Deputy Secretary of Defense
CNAS Defense Forum
JW Marriott, Washington, D.C.
Thank you for that kind introduction and in fact, all of the people at CNAS, our CNAS family, and it’s really great to be back here this morning.
It reminds me of a story that's told of a travelling preacher who wanders around in the Pacific Northwest and through Idaho and Montana, visiting different towns and giving sermons. He walked into one small town near Montana and he found himself on the pulpit and there was only one person there in the church.
And he said, "My son, you know, I'm here and I'm prepared to give you a full sermon and to attend to your spiritual needs, but you're only one person, and so what would you like me to do?" He goes, "well, Padre, I'm a cattle farmer, and if I went up on the north 40 with enough food to get to 40 head, and I only found one, I wouldn't leave him hungry.
So the preacher said, "All right," and he launches into a full-up sermon, fire and brimstone, I mean he gave it his all. And he really was proud of himself after it was over. But when he did, the cowboy stood up and started to walk out, and the priest goes, "Gosh, I've got to find out what happened." So he hurries up to the Cowboy and and says, "Well, my son, did I meet your spiritual needs?"
And he goes, "Well, Padre, if I went up on the north 40 and I had food for 40 head and only found one, I wouldn't dump the whole load on him."
What I'm going to try to do in 30 minutes is dump the whole load on you and I look forward to your questions. But what I want to talk about is something very, very important, and that is a pressing need for us to make corrections in our defense program to meet evolving threats in our national security environment.
So I'm going to talk to you specifically on why the civilian and military leadership of the Department are pursuing a significant and hopefully enduring effort to extend our military, technological and operational edge well into the future.
We began this initiative because we are at a pivotal moment in the post-Cold War. I firmly believe that historians will look back upon the last 25 years – I actually snap that 25 years between May 12, 1989, when President Bush said containment would no longer be the lens through which the defense program was built. That was the end of the Cold War for all intents and purposes for defense planning, even though it took a couple of years for the Soviet Union to finally implode.
And I'd look in December 2013, that's when China started to do its land reclamation project in the South China Sea and in March 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea and started to send its troops and support separatists in east Ukraine.
So that 25-year period, I believe, is remarkable and is unlike any other period in the post-Westphalian era, because during that period, the United States reigned supreme as the only world's great power and the sole military superpower. It gave us enormous freedom of action.
But the circumstance is now changing. The unipolar world is starting to fade and we enter a more multipolar world, in which U.S. global leadership is likely to be increasingly challenged.
So among the most significant challenges in this 25 years, and one in my view that promises to be the most stressing one, is the reemergence of great power competition.
Now, for the purpose of this discussion and for the purposes of building a defense program which is focused on potential adversary capabilities, not necessarily intentions, I'll borrow John Mearsheimer's definition of a great power: A state having sufficient military assets to put up a serious fight in an all-out conventional war against the dominant power -- that would be the United States -- and possessing a nuclear deterrent that could survive a first strike against it.
And by that narrow definition, getting away from what are their economic peers or what is the attractiveness of their soft power and their stickiness, from a defense program perspective, if Russia and China are not yet great powers, they're well on their ways to being one.
And for its part, Russia’s destabilizing actions -- a resurgent great power while they are trying to establish a sphere of influence in their near abroad, which is typical behavior of a great power. This comes on the heels of a failed 25 effort to include Russia within the European community, and try to partner with it on a wide variety of global issues.
We still seek both of those outcomes. However, after modernizing its nuclear and conventional forces, sharpening its war fighting doctrine, specifically aimed towards NATO, rattling its nuclear saber, seeking to undermine NATO and intimidate the Baltic states, and attempting to rewrite the international rulebook, we are adapting our operational posture, contingency plans and programs to deal with Russia and to deter, we hope, any further aggression.
So we consider Russia a resurgent great power. Its long-term prospects, we still think, are very challenging, which may or may not make them more aggressive in the next 25 years rather than less aggressive.
China, a rising power with impressive latent military technological capabilities, probably embodies a more enduring strategic challenge as its ambitions and objectives expand in Asia, the Western Pacific littoral, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere.
Now, China's words have been about peaceful rise, and about defense. But its actions will be the true test of its commitment to peace and stability in the current international order.
DOD, therefore, continues to pursue military-to-military cooperation with China, as well as a wide range of confidence-building measures to make sure that we never come to blows. But while we do so, we can't overlook the competitive aspects of our relationship, especially around our military capabilities.
And that's about what? DOD focuses on the capabilities of potential challengers, and both Russia and China present the United States, our allies and our partners with unique and increasingly stressing military capabilities and operational challenges.
So while we understand the importance of engaging the potential competitors, we do so cognizant of our central purpose, which is to reassure our Allies and partners and tell them that we will be there, if necessary, in their time of need and to protect U.S. forces and our allies from direct attack, and should deterrence fail, make sure that we are able to roll back any aggression that occurs.
We are in the competition business, and we build war plans -- that's what we do. Our defense strategy and defense program will therefore reflect the realities of new great power competition in new ways.
Now, before I explain how we are going to do this, I want to make it clear that the Department's not forgetting one bit about the threat of violent extremism, which is tearing apart the Middle East and is threatening countries well beyond that region.
How could we? We have thousands of service men and women in uniform -- out uniform, our contractors and civilians who are battling the terrorist networks everyday across the globe, and with a particular focus, of course right now, on Iraq and Syria, where the Islamic State, a particularly savage and dangerous opponent, is operating. And as Secretary of Defense Carter has said, we are expanding our offensive against them across Iraq and Syria and elsewhere, and ultimately, we will defeat them.
Well, as stressing as this fight is, that is not my intent to talk about that this morning, because nothing can match the destructive potential of high-end conventional war between great powers. Nothing can up-end or disrupt or possibly even destroy the global world order more than a potential collision between great powers.
So we have to continue to field capabilities that strengthen our conventional deterrence. This is all about deterrence, to make sure that such a collision never happens. The best way to prevent great power competition from becoming great power conflict is for the United States to maintain a safe, reliable and secure nuclear arsenal for so long as those weapons exist, coupled with strong conventional deterrent capabilities, which will be the focus of my presentation here this morning.
Now, whenever you're trying to build strong deterrent posture, you strive to do three things. The first is you try to achieve a technological overmatch against potential adversaries. The Robert M. Gates fellow here at CNAS, Bridge Colby, and another good friend calls technology the “elixir of military strength,” and he couldn't be more correct.
So what we want to do is develop successive generations of many warfighting capabilities. The technology is never, never the final answer. You have to be able to incorporate those technologies into new operational and organizational constructs.
It might be a new unit that does something a new way, that employs a technology in ways that we haven't seen in the past or it might be a new doctrine, such as AirLand Battle, which completely changes the focus of the entire Army and really undermines our adversary's confidence that if blows really did come to pass, that they would not prevail.
So you need new technological capability to try to achieve a technological overmatch. You need to have new organizational and operational constructs to make it real and to gain operational advantage. And third, you have to demonstrate these capabilities to suggest that any attempt to achieve operational success in the warfighting campaign is likely to fail, even if they were to achieve an initial advantage in time and space.
Now, this is the very essence of what deterrent theorists call deterrence by denial. It is perhaps the most effective type of conventional deterrence, in our view. And as Professor Lawrence Freedman says, as it just so happens, a force developed for deterrence by denial is also best postured for victory if deterrence fails.
So this talk is all about conventional deterrence. We seek cooperative engagement and a cooperative relationship with both Russia and China over the long term. But in the Department of Defense, we know there will be competitive aspects and we want to make sure that we can assure our national leaders that we are ready in case someone makes a miscalculation.
Now, let me talk about offset strategies. You've heard us use this a lot. In terms of great power competitions, the United States generally pursues deterrence by denial, not by trying to match every tank for tank, person for person, ship for ship, missile for missile. That's not our thing.
We try to do things smarter, to strenghten conventional deterrence by offsetting or pursuing a combination of superior technological capabilities and innovative operational and organizational constructs that offset the strengths of our potential adversaries. And we've done this twice before. We know it works.
In the 1950s, the first offset strategy sought to blunt Soviet numerical and geographical advantage along the inner German border by introducing, demonstrating and developing the operational and organizational constructs to employ battlefield nuclear weapons. This proved very effective as a conventional deterrent, using battlefield nuclear weapons to offset the conventional superiority of the Soviets. It seems a little counterintuitive, but it worked.
Now, up until the '70s, what happened, however, is the Soviets achieved strategic nuclear parity. So, the threat of trying to go up the escalatory ladder, that might end in a general nuclear exchange, was simply too great a risk for our national leaders to tolerate. And we didn't believe our deterrent was effective. It just wasn't believable.
Moreover, the Soviets, because they believed that we were going to employ battlefield nuclear weapons, it changed their entire operational art. They were going to attack in successive echelons of forces at one single penetration point on the forward line of troops. And they really didn't care if the first echelon was entirely annihilated. And they didn't really care if the second echelon was entirely annihilated.
They just wanted to punch a hole, like a jackhammer, into NATO's defense and get operational maneuver groups deep into NATO's rear, and they thought, probably rightly, that if they did that, that we would be deterred from trying to employ battlefield nuclear weapons.
So some of the leadership at DoD said we have to do something different. And in 1973 -- they launched what was called the Long-Range Research and Development Planning Program, the LRRDPP.
And they said we only have one of two choices. You can make nuclear weapons more usable; you can have micro-nukes; you can have neutron bombs; you can have high-altitude HEMP explosions; EMP -- electromagnetic pulse explosions.
But our senior leaders said that we still cannot risk going up the escalatory ladder. What else have you got? And they said, well, we think that you could go all-in and go after conventional weapons with near-zero miss -- what we know today as precision-guided munitions. And that's what our national leadership decided to do. And the Soviets call these “reconnaissance strike complexes,” and we really got their attention.
We did a big demonstration called "Assault Breaker" in 1977. The Soviets had a big exercise based on what they thought happened in the Assault Breaker technology, and it really shook them up. Within five years, the head of the Soviet General Staff concluded that conventional guided munitions with near zero miss would be as effective as tactical nuclear weapons in keeping the Soviet Union from achieving their operational aims, and for them, a very deterministic, doctrinal opponent, the game was over. And unquestionably, I would say that it helped lead to the end of the Cold War.
Now, as it turned out, the Soviet Union imploded just as the United States was culminating the second offset strategy. And that allowed us to dominate guided munitions and irregular warfare for the next 25 years. And it was used to great effect in conventional campaigns, and I underline conventional campaigns. People say, "Yeah, but it didn't solve all of the problems," but it was continually refined.
Second offset strategies and technologies were continually refined, and I would argue that our global manhunting campaign is completely consistent with second offset technologies and is far better because of it, because we can now find, fix and finish terrorists much more effective than we ever have.
But without doubt, this 25-year period is coming to an end. And the sizable margin of conventional technological superiority we have enjoyed for the past 25 years, and have become essentially used to, is eroding. This results primarily from two factors. One, at least two large states are putting a lot of money to achieve rough guided munitions parity with the United States. They say they are doing it. They are programming to do it. They are budgeting to do it. And they are doing it.
A corollary of that first one is that second offset technologies are proliferating throughout the world. So Iran can use these technologies, as can Hezbollah, as can ISIL if they so choose to do so.
And the second is that for the last 14 years, we've been really focused down on this really hard problem in the Middle East, and fighting a war against Islamist extremists. And as a result, our program has been slow to adapt as these high-end threats have started to reemerge.
Now, I would argue that, while we've been slow to adapting the program, we're not surprised by what's happening. In 1993, Andrew Marshall said, "I project a day when our adversaries will have guided munitions parity with us and it will change the game." And that ultimately became expressed in the Department of Defense as the anti-access/area-denial challenge (A2/AD).
So, it's not that we are totally surprised that this is happening. But what is different is that now we say we can no longer wait to respond in our program, and should we have a third offset strategy because of these conditions, and if so, how best to go about it.
Now, the third thing I'd like to say about offset strategies is they're generally informed by the toughest operational problem that you face. And we have several of them, all of them kind of related to the A2/AD challenge I just said.
Our conventional deterrence posture, without question, is based on the assumption that we can project overwhelming power across trans-oceanic distances and exert our will on any opponent. So, the first problem is breaking into a theater where the opponents enjoy guided munitions parity and can throw long-range missile strikes as dense as our own and as accurate as our own, and as long as we can. That's the anti-access or the A2 part of the A2/AD threat.
Then, once you're in the theater, the second problem is fighting against an adversary with conventional capabilities that are as advanced as our own. And that is the AD -- area denial part of the A2/AD problem.
And the third is doing both of those while under intense cyber and electronic warfare attack.
Now, we can get a rough sense of the A2AD problem just by reviewing Russian demonstrations of long-range conventional strikes that are occurring right now in Syria. They're firing missiles from surface ships, from submarines, from strategic bombers, and from medium-range bombers.
You could also get a sense of what's happening by seeing what the Chinese do in their massive exercises by their Second Artillery Corps and the way that they are forming their forces to conduct what they call "counter-intervention operations."
And as for the last two, all we have to do is analyze what was going on in eastern Ukraine, which is arguably and unfortunately for our partner in Ukraine, an emerging laboratory for future 21st century warfare. Russian units employed advance sensors and imaging, enabled by a liberal use of small, unmanned aerial systems backed up by very high-capable collection platforms.
And they introduced new levels of battlefield transparency and lethality, which really started to catch the attention of senior U.S. Army leadership. Ukrainian commanders reported to us that, within minutes of coming up on the radio net, they were targeted by concentrated artillery strikes that included cluster munitions, which we're getting rid of; thermobaric warheads, which are absolutely nasty; and top attack submunitions. They jam GPS signals, causing Ukrainian UAVs to drop out of the sky. And they jam proximity fuses on artillery shells, turning them into duds.
The operations in Ukraine highlighted the new speed of war, driven by automated battle networks, boosted by advances in computing power, network attacks – we are moving at cyber speed, and intense electronic warfare battles to dominate the information war along the forward line of troops.
This trend is only going to continue as advanced militaries experiment with these technologies, as well as others like hyper-sonics. In the not-too-distant future, we'll see directed energy weapons on the battlefield which operate at the speed of light.
Now, the next thing I'd say is Shawn Brimley, also from CNAS, is going to publish a monograph today about this competition. So whether it's a 1,000 nautical mile anti-access challenge that he talks about, the inter-theater area denial challenge, or the challenge of closing the last tactical mile, all while operating under intense cyber and electronic warfare (EW) attacks.
We're going to have to have technical solutions for these problems. And it is the identification and prioritization of those new technologies and capabilities -- again, what my friend Bridge Colby called "the elixir of modern military strength." That is the first step that you have to do when building out a third offset strategy.
So for the last 18 months, the department has been considering these operational problems, exploring the direction of technological trends, and is trying to determine where we might be able to exploit technology and create new operational advantage.
We commenced our own Long Range Research and Development Planning Program, led by Steve Welby, our Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for defense research and development, and I hope to have him no longer "acting" this week. We'll see. Fingers crossed.
We asked the Defense Science Board to assess key technology trends. We've reviewed work by DARPA on what they were doing. We studied high-tech challenges to our space constellation and our ability to project power, the A2/AD problem, and conducted what is called the Strategic Portfolio Review to look at our program and say, "where are we missing capabilities, and where would we like new capabilities?"
And when you consider the whole body of work, and you have kind of Venn diagrams, there was remarkable consistency between them. That gives us confidence that we know the first step to take and test.
This is not about certainty, it is about testing and moving forward. And the theme that came out over and over and over again, is what we call human-machine collaboration and combat teaming.
Now, miniaturization of nuclear weapons components was the key driver of the first offset. All you have to do is take a look at "Fat Boy" and the size of that thing, and you say, how did they get that down to a football-sized munition called the Davy Crockett.
And the Davy Crockett was a missile that we were going to give to our battalion commanders, and give them nuclear release authority in 1956. That is a scary thought. But we were going to do it, and the technology allowed us to do it, if we were so disposed.
The key drivers in the second offset were the digital micro processors, which first appeared in the F-14 in 1972, and changed the whole game in terms of sensors and combat capability onboard platforms, as well as information technologies.
So, what is it that really is going to make human-machine collaboration and combat teaming a reality? That is going to be advances in artificial intelligence and autonomy that we see around us every day.
And even though we are unable to scientifically prove it, members of the Defense Science Board (DSB) Summer Study on autonomy believed that we are at an inflection point in the power of artificial intelligence and autonomy.
Now, the commercial world is moving in that direction. A recent study by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch of robotics and artificial intelligence, said that the rise of the intelligent machine will define the next industrial revolution.
And that the adoption of this disruptive technology in the private sector is now a foregone conclusion. It estimates that smart machines and robotics will be performing 45 percent of all manufacturing tasks by 2025, versus 10 percent today.
From manufacturing, to self-driving cars, 3-D printing, robo-analysts, traders and advisers in the financial community, to voice recognition software, all you have to do is look and see where that is going. And this is the advice from that report to the business community: “Early adoption will be a key comparative advantage, while those that lag in investment will see their competitiveness slip.”
And we believe this conclusion applies directly to the military competition we find ourselves in, and our work suggests that artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy will allow entirely new levels of what we refer to as man-machine symbiosis on the battlefield.
And our intelligence suggests that our adversaries are already contemplating this move. We know that China is investing heavily in robotics and autonomy, and the Russian Chief of the General Staff, Gerasimov, recently said that the Russian military is preparing to fight on a roboticized battle field, and he said, and I quote, "In the near future, it is possible that a fully roboticized unit will be created, capable of independently conducting military operations," unquote.
I'll talk about that in just a second.
So, the DSB Summer Study perhaps said it best, "We're already in this competition whether we like it or not, we better get ready for it. And better yet, we better be prepared to dominate it."
So, let me tell you the five building blocks that we have identified -- and these are broad, technological building blocks that will contribute to the third offset strategy.
The first are autonomous deep learning systems. Now, deep learning systems are already changing the way we analyze data in the financial community, in the intelligence community. But we are going to use them to improve indications in warning. The AI guys say that what is happening in the “grey zone” with “the little green men” is nothing more than a big data analytics problem.
And they are absolutely convinced that we could create learning machines that will give us indications and warning that something is happening in the grey zone.
They're going to help queue intelligence systems. NGA, the National Geospatial Agency, has a program called Coherence Out of Chaos, taking all of the data that is coming down from the overhead constellation and making sense of it, and queuing human analysts to really take a look at certain things.
And in DOD, they're going to use some situations that require faster than human reaction.
Now, we believe, strongly, that humans should be the only ones to decide when to use lethal force. But when you're under attack, especially at machine speeds, we want to have a machine that can protect us.
So, an example is air defense systems, where the engagement windows are steadily shrinking. Right now Israel’s Iron Dome, essentially takes over. The Iron Dome takes a look at all of the shots of incoming missiles and says, this is going to land on dirt. Don't fire. And the machine makes those decisions. That will continue.
And the same thing on cyber defense; you cannot have a human operator, operating at a human speed, fighting back against a determined cyber-attack. You're going to have to have a learning machine that does that.
There are DARPA programs right now, called ARC and BLADE. In the past, what would happen is you'd send out your EA-18, it would find a new waveform. There was no way for us to do anything about it. The pilot would come back, they would talk about it, they'd replicate it, they'd emulate it, it would go into the "gonculator", goncu-goncu-goncu-gonculatoring, and then you would have something, and then maybe some time down the road, you would have a response.
Right now, we know that these machines are going to be able, through learning machines will be able to figure out how to take care of that waveform in the mission while it's happening.
So, that's one component, and it's important. The second component is what we call human-machine collaboration, decision making.
In 1997, a computer beats Garry Kasparov, world champion in chess. Everyone goes, wow. But in 2005, two amateurs, working with three personal computers (PCs), defeated a field of chess champions, grand masters, and machines themselves.
It was the machines -- well, Garry Kasparov using the strategic analysis of a human, combined with the tactical acuity of a computer.
The F-35 helmet is very much a human-machine collaboration-type system. Three hundred and sixty degrees of information is being crunched by the machine and portrayed in an advanced way on the heads up display on a helmet. It is designed to reduce friction. It will never reduce chance, but it can simplify the speed of operations by allowing humans to make better decisions faster.
The third component is what we call assisted human operations. Assisted human operations, not enhanced human operations. We will have a much broader debate on whether to go after enhanced human operations, but for right now, when we say assisted human operations, think of your car. Think of the lane departure warning, ding, ding, ding, you're getting read to cross over the line.
Or when you're backing up -- beep, beep, beep, beep you're getting closer to something. Using wearable electronics, heads-up displays, perhaps exoskeletons to assist humans to be better in combat.
Our adversaries, quite frankly, are pursuing enhanced human operations. And it scares the crap out of us, really. We're going to have to have a big, big decision on whether or not we are comfortable going that way. But we are very comfortable going after assisted human operations.
Right now, there is a program in DARPA -- I think it's called Alice, but I'm not -- I'm sorry, it's not Alice, that's the logistics system. But it is a system designed specifically to have enough automation to allow you to reduce the number of crew in the cockpit at any given time.
So, that is what assisted human operations really mean. And it won't be long, I guarantee you, before our combat infantry men and women are using wearable electronics with uploadable combat apps, and heads-up displays of their own.
Now, the fourth ingredient is what we refer to as advanced human-machine combat teaming. Human-machine collaboration is using machines to help decision-makers make better decisions. Human-machine combat teaming is where a human, working with unmanned systems, are able to do cooperative operations.
Now, you already see a lot of this happening right now. Army's Apache and Gray Eagle UAV are designed to operate together. The Navy's P-8 aircraft, and the Triton UAV are designed to operate together.
While we're actively look at a large number of very, very advanced things, right now, we're looking at large-capacity UUVs that cascade medium-size UAVs that cascade out smaller diameter UUVs and form networks.
We're looking at all sorts of different electronic warfare networks. We're looking at small service vessels operating as swarms. And proving collaborative autonomy will help transform operations, we're requiring multiple operators per UAS, Unit Unmanned System. We're just having one mission commander simultaneously directing the swarm itself.
By integrating micro UAVs, and the fighters on 11 meter unmanned surface vessels onto surface combatants, you're going to see a lot more mother ships whose offspring work to execute the mission.
And finally, we're developing new types of network-enabled semi-autonomous weapons that are hardened to operate in an EW and cyber environment.
Just like in the Cold War, when EMP hardening, electro-magnetic pulse hardening was required, every weapon and system is going to have to be hardened for cyber.
We know our reliance on GPS is a vulnerability. So, we're modifying existing systems like the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) to operate completely without GPS if it's denied.
We're looking to all sorts of new horizons, over the horizon targeting and stand in airspace jamming. Believe me, this is a wonderful time to be a scientist in the Department of Defense.
So those are the five components: learning machines, human-machine collaboration, assisted human operations, human-machine combat teaming, and autonomous weapons. Those are the five components, and they're going to ride on the back of a learning network.
If we launch seven missiles at a surface action group and one missile goes high and is looking at all of the different things that the battle group is doing to defend itself and it sees something new that's not in its library, it will immediately report back on the learning network, which will go into a learning machine, which will say there's something you should do. It will pass it over to human-machine collaboration so the mission commander can make an adjustment on the next salvo and then make a command change inside the software of the missile so that the next seven missiles launched will be that much more effective.
Believe me, there's a lot of skepticism right now within the Department of Defense that we'll be able to perfect and protect such a network, but if you do the smart design up front coupled with learning defenses, we believe it is not only possible, but it is a requirement.
Now, everyone says, oh, this is another one of these things where all you're talking about is technology. That is why human machine is explicitly in what we talk about. The way we will approach this is that this is designed to make the human more effective in combat. Remember what Gerasimov said, and I will make a hypothesis that authoritarian regimes who believe people are weaknesses in the machine, that they are the weak link in the cog, that they cannot be trusted, that they will naturally gravitate towards totally automated solutions.
Why do I know that? Because that's exactly the way the Soviets conceived of their reconnaissance strike complex. It was going to be completely automated. We believe the advantage we have as we start this competition is our people, the tech-savvy people who've grown up in a democracy, in the iWorld, will kick the crap out of people who grow up in the iWorld in an authoritarian regime.
And guess what? If this changes the authoritarian regime to the way they allow their people to have more initiative, that in the long run will help us because that will inevitably lead to a more meritocracy and a more democratic approach inside their armed forces that may over the long term actually help us.
Colonel Norvell B. DeAtkine, when we were going into the first Gulf War and everyone said wow, we're going to have an awful lot of casualties here -- holy crap, I've talked too long.
Where was -- someone was supposed to stand up and tell me I went 30 minutes. Okay, let me through this real quickly. Look, the second thing about the third offset strategy is it is a competitive strategy. We have to deal with two great powers, not one. Luckily, a lot of things we would do have maritime characteristics in one theater and continental characteristics in the other. But that's okay. There's a lot of overlap.
We have to worry about nuclear armed regional powers like North Korea. This completely covers them. We have to worry about Iran with advanced capabilities; completely covers them.
So we know we have more competitors than we did in the Cold War. That makes it more stressful. We know that advances in AI and autonomy are driven by the commercial world and not government, which means they'll be available to everybody. We know that second offset technologies are widely proliferated. So this environment, unlike '75 when we said, hey, you know what? If we went after something that was really based on these high-end information technologies, we knew the Soviets couldn't follow. And we were right.
We can't make that assumption. This is more of a temporal competition. So this is much more like the inter-war period, where everything was available and all you had to do -- it was the competitors who put the components together into operational and organizational constructs that gave them the advantage. We're going to have to have a vibrant, global S&T and scouting in our IC community.
So we shouldn't count on a lasting advantage. You have to be able to do this from a very competitive aspect. It's going to require strong top-down governance, it's going to rely initially on wargaming experimentation and demonstration, so don't expect the '17 budget to see $30 billion in this. What you're probably going to see is closer to the order of $12 billion to $13 billion to $14 billion to $15 billion on wargaming, experimentation and demonstrations to verify that our hypothesis on these five components is sound.
Under any circumstances, we have to really focus on agility and cost, we have to reduce cycle times, which is why we're so focused on acquisition reform. And this is the last point before we go to questions. In this environment, there will be a lot of fast followers. I'm okay with that, as along as we're a fast leader. If people are chasing our exhaust, that's okay with me.
The way we will do this is through much more information management. We will reveal to deter and conceal for warfighting advantage. I want our competitors to wonder what's behind the black curtain, and we’ll make specific decisions on when, how and where we reveal items so that we underline conventional deterrence. That's what this is about.
And collaboration with Congress, because a successful offset strategy will go from administration to administration. So for the year, we are focused on doing the intellectual underpinning and doing as much of the demonstration work as we possibly can so that Congress will help us keep this going so that we can maintain a lasting advantage.
I've spoken too long. I will end here. I look forward to your questions. And thank you very much.
SHAWN BRIMLEY: Thank you Mr. Secretary for that great speech, that’s why we would let you go as long as you would stand there and talk, so that's why no one stopped you. We have time for a few questions. I think what I'm going to do is maybe ask you just one question that I have and say thank you for that opportunity. And Sydney [Freedberg] I see you in the audience. I'm going to come to you for the second question. If we have time for more, that's great.
I must say I've been a little bit surprised by some of the skepticism that I've been seeing around the defense community, both in the Pentagon and outside, that seems to argue that advocates -- some say you're an advocate -- of investing in emerging technology somehow misunderstand the human nature of war and forget about other important strategic pillars like readiness, personnel systems, global posture.
How do you respond to these types of arguments that you're putting the technological cart before the horse?
MR. WORK: Well, if you look back through history, you'll see cases where there was a technology pull of forces and there was a technology push from the technology side. You can't separate technology from the operational or organizational constructs which are all about the unit.
Now, the whole purpose of the third offset is to make humans more effective in combat because as a student of Clausewitz, you know, I -- there -- no one has to try to convince me that war is primarily a human endeavor. But if you take a look at the end-of-war period, it wasn't like you look back there and say oh wow, the Germans were dumb because they -- look at what was happening with mechanization. They looked at the radio and they looked at airplanes and they said, hey, you know, if we put this together in an operational construct call blitzkrieg, the humans would be more effective on the battlefield, and we'd have to train the humans in this mission command. That's all a virtual cycle.
If you take a look at the second offset, it really started to kick off when the Air Force and the Army said let's use this in a way to have Air Land Battle, and then NATO used it for follow-on forces and tactical. So it frustrates me when I hear these -- the -- these concerns that we're somehow forbidding people because people are central to the whole way we're going about the second offset and the third offset.
SHAWN BRIMLEY: Can I pull an audible just briefly, it strikes me that the proliferation of guided munitions -- because in my mind, that's essentially what's happening, where, you know, the essential question at the root of the offset strategy is how does the future joint force operate in a world in which guided munitions are sort of fully proliferating the international system.
And I'm looking at the ground forces and thinking, wow, that is a particularly horrifying battlefield when you have -- or experimenting with guided 50-caliber rounds -- bullet rounds, for instance. Can you walk through how a joint war -- sort of ground warfare changes given the proliferation of guided munitions? Because it strikes me that for the last 10 years, (inadible) of these air and maritime power projections, or the classic A2/AD scenario, that has received a lot of attention in the broader defense community.
But this other equally essential question, how do our lance corporals and soldiers that are tasked with closing that last hundred yards, how do they operate in a world where they're facing guided munitions?
MR. WORK: Well, I'll be the first to admit that we have not spent as much time on studying the last tactical mile as we have breaking into the theater and then operating in a more general sense. We've been here before, 1950s. The Army had organized its divisional structure, going from the wartime triangular formation to a battle -- five battle groups because they dispersed on the battlefield to avoid atomic attack, they would re-aggregate to -- (inaudible) -- and then they dispersed.
They tried this for six years -- or five years, from 1956 to 1961, and the technology was beyond them. They concluded that they could not execute that operational concept, so they went back to their triangular division when we adopted the flexible response strategy.
You have the same problem with guided munitions. You have to disaggregate to keep from getting smashed and you have to aggregate -- and that's -- not necessarily now, to achieve effects. So the next part of the LRRDPP is looking at this problem right now, and we will have a strategic portfolio review that reviews this specifically.
My intent will be to have a program set up for the next administration that they will be able to pick and choose. We're tightly linked to the Army and the Marines on this, and I spoke with General Perkins from TRADOC, and as far as keeping the humans completely central in our thinking, we're totally aligned there.
So I will say that you'll see advances in electronic warfare systems along with -- (inaudible). We'll try to decide whether we want to re-aggregate or if we can achieve effects disaggregated. Marines call this disaggregate to re-aggregate. There's still a lot more for us to describe.
But let me say this. Ten years from now -- you probably heard me say if the first thing going through the door of a breach isn't an unmanned system, then shame on us. And if there are not more unmanned systems than U.S. Army and Marine Corps ground units, shame on us. And there is a lot of stuff that we can do to help them win this last tactical mile.
SHAWN BRIMLEY: Thank you for that. Sydney [Freedberg], I'll go to you for the last question.
Q: Thank you very much. Bob -- Mr. Secretary, question. We talked about, you know, our humanness are our advantage, and -- which is very uplifting, although -- (inaudible). But is there -- thank you -- is there any source of enduring advantage, or do you always have this red queen's race in this environment?
Is there something that the U.S. military -- you know, be it -- with its long history of joint operations or, you know, its ties to -- (inaudible) -- whatever the case may be, is there something that we have institutionally, culturally, that a China or Russia can't duplicate the way they duplicate the tech?
MR. WORK: Did everybody hear the question? It really is -- look, I'm not willing to say that we will have an enduring advantage in human capital over the course of this competition. I believe we have a marked advantage as we start. And, you know, everybody says, oh, there's this huge brain drain going out of the Department of Defense.
I would argue that historic -- the historiography is pretty clear that after wars, a lot of people who join and really got -- I have this mission, I am committed to the mission, I'm in the field every day -- a lot of those people say I don't want to stay around for a peacetime military. And there's as many people who are leaving because of that as people who are saying, oh, I'm surrounded by a bunch of idiots and I'm the smartest guy in the room, so I think I'm going to go to where there are smarter people.
I totally reject that type of thinking because all you have to do is work with the people in the field every day, and you say holy crap, if you give them a problem and say let me get to a solution, I guarantee you they're going to come up to a solution.
I mean, one of the stories -- or one of the stories I remember is in the early days of the Cold War when we started to send our boomers, our strategic ballistic launch missile subs. You know, they'd go out for 90 days; this was unheard of. They'd be under the water, they wouldn't see the sun, so they didn't have a lot to do. What would you do? And so they took big bags and candy, and the candies had individual little things inside the candy. Some had marshmallows, some had peanut butter, some had caramel. And the peanut butter ones were the ones that everybody loved.
And so what did you do? Well, what they did is they created a machine that checked the electronic resistance of the candy, and by doing -- choices, they found out which ones were the peanut butter ones and they found out the ones which were crap. And you sit there and go, man, why would they even do that? It's because they had a problem. "I like these damn things, I want to get them!" And they fixed it.
Now, that's just one little example. I can give you a million examples. I will put the innovation of this armed force against any frickin' other force on the planet, and we will ride that for a good period of time. And if they start to really say we want to empower our junior leaders, we're willing to let them make mistakes, we're going to let them try innovation and fail, if they can do that better than us, well, that's going to be a problem because right now, we are absolutely confident in our people. And heck, if I was going to put my money on the table, I'd bet it on our folks before any others.
SHAWN BRIMLEY: Thank you for that. We have time for one more. Sir? Wait for the microphone.
Q: (inaudible) Bloomberg government and former Comptroller in OSD (inaudible). You've got some budget pressure, I know. The -- the -- the death star.
You've got some budget pressures. So the question for you is, you talked about the difficulty of the department with the technology refresh compared to the private sector. Is there an escape valve for you to reach out and take advantage of stuff in the commercial world that makes your job easier?
MR. WORK: Absolutely. Now, I'll just point out that if you look at what happened in the inter-war period -- if you look what happened in the first offset, and you look what happened in the second offset -- all three of those things occurred when defense budgeting was at its low end.
It forced you to think differently. And note the experimentation and the demonstrations of the wargaming allows you to do is when defense spending started to go up, you would be well prepared to put your money in the things that you thought would provide you with an advantage.
And that's why I say, you're not going to see some big giant ship in the '17 budget. But I will argue that when you look back between 16 and 17, there were a lot of technological bets that allows you to come as trade. As part of this brutal in the commercial side, that's one of Secretary Carter's most important things. That's why we went after InQTel and we copy the InQTel model that the intelligence community -- where it is essentially venture capitalist firm that puts money in companies that are pursuing some technology that is really interesting to more of our profits. So we're following that. The Defense Innovation Unit is experimental. It's designed to make matches between the commercial sector and the Department of Defense. The secretary is considering whether or not we ought to have more of those to expand it.
So this is early days. You can say, wow that's not going as fast as you would have liked, nothing ever goes as fast as you would like, and in the Pentagon. But we're making progress. So time (inaudible) approaches with the commercial center. The time to make smart bets so that the next administration is going to have a wide variety of options to go forward.
And just -- I know we're out of time -- I would just like to say forums like this are absolutely critical. The Department of Defense listens very carefully to what is happening in the think tank world and to the leading -- the discussions among leadership of -- of a wide variety of defense industrial bases. And think tanks -- I can't tell you how important it for you to (inaudible) this along, to tell us where we're wrong, to tell us where we're headed down the rat hole.
Thank you very much for everything you do. And God bless you. Thanks Sean for having me.