the Missile Defense Agency; MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s Air Vehicle Survivability Evaluation Program (Air Force Red Team); the Naval War College; Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Research Development & Acquisition for Science and Technology; OPNAV N81; OPNAV N4; OPNAV N3/N5; OPNAV N2/N6; U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. Tenth Fleet; Combat Development Command/Combat Development and Integration, U.S. Marine Corps; the Assistant Commandant for Capability, U. S. Coast Guard; and the National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office. In addition, the committee conducted preliminary data-gathering sessions on capability surprise-related issues with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, the U.S. Navy Warfare Development Command, and U.S. Pacific Fleet. When combined with the collective knowledge of the committee, these briefings are considered to constitute a sufficient basis for development of the initial observations and insights offered by the committee in this report.


Recent reports have addressed the issue of surprise, although not surprise specific to U.S. naval forces (i.e., the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard). A 2009 Defense Science Board (DSB) report on capability surprise noted that: “[s]urprise can spring from many sources. It can arise in the laboratory—

a result of scientific breakthrough. It can arise during the transition from concept to fielded product: rapid fielding of the same technology can create tremendous advantage to whoever fields the system first. It can also arise when an existing capability is employed in an unconventional way or when low-end technology is adapted in unforeseen ways that create an effective capability against high-end U.S. systems.2

The DSB report reviewed many historical surprises experienced by the United States and categorized them as either known surprises (i.e., surprises that should have been anticipated and acted on because it was clear that they were in the offing) or surprising surprises (i.e., those that may have been anticipated by some but were not addressed—swamped by the thousands of other surprises possible—or were true surprises).3

In addition, a 2008 Naval Research Advisory Committee (NRAC) report titled Disruptive Commercial Technologies noted, among other things, that “the internet


2Defense Science Board. 2009. Report of the Defense Science Board 2008 Summer Study on Capability Surprise, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Washington, D.C., September, pp. vii-viii.

3The temporal and impact aspects of capability surprises vary widely and call for different approaches to prepare for and respond to such surprises. As additional background for this study, the committee examined several historical examples of ‘surprises” that have had significant impact on naval and military operations, including short lived surprises (such as the suicide bomb attacks on the USS Cole, and the 911 World Trade Towers); and longer term surprises, resulting in major changes in U.S. naval and military forces (such as the Monitor and Merrimac introduction of ironclad warships; as well as Russia’s launch of Sputnik (surprising use of space—leading to the creation of DARPA) and Germany’s Blitzkrieg (uniquely combining and exploiting the capabilities of known entities.))

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