Written by David Markham, Managing Director, Waywest Advisors, and summarized in his presentation to the workshop during the final open discussion session on September 23, 2020 (see Chapter 3).
There is no single grand strategy for China. Plans are nothing; planning is everything. A broader spectrum of levers will have to be included in any planning and strategic approach. Raising issues to create a global social normative will be necessary and difficult to achieve—as China’s economy no doubt at one point will cross the U.S. economy. China has a much different strategic timeline and has the resources to invoke its will (i.e., control of large portions of rare earth; supplying the U.S. a large portion of retail and industrial goods; ownership of financial instruments and real estate in the United States; and the sheer size of its population, military, and graduating scientists annually educated in the United States). In history, when one global power has crossed, it has been the pretext for major conflict. Will a shot be fired?
I agree on planning as the priority but not as a single force; it must be joint and combined because this is the reality of the true fight. Compatibility and clarity of decision making will matter most, for the inevitable is the only course of action. What would be the objectives of the “fight”? Containment—to reestablish formal boundaries and institute formally territory free open sea lanes? To defend the independent rights of Taiwan? To right the wrongs in Hong Kong?
The U.S. Air Force (USAF) still plays a large role in strategic, operational, and tactical planning for such an event with the development of the single integrated operational plans and the use of strategic nuclear weapons. However, what is the future definition of a strategic weapon? The advantage of standoff has all but eroded and the leveling of arsenals in the realm of hypersonics is lowering the strategic threshold.
In the Department of Defense War Games—2018 Joint Land, Air, and Sea Strategic Special Programs—the game coined Zbellion foretold the current societal unrest, generated and amplified by a series of disinformation campaigns.1 There is a loss of faith in institutions, use of alternative currencies, and generational norms.
The 2020 RAND War Game has Blue getting “its ass handed to it” time and time again. “‘In every case I know of,’ said Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense with decades of wargaming experience, ‘the
1 For more information about these war games, see N. Turse, 2020, Pentagon War Game Includes Scenario for Military Response to Domestic Gen Z Rebellion, The Intercept, June 5, https://theintercept.com/2020/06/05/pentagon-war-game-gen-z.
F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.’ Even the hottest jet has to land somewhere. But big airbases on land and big aircraft carriers on the water turn out to be big targets for long-range precision-guided missiles. Once an American monopoly, such smart weapons are now a rapidly growing part of Russian and Chinese arsenals—as are the long-range sensors, communications networks, and command systems required to aim them [emphasis added].”2
Playbook Orange, written in 1939, recognized the need for a full spectrum plan—at a very slow-moving clock. But one thing remains true: the tyranny of distance. Forward basing for effective air domination or strike has all but vanished. The regional allies offering base support are equally at risk. A series of strategic and operational battles will have to be fought and won before effective air operations could have any meaningful and compelling effect.
The new warfare is on satellites, wireless networks, and command and control systems. They are “suppressed” or all together shattered. The Chinese term for this is systems destruction warfare: Attack the American battle network at all levels, relentlessly, and practice and probe every day. Ground has been ruled out as too hard—solving heavy forward logistics inside effective operational and tactical aircraft range for air superiority, strike, and close air ground support. Hypersonic systems that challenge the definition of the strategic threshold are questionable. In the clear realm of the workshop:
- Is it a technology and investment race? (e.g., Russia in the Reagan era where we spent them into resignation?) Does and will the U.S. innovation engine continue to lead the world in developing and applying new science and business models to other problems that adapt when modified to the strategic challenges of China? It is the speed of experimentation and adoption that is hurting the USAF and all other services due to institutional bias, risk aversion, and the stark line drawn between acquisition and mission.
- In a head to head confrontation with China the issues will be cost exchange ratios, the speed of reconstitution, and the establishment or re-establishment of micro-timed operational/tactical mission networks. How can cost exchange and speed of reconstitution be thought of in combination with the importance of necessary location and capability? What is good enough for an effective amount of time—and has an ability at the next reconstitution to present another threat-outcome in response to an adversary tell? One could argue this thinking is not being exercised in current red flag, wargaming, or planning exercises.
- How does the thinking evolve with respect to networks writ large? How do the sum of all networks form the new sensors—to include all source—their source? How do the networks evolve as a weapon? How could we reliably and resiliently foist our fight onto their networks that they would be loath to fight a systems destruction approach? How does the rigid organizational command structure match up with the speed of war? How do legacy systems serve or hinder the speed of war? The acquisition bias on networks is evolution given the very poor track record of new solutions—many times they are patches or overlays to an aged failing or corrupted underpinning.
- How will the sum of the networks provide indications and warnings, areas of systemic or temporary vulnerability (emphasis), and leadership and military decision making and command in a timed manner such that the United States may understand and act inside the adversaries’timeline and gain an intelligence and military advantage? What will the role of artificial intelligence and deep learning play in our speed of decisioning and action, and what role will it play in our adversaries’? Will it ultimately come to the speed of supercomputing and the command structure that yields the maximum amount of warfighting to the machine? Which side sets and abides by rules of war—which side believes that there are no rules?
Doctrine, the rigor, and role of the Joint Publications (JP) of the matter of planning and conduct of warfare: The simple structure of the JP follows organizational assignment of mission. Nothing suggests the speed of warfare; the reality of the combined fight is not readily present. As an example, JP3-12 speaks to the cyber fight, JP3-14 speaks to the space fight—as if those two will be separate and distinct engagements in time and for effect. JP3-60 Annex on Targeting describes a strict and deliberate process to select, plan, and act on an
2 S.J. Freedberg, Jr, 2019, “US ‘Gets Its Ass Handed to It’ in Wargames: Here’s a $24 Billion Fix,” Breaking Defense, March 7, https://breakingdefense.com/2019/03/us-gets-its-ass-handed-to-it-in-wargames-heres-a-24-billion-fix.
adversary’s target. This annex starts with the law of war, the rule of engagement, joint intelligence preparation, joint air operations planning, target vetting, target characterization (physical, functional, cognitive, environmental, and temporal), the creation of a joint target list, a reserved target list, and a joint integrated priority targeting list. These lists then need to have with them the first order effects through the third order effects before they move into an air tasking order. This entire process is then described as the Air Tasking Cycle. These publications and ensuing training reinforce the levels of command and decision making required. How will technology and artificial intelligence and learning improve this cycle when the JP opens with the law of war and rule of engagement? Again, is the United States judged at a higher standard by its own public on the morality of and in warfare?