DoD website, which is highly unusual. Perhaps they keep him locked in the library making strategy.] A concerted effort was launched this spring to identify a bundle of new scenarios — between five and 20, according to one defense source — to deal with a wider range of threats identified in the classified 2004 Strategic Planning Guidance. This policy calls for U.S. forces to better prepare for a wider range of challenges, including “irregular, catastrophic and disruptive” threats. [They've used "irregular, catastrophic, and disruptive" twice without defining yet -- poor reporting.] “What we’re looking for is greater variability within the scenarios we consider to make sure we are cross-preparing our force so that it remains highly adaptable as things pop up,” a senior defense official said. “We want to make sure we’re not just balancing risk against the things that are familiar, but also considering things less familiar and increasingly likely.” Key to the effort is to avoid tilting the U.S. military too much toward any given scenario. The United States is well positioned to deal with only one of these emerging threats — countering an enemy that attacks with conventional air, sea and land forces — and Pentagon planners admit that scenario is unlikely. More likely, according to sources familiar with the classified planning guidance, are attacks that aim to erode U.S. power in unconventional ways, such as the irregular warfare of the insurgency U.S. forces now face in Iraq. [Compared to many of the options to erode US power that are on the horizon -- like critical infrastructure attacks, bio-tipped cruise missiles, etc -- the "unconventional" and "irregular warfare" of the insurgency looks pretty darn normal to me.] Less likely, but of growing concern, are “catastrophic” threats that aim to paralyze U.S. leadership and power with surprise attacks on symbolic and high-value targets, as with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Pentagon officials believe a ballistic missile tipped with a chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological weapon could deliver such an attack with devastating results. [There is something very important to be said about all of this, but I'll wait for the end of the article.*] Disruptive Technologies The challenge that presents the least likely threat — but that, if realized, could render the United States most vulnerable — is from “disruptive” technologies. These include new breakthroughs in sensors, information technology, biotechnology, miniaturization on the molecular level, cyber operations and directed-energy weapons — capabilities so spectacular they would quickly give an adversary an edge. [So basically, "disruptive" means, a technology that a rival develops and employs faster than we are able to even conceive of it and mitigate against it. They must have all of the immigrant talent that attends our research universities and then returns to their home countries in mind.] “There’s a feeling that the scenarios the Pentagon has come up with — Korea, China, Taiwan, the Persian Gulf — are the old tried-and-true, comfortable scenarios,” another defense source said. The size and structure of the force, weapons programs and mix of capabilities will not change if these standard planning scenarios don’t change, he said. “There are a lot of scenarios that are quite plausible and are quite demanding … that need to be addressed [and] would lead to very different kinds of force structure requirements” than those now envisioned, the source said. One such scenario being considered, according to sources familiar with these efforts, is the challenge of dealing with a failed nuclear state — possibly Iran in the future, Pakistan in the near term or even North Korea and Russia at some point. “You would have some peculiar requirements that just don’t get addressed in these other generic scenarios, requirements that would be critical to protecting our security. Those are the kinds of scenarios that Jim Thomas is trying to put into the mix,” the defense source said. [Note that they don't say what these requirements are. That means either they don't even know, or more likely, they don't want to let the cat out of the bag.] The current framework for designing the size and shape of the U.S. military, as well as the mix of weapons and technology, was outlined in the 2001 QDR. That review set the foundation for the “1-4-2-1” national military strategy, shorthand for: defending the United States (1); maintaining forces capable of deterring aggression in Europe, Northeast Asia, Southwest Asia and the Middle East (4); being ready to simultaneously combat aggression in two of these regions (2); and maintaining a capability to “win decisively” in one of those conflicts (1). Clark Murdock, a defense strategy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the unorthodox planning scenarios the Pentagon is developing could be the basis for abandoning the current national military strategy. [Abandoning the current strategy would be a poor decision. Enhancing it to include many possibilities is a better one.] “This is a way of looking at something to replace the 1-4-2-1 construct,” Murdock said. Frank Hoffman, a research fellow for the Marine Corps, also feels the Pentagon needs to plan for scenarios that are much more complex than conventional battles on the books. “The operational environment for future scenarios is more than just military forces, and involves a more integrated approach, and not just in the so-called ‘post-conflict phase,’ “ Hoffman said. [Bingo! Wouldn't you know that the Marine advisor is the one to pre-empt my major comment coming below.] “The next QDR needs to get beyond just a Defense Department approach,” he said. “We need to master multi-agency operations in very complex scenarios. Tomorrow’s contingencies present a much more complex situation with a wide range of hostile, friendly and neutral players.” [Ahem . . . "jointness" anyone? This is the wave of the future, and we need to paddle out and shred it, not get caught inside -- to use some surfing analogies.] To win support from the services and Joint Staff for moving in a new direction, new defense planning scenarios must be vetted through a process dubbed the “analytic agenda,” which involves the Joint Staff and other parts of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Several new scenarios already have worked their way through this procedure. But some on the Joint Staff wonder if there is enough time for the more radical — and controversial — scenarios to be considered before the high-level meeting planned for Jan. 27 in which the 2005 QDR agenda will be set. [Answer: no, there is not enough time. You all move too slowly. Faster in everything please.] While many in the services are eager for a new strategy, some of the new scenarios call into question the relevance of some of the core capabilities the U.S. military has spent decades and billions of dollars building pre-eminence in. [Which might these be? If they are truly irrelevant, then we shouldn't do them. Make some bold adjustments, gentlemen!] Still, Michele Flournoy, another defense strategy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former Pentagon official in the Clinton administration, said the military is keen for a new strategy. “The services are fairly eager for some new guidance to assist in making choices about where to place emphasis versus where to take risk because they cannot do everything equally well across the waterfront,” Flournoy said. “Even with a $400 billion-plus budget, they are going to have to make choices about where to take risk.” ------------------------------------- Here's Chester's big thought for today: As I've mentioned in the context of making intelligence agencies work together more cohesively, "jointness" is what is needed in an interagency way as well. Consider that the War on Terrorism (or against Islamic Fascism) is not merely a military operation, as has been mentioned numerous times by many thoughtful people. But there are few ways to get the various agencies that have key roles to work together in anything other than an ad hoc fashion. We should fix this problem now before even more complex security challenges reach up and bite us you know where. Here are some of the agencies necessary to fight a war against terror: -The DOD -CIA -the remainder of the intelligence agencies -Homeland Security -FBI -hundreds of local law enforcement and emergency personnel -The Dept of Energy -The Dept of the Treasury -the CDC and other such agencies -of course the State Department These agencies are not used to working together. When they do so, they fail as often as they succeed. "Jointness" as a concept, mandated by clear legislation, is necessary to our national survival. I'll be developing this thought over the coming months. Last fall I sat down and wrote out a pretty long outline about the whole topic and would like to explore it further in these pages.

18 Comments:

Blogger john said...

The most likely crazy scenario is a collapse of Pakistan where we weren't 100% sure who had the nukes.

Q: Should the US have a plan to take out the nukes on the first whif of a coup in Pakistan?

I'm not that worried about bio-tipped cruise missiles. I'd be far more worried about someone smuggling something in in a jar. The good news is a bio weapon isn't nearly as easy to create as some people think. Delivering it can be even harder.

A ballistic missile capped with a bio or chem weapon? I'm just not worried. We can TELL where a ballistic missile comes from. Nobody would do that.

A SINGLE ballistic weapon with a chem / bio payload wouldn't cause much of a problem, either. Bad on the local civilians it lands on, but not something that rocks the US.

Now, put a nuke or radiological weapon on it and things are much worse. But why put it on a missile? An order of magnitude or more difficult and the launch country is cinders inside an hour. A ballistic missile isn't deniable. You need either good deniability of a guarantee Uncle Sam can't find your address if you want to try murdering large numbers of Americans.

OTOH, if you could smuggle a dirty bomb into a major area the panic could be devestating. Far more devestating than the actual effects are likely to be.

If you want scenarios to worry about, go to a really good techno-thriller author.

Clancy -- bio attack to keep US busy while somebody did something we wouldn't like. (Note that it has to be big enough to be worth the risk but small enough that we don't say F**** it and genocide the people playing the game.) In Clancy's scenario it was Iran pulling something.

Larry Bond -- Terrorists try to create chaos in the US (I believe again as a distraction). Suicide bomb attacks, cyber attack + sparking race riots. The 'spark race riot' idea really scared me. Probably easier than getting people to do suicide car bomb attacks.

Clancy -- Cyber attack and pre-emptive attack on US so foreign power can seize some US stuff and then negotiate. (Gunboat Diplomacy / Fiat Accompli territory grab). Not with Bush in the white house. BAD idea. REALLY BAD idea. Especially considering who Clancy had trying this.

Clancy -- Crash an airplane ... wait, they did that one.

=======

Look at what ONE amatuer sniper team did. Imagine a couple dozen, two pairs in several major cities?

Poltical assassination.

Terrorism against American Muslim community that can be blamed on Bush supporters.

November 23, 2004 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger Ari Tai said...

Re: disruptive technologies. Are relative, correct?

Our warfighting ability is already being disrupted by world-wide availability of current generation information technology, services and networks.

IMO, we misread the SecDef when he talks about transformation. I suspect he'd be delighted just to get his agencies and departments up to competent commercial practice. We've reached a situation with defense contractors where they are unable to deploy even the simplest of systems without their mucking up the works with customer-specified (really agency guild specified - "I don't want to have to learn something new or worry about being replaced by automation, or, heaven forbid, the end-user doing my job") special requirements (many of which incorrectly presume today's and tomorrow's enemy will be a peer superpower like the USSR, burdened by the same bureaucratic costs and inefficiencies as our military bears).

Our defense contractors are equally culpable since their P&L requires them to make themselves irreplaceable (which they do by weaving solutions of non-interchangeable parts that supposedly meet now defunct standards, like mil-spec). And the budgeting and acquisition process still is predicated on an assumption that the military is buying "things" with 20-plus year lifespans (without re-engineering and upgrading pre-planned and pre-budgeted). Note: This is how we get a personnel-system for the Army that assumes protein (humans) are the least-constrained resource (as they were when then draft was active), v. the most. Which has been terribly abusive of a volunteer's family and a reservist's employer. And is one of the reasons we can deploy such a small fraction of our military. (granted, the EC / NATO is worse, they can't deploy more than 2 or 3% outside of Europe, which is the real reason they can't help - their politicians would be handed their heads by their electorate if they admitted that their military was really just a jobs program and "for show").

We have to assume our enemies are 10-20 years ahead of the Army when it comes to using commercial (and best practice) information systems, services and infrastructure. And that the DoD has forgotten technical competencies it used to have in waging full-spectrum (RF) warfare (why are IEDs a problem for us and not for Israel??).

I wouldn't be surprised when the final history of WW4 is written to discover that we sacrificed twice in lives and treasure that would have been required had we been just half as competent as current commercial practice. Then again, this is what happens when we spend the peace dividend on something other than the military, and treat it as a political constituency to be fed and kept quiet, v. being the acknowledged primary function of a national government, second to no other.

We're just lucky the practical reality (v. theory) is that it's been hard-to-impossible to blow things up w/ bits. Most of our (info-tech) losses have been people time and dollars (granted, it appears some the organized-crime dollars in internet fraud have gone to terrorist organizations). But it has certainly been a boon to terrorists. It's unlikely they could function as well or lived as long as they do in the AT&T-owned network and rotary phone era (without the clear and visible support of a nation-state).

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