Lynn: U.S. Must Prepare for Future Warfare Trends

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2011 — The Pen­ta­gon must fac­tor in major trends like­ly to shape the nation­al secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment, includ­ing many that defy tra­di­tion­al mil­i­tary plan­ning, Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III said here today.
The Defense Depart­ment must play a part in fed­er­al deficit-reduc­tion efforts, Lynn told the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies’ 2011 Glob­al Secu­ri­ty Forum.

“Since 9/11, we have had the abil­i­ty to address new defense chal­lenges with increased resources,” he said. “We will not have that lux­u­ry for the fore­see­able future.” 

The chal­lenge, he added, is to man­age the com­ing bud­get reduc­tions wise­ly and respon­si­bly, and apply resources so they can best meet future war­fare trends. 

Lynn cit­ed the rev­o­lu­tion­ary changes that occurred dur­ing the last half-cen­tu­ry alone, exem­pli­fied through the life of Frank Buck­les, the last sur­viv­ing U.S. World War I vet­er­an, who died in Feb­ru­ary. Buck­les saw the hor­rors of trench war­fare dur­ing World War I, was res­cued as a World War II pris­on­er of war just as the design for an atom­ic bomb was final­ized, and lived to have his own Face­book page before he died at age 110. 

The three rev­o­lu­tions that Buck­les’ life encom­passed — indus­tri­al, atom­ic and infor­ma­tion — “brought an avalanche of mil­i­tary tech­nolo­gies and intro­duced whole new dimen­sions to war,” Lynn said. “The issue for us as we con­sid­er what capa­bil­i­ties and pro­grams to pro­tect in a defense draw­down is what course future tech­nolo­gies will take.” 

Lynn iden­ti­fied three strate­gic trends he said are like­ly to shape the future U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment: increas­ing access to lethal­i­ty across the threat spec­trum, longer-dura­tion war­fare, and the grow­ing preva­lence of asym­met­ric threats. 

“They are each, in dif­fer­ent ways, the result of our entry into a new era of war, one dri­ven pri­mar­i­ly by the over­lay of the infor­ma­tion age atop the indus­tri­al and atom­ic rev­o­lu­tions,” he said. “They can and they must inform our defense plan­ning. What we need to do at this junc­ture, in this fis­cal envi­ron­ment, is to take the long view about what strate­gic trends are important.” 

Gone, Lynn said, are the days when the most eco­nom­i­cal­ly devel­oped coun­ties pos­sessed the most-lethal mil­i­tary pow­er, and oth­ers had sec­ond-rate capa­bil­i­ties or lit­tle or no access to high­ly lethal technologies. 

“Today, this lin­ear rela­tion­ship between eco­nom­ic and mil­i­tary pow­er no longer holds,” he said. “Ter­ror­ist groups with few resources can mount dev­as­tat­ing attacks. Insur­gents can defeat our most advanced armor with fer­til­iz­er bombs. Rogue states seek nuclear weapons. Some crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions even pos­sess world-class cyber capabilities.” 

This change has increased the risks the Unit­ed States faces and broad­ens the range of threats it must be pre­pared to con­front, he said. 

“Defense plan­ning must reflect this devel­op­ment,” Lynn said, ensur­ing the mil­i­tary has the capa­bil­i­ties to con­front both high- and low-end threats. 

“We have deci­sions about how to size our forces for these dis­parate con­tin­gen­cies, but we must equip for both,” he said. “In oth­er words, we will need both fifth-gen­er­a­tion fight­ers and counter-[improvised explo­sive device] technology.” 

Cur­rent real­i­ty also chal­lenges the long-held assump­tion that kinet­ic engage­ments would be rel­a­tive­ly short, Lynn said. Not­ing that oper­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan have last­ed longer than the U.S. par­tic­i­pa­tion in World War I and World War II com­bined, he said mil­i­tary plan­ners must be pre­pared to sus­tain long-term com­mit­ments for a range of plau­si­ble con­flicts. Their plan­ning, he added, must account for enough force struc­ture to pro­vide ade­quate troop dwell time between deployments. 

“This is like­ly to have impor­tant impli­ca­tions for how we size, struc­ture and uti­lize our reserve force com­po­nents,” he said. “We need the abil­i­ty to scale-up force struc­ture for longer con­flicts. The long-term costs of extend­ed con­flicts must be con­sid­ered in our strate­gic calculus.” 

Anoth­er trend Lynn said must be tak­en into account in pos­tur­ing the mil­i­tary for the future is the increas­ing preva­lence of asym­met­ric threats. 

Rec­og­niz­ing that they can’t go up against the Unit­ed States mil­i­tar­i­ly, adver­saries use asym­met­ric approach­es that Lynn said “tar­get our weak­ness­es and under­cut our advantages.” 

As a result, “insur­gents such as the Tal­iban and al-Qai­da in Iraq avoid engag­ing our mil­i­tary in direct force-on-force engage­ments,” he said. “Instead, they use IEDs and assas­si­na­tion as their weapons, and they hope to use the longer dura­tion of war to wait us out.” 

Tra­di­tion­al pow­ers also seek asym­met­ric capa­bil­i­ties, increas­ing­ly turn­ing to area-denial and anti-access tac­tics through the pro­lif­er­a­tion of pre­ci­sion-strike weapons, he said. 

Sophis­ti­cat­ed pre­ci­sion-strike tech­nolo­gies, once exclu­sive to the Unit­ed States and its allies, will be avail­able to more nations in the next 10 to 20 years, Lynn said. This will have a cumu­la­tive effect he said will chal­lenge U.S. pow­er-pro­jec­tion to dis­tant parts of the globe. 

“To address these anti-access tac­tics and defeat area-denial strate­gies, we need to devel­op a range of capa­bil­i­ties, par­tic­u­lar­ly mis­sile defense and long-range strike,” Lynn said. He cit­ed major invest­ments being made in a long-range strike sys­tem that will enable the Unit­ed States to pen­e­trate defens­es and deliv­er muni­tions worldwide. 

Lynn also cit­ed the poten­tial use of asym­met­ric tac­tics in cyber­space — a devel­op­ment he said that would threat­en the Inter­net tech­nol­o­gy that increas­ing­ly under­pins U.S. mil­i­tary and eco­nom­ic strength. 

The cyber threat is matur­ing, Lynn said. Not only are its effects esca­lat­ing, but more capa­bil­i­ties are being devel­oped with­in ter­ror­ist groups which are hard to deter because they typ­i­cal­ly have few assets to strike back against. 

“If a ter­ror­ist group gains a dis­rup­tive and destruc­tive capa­bil­i­ty, we have to assume they will strike with lit­tle hes­i­ta­tion,” he warned. “So in cyber, we have a win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty to act before the most mali­cious actors acquire the most destruc­tive tech­nolo­gies. We need to con­tin­ue mov­ing aggres­sive­ly to pro­tect our mil­i­tary, gov­ern­ment and crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture networks.” 

Look­ing to the future, Lynn said the chal­lenge is to nav­i­gate cur­rent fis­cal cir­cum­stances with­out dis­rupt­ing the capa­bil­i­ties of the world’s most effec­tive mil­i­tary force. 

“We need to make the right judg­ments about the nature of our future secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment,” he said. 

“We need to invest in the right capa­bil­i­ties and force struc­ture that address the trends in war­fare, … and we need to relent­less­ly adapt our tech­nol­o­gy and our doc­trine as threats evolve and mature,” Lynn said. “If we do these things, we will ensure our forces are ready for the future of war.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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