Lastly, to be enduring, the methodology should accommodate evolving realities of science and technology (S&T) leadership, driven by the synergistic trends of globalization and commercialization described in Chapter 1. Traditionally, the United States has assumed that it leads the world in S&T. This perspective leads the technology warning community to look for indications that external actors are trying to “catch up,” or to exploit known technologies in new ways. Projected trends suggest that it should no longer automatically be assumed that the United States will lead technological advances in all relevant technologies. This reality imposes a new burden on the technology warning community, generating the need for it to search in different places and in different ways for the information needed to warn against technology surprise.


The committee believes that the Technology Warning Division can most effectively prioritize its limited resources by utilizing a capabilities-based approach with respect to assessing technologies. The landscape of potentially important emerging technologies is both vast and diverse. Ideally, the division should assess whether a given technology has the potential to pose a viable threat prior to commissioning in-depth analyses. Since the division is keenly interested in when specific technologies may mature to the point that they pose a threat to U.S. forces, a functional decomposition from an adversarial, or RED, perspective is most useful. The methodology defined by the committee begins with the following focus question: What capabilities do the United States have that, if threatened, impact U.S. military preeminence?

In general, U.S. capabilities could be threatened either through direct denial of or disruption of BLUE capabilities or via RED capabilities that negate or significantly diminish the value of BLUE capabilities (e.g., improvised explosive devices (IEDs) being employed by insurgent forces in Iraq).

Joint Vision 2020 was used to define the basic framework for U.S. military capabilities deemed vital to sustained success (JCS, 2000). The overarching focus of this vision is Full Spectrum Dominance—achieved through the interdependent application of four operational concepts (Dominant Maneuver, Precision Engagement, Focused Logistics, and Full Dimensional Protection) and enabled through Information Superiority, as illustrated in Figure [C]-1 (JCS, 2000).

The committee selected the four operational concepts, together with Information Superiority, as the foundation for its assessment methodology. Joint Vision 2020 provides the definitions presented in Box [C]-1.

The committee also noted the importance of technology warning with respect to the “Innovation” component of Joint Vision 2020 shown in Box [C]-2, since “leaders must assess the efficacy of new ideas, the potential drawbacks to new concepts, the capabilities of potential adversaries, the costs versus benefits of new technologies, and the organizational implications of new capabilities” (JCS, 2000).

From this foundation the committee then identifies specific capabilities in accordance with the previously defined focus question—What capabilities does the United States have that, if threatened, impact U.S. military preeminence?

While the U.S. military has devoted significant time to the definition of vital capabilities in alignment with Joint Vision 2020, the committee made no effort in this first report to synchronize its derivations or definitions, or to provide a complete decomposition of the operational concepts and enablers into their underlying capabilities. Rather, committee members selected a few evolving technologies and assessed the potential for those technologies to threaten important U.S. capabilities. Given that the committee’s proposed basic methodology is adopted, future studies will analyze more comprehensively the threats to a taxonomy of U.S. military capabilities that derives from the operational concepts envisioned by Joint Vision 2020. The basic methodology developed by the committee is summarized in Box [C]-1 and is described in greater detail in subsequent sections.

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