Workshop Two chair Gen. Gregory “Speedy” Martin (U.S. Air Force [USAF], ret.), GS Martin Consulting, Inc., shared key takeaways from the previous day of the workshop series. While the ability to recognize problems may be a simple task for a senior leader, assessing and solving those problems is far more difficult. He recapped Gen. John Jumper’s discussion (see Chapter 3) of the Contingency Response, in which people with the right skill sets conducted a quick assessment, brought a field up to speed, accepted aircraft cargo, and implemented logistics. This effort moved people from functional areas to integrated teams. Gen. Martin said that the concept of predictive battlespace awareness seems achievable with the bandwidth, artificial intelligence (AI), and other assessment tools available. However, being able to place the cursor over the target and have a weapon that can hit it is a difficult proposition. It was first introduced in 2004 and still has not been finalized. In addition to strong leaders, he continued, people directly underneath the leader need authority. He highlighted the tension that exists in the Department of Defense (DoD) when people are bogged down by simple issues because they are trained not to question rules, procedures, or budgetary guidelines. He emphasized the failure of the U.S. government in choosing not to purchase the hosted payload on Iridium, which would have allowed 24/7 knowledge of every point on Earth. He explained that Workshop Two, Part Two, would focus on the techniques, tools, and thoughts needed to overcome the limits of the bureaucracy. Bureaucracies are designed to prevent negative occurrences, but they also prevent positive outcomes, often owing to a sense of mistrust. He asserted that one way to regain trust is to honor the intent of the Constitution and the Congress.
Dr. Julie Ryan, chief executive officer, Wyndrose Technical Group, shared a summary of the discussion from the first day of the second workshop (see Box 4.1). She also referenced an analysis of leadership approaches that details how Jeff Bezos manages Amazon.1 Mr. Bezos and his leadership team forecast 3 years into the future, which is difficult given that the Internet business moves at the speed of light. This relates to the challenges of predictive battlespace awareness. Dr. Ryan thought that there might be lessons to be learned from others who are fighting the information security battle on the front lines (e.g., Lockheed Martin, JP Morgan Chase). Gen. Martin added that Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple have surpassed $1 trillion simply by connecting people with informa-
1 S. Wolfe, 2018, “Jeff Bezos says he complains to his staff if he goes a week without a brainstorming session, and is always working ‘two or three years into the future,’” Business Insider, September 5, https://www.businessinsider.com/jeff-bezos-forbes-interview-works-years-infuture-2018-9.
tion and products that can be delivered faster and better. He emphasized that the industrial world, where things are manufactured and produced, has not experienced the same level of success. Dr. Ryan wondered if the manufacturing base has been bifurcated: (1) commoditization that is subject to the rules of economic theory, in which manufacturing is best done where it is cheapest; and (2) the complicated manufacturing that requires special materials, capabilities, and resources that cannot be commoditized. She explained that it is almost impossible to recruit a talent base quickly for the latter.
RAPID AND INNOVATIVE OPERATIONAL IMPROVEMENTS IN A DYNAMIC WARFIGHTING ENVIRONMENT
Hon. James “Hondo” Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition (RD&A); United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Acquisition Executive; Deputy Director USSOCOM RD&A Center; Director of Special Acquisition Task Force Dragon; and Program Executive Officer USSOCOM Fixed Wing Aircraft, described himself as a pure practitioner who values execution and relies on the research and development “strategy” of “rip off and deploy.” He views the U.S. Navy as key to the nation’s future fights.
Hon. Geurts explained that in the late 1980s/early 1990s, the USAF was mission-focused—acting with the speed of relevance and innovating both operationally and technically. This era revolved around (1) a clear intent from leadership, (2) an abundance mindset (i.e., the USAF innovated operationally to get the most out of every piece it had instead of focusing on what it lacked), (3) decentralized execution with accountability for performance, and (4) confidence to escalate issues up the chain of command quickly to make decisions. The USAF successfully recruited and retained talented individuals owing to these four tenets. He advocated for the USAF of the future to more closely resemble this USAF of the past and to halt the “talent drain” that has occurred during the past 10–15 years. The U.S. Navy uses an integrated approach for acquisition/sustainment and operations. He stressed that acquisition and sustainment be thought of as “tools of war” and as the competitive advantage: This mindset advances the back-end enterprise before formal requirements are implemented. He said that it is imperative that the acquisition time cycle no longer be thought of as the start of a formal requirement to delivery.
Hon. Geurts emphasized the importance of deploying capabilities, which are a combination of materiel, training, and tactics. To increase the speed of progress, the serial process (i.e., need, requirements document, funding, acquisition program, materiel developed, training of first unit, and tactics development) could be shifted to a parallel process that drives integration and focuses on the need to deploy in the field. He shared an anecdote about the challenge of installing a 105 cannon on a C-130 gunship. This configuration of the C-130 armed with the 105 cannon was soon designated the AC-130. In discussion with the operational force, it was determined that guns and missiles could be available in the back of the C-130 within 4 months, but it would take more than 1 year to implement the 105. Because the need to go downrange was urgent, plans for the 105 were abandoned. A USAF Captain at Eglin Air Force Base suggested mounting small diameter bomb racks on the wings of the C-130 instead. This innovation was ready to be tested in the air within weeks, but the USAF Engineer Flight Test Center had a tradition of first testing on the ground and would not let the C-130 fly without 2 years and $200 million to develop a flight test tunnel to prove that the bomb would work. Relying instead on his own team at Eglin, Hon. Geurts tested the bomb, and it was immediately used downrange. A mission focus and an integrated team were key to success in this situation.
Hon. Geurts highlighted the value of anticipating the unexpected, with training on how to react in crisis. When he arrived to the U.S. Navy, it had no plan for war from an acquisition perspective—for example, surging production and conducting battle damage repair. He created a team of 10 young members of the U.S. Navy—the Wartime Acquisition Support Cell—to plan for the possibility of war. The team reviewed laws from previous decades, began to build playbooks, and completed a battle damage repair exercise. During this exercise, the team immediately repaired many components of a ship that were detracting from current readiness. That small team was then replicated across different areas (e.g., air, sensors, and weapons). This mindset allowed the U.S. Navy to pivot quickly at the onset of COVID-19. During the pandemic, and with a 95 percent telework workforce, the U.S. Navy has remained 33 percent ahead of the number of contracts it awards during a given year (i.e., approximately $30 billion
ahead). The U.S. Navy has also broken all of its records for small business participation. This is an example of how dedicating time to understand how to do things correctly can turn a disruption into an abundance. He emphasized that progress is achieved with an integrated team operating on a commander’s intent and an abundance mindset.
Hon. Geurts provided another example of the value of an abundance mindset. U.S. Navy Aviation was at a mission output of 50 percent mission capable rate for its F/A-18 fleet for 10 years, owing to a scarcity mindset. Instead of focusing on the need for money and parts, Hon. Geurts reset the intent: He created a goal of obtaining 341 F/A-18s and recruiting several people from commercial aviation who knew how to turn commercial aircraft. He added that the U.S. Navy does not have a Materiel Command and is massively decentralized, which helps to focus on the important tasks and hold the right people accountable. To achieve his goal, the U.S. Navy’s model had to be flipped: Put an accountable person in charge, align all of the organizations to that person, and use a data-driven approach to determine the levers that can be changed to increase the mission capable rate. With less time spent on intermediary maintenance, the F/A-18 fleet has achieved an 80–85 percent mission capable rate for 1 year. Hon. Geurts described key actions for success: Identify a mission focus, determine who is accountable, terminate people who cannot perform in the system, implement a performance-to-plan measure, and use data effectively. He concluded his presentation with five pieces of advice for the USAF: (1) Do not confuse speed for velocity; (2) measure outcome, not activity; (3) do not confuse enthusiasm for expertise; (4) focus on deployment, not discovery; and (5) do not confuse confidence with capability.
During the question-and-answer session, Dr. Brendan Godfrey, visiting senior research scientist, University of Maryland, noted Hon. Geurts’s impressive accomplishments and wondered about the U.S. Navy’s ability to maintain this level of progress in the future. Hon. Geurts replied that he dedicates much time to instilling confidence in others to make decisions. He emphasized the “four Ds” to maintaining and furthering progress: (1) Decentralize to the lowest capable level, (2) Differentiate the work and select the right tool for the task, (3) utilize the power of the Digital world, and (4) Develop talent. Unless an existential threat is present, if an organization changes 20 percent per year, a transformation can be realized within 5 years. He suggested changing the culture of the entire organization, not just select individuals.
Gen. Martin wondered how to inspire people to take risks as well as how to manage those risks. Hon. Geurts replied that risk management revolves around the ability to differentiate work. Applying too many resources to a low-risk activity means taking resources away from a high-risk activity; instead, he advocated for the level of resources applied to be commensurate with the risk. He reiterated the importance of recognizing the difference between enthusiasm and expertise—risks have to be informed by careful analysis. It is also imperative not to let a sense of urgency override the need for discipline, which is key to increase speed. When considering whether or not to take certain risks, Hon. Geurts suggested studying both risk and opportunity curves. He is motivating the U.S. Navy to become multi-dexterous; setting up separate entities (e.g., the Rapid Capabilities Office or Big Safari) is not the right approach to manage an improperly functioning organization.
Workshop Series chair Ms. Deborah Westphal, chairman of the board, Toffler Associates, observed Hon. Geurts’s human-centric approach to leadership. However, the USAF seems to be more focused on technology, capabilities, and programs than its people. She wondered how the U.S. Navy manages the momentum for the development of new technologies. Hon. Geurts said that the need for technology is a national challenge; however, he emphasized that technology that is useful is more important than technology that is exotic. He reiterated the value of moving from a focus on discovery to a focus on deployment—the intrigue of discovery is not helpful to the airmen on the flight line because it does not solve the problems that they face. He advocated for a focus on the outcome, which is capability: Activities that do not generate this outcome are useless for airmen.
Hon. Geurts commented on the abundance of talented junior acquisition officers whose expertise is not used effectively. He also revealed the strategic failure of the USAF in choosing to rely on contractors instead of its own technical talent. The U.S. Navy has 70,000 engineers; with this much in-house technical talent, it saves $10 billion to $15 billion per year. Gen. Martin added that the United States has lost competitive advantage and wondered how the U.S. Navy is managing that effort and associated expectations. Hon. Geurts described DoD’s strategic downfall: Instead of simply focusing on how to make the U.S. fighters better than the adversary’s fighters, DoD’s answers to complex problems are even more complex and more costly solutions. It would benefit from a strategic approach that is above the level of each net assessment one-on-one. For example, why does the United States need
hypersonics if it can make China’s hypersonics ineffective? He described the Novel Task Force, with members from across the U.S. Navy, which proposes methods to flip the cost curve and create a new competitive advantage. He advocated for a three-dimensional perspective of capability development and agile innovation: (1) known to all but needs improvement, (2) new to some but not new to others, and (3) new to all.
Dr. William Powers, retired vice president of research, Ford Motor Company, asked about the U.S. Navy’s perspective on commercial-off-the-shelf technologies. Hon. Geurts explained that the U.S. Navy is trying to become hardware-agnostic, which could be achieved through the commercial marketplace. He expressed concern about modified commercial-off-the-shelf technologies, which could create supply chain issues. A consumable mindset is also important for the occasions when it may be better to buy something for short-term use and then replace it with something for the long term. Gen. Martin inquired about Hon. Geurts’s next steps; he replied that scale is crucial as is continuing to move from discovery to deployment. If a technology exists in the commercial world, it is important to determine how to deploy it instead of experimenting with it for too long. Hon. Geurts also expressed his commitment to recruiting and retaining diverse talent (in race, gender, thought processes, knowledge bases, and professional networks). The best person for the job is the one who arrives at the best answer fastest, whether that is through his/her own expertise or through consultation with one’s network. He emphasized the value of rewarding those who are mission-outcome focused. Dr. Powers perceived that the U.S. Navy is less buzzword-oriented than the USAF; although the U.S. Navy may move slower, it seems to be more solid than the USAF. Ms. Westphal referenced the 2016 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report Owning the Technical Baseline for Acquisition Programs in the U.S. Air Force.2 She expressed concern about the role of AFWERX, unsure whether its purpose is to support the industrial base, partner with commercial companies, open storefronts with venture capitalists, or build government partnerships. Gen. Martin observed that the Advanced Battle Management System’s (ABMS’s) 28 initiatives present a promising new way for the USAF to do business.
LEADING A MAJOR ORGANIZATIONAL TRANSFORMATION IN AN ERA OF SIGNIFICANT ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE
Gen. Ed Eberhart (USAF, ret.), Commander, United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM); Commander, North American Air Command; Commander, United States Space Command; Commander, USAF Space Command; Commander, Air Combat Command; and Vice Chief of Staff, USAF, emphasized that the key to coping with crisis, rebounding, and charting a way forward is to empower people. He shared an anecdote about being unable to reprogram electronic countermeasure pods within a given timeline. However, when he consulted an airman for advice, the airman was able to complete the task in half of the time required for pass/fail. Gen. Eberhart said that if this airman had been empowered from the start to deviate from the internal checklist, the task could have been accomplished far sooner. He provided another anecdote from Hurricane Hugo: A gym was equipped with generators so that people could have access to air conditioning, meals, and bathrooms. When Gen. Eberhart saw long lines of women waiting for showers, he empowered an officer to remedy the problem immediately. She re-designated individual showers for men and communal showers for women to speed people through the lines more quickly. A final anecdote described the establishment of a tent city during the first Gulf War. Because the 115°F daytime heat caused many people to experience heat stroke, Gen. Eberhart empowered his team to address the problem quickly, by altering the schedule to build at night and sleep during the day.
Reflecting on the issues of counterterrorism air defense following 9/11, Gen. Eberhart acknowledged that training and equipping people for the improbable is difficult, especially with limited time and money. However, it is not the technology or the organization that addresses the improbable when it occurs—empowered people are the key to success. He explained that the response on 9/11 was enabled by centralized control with decentralized execution. Interagency involvement (e.g., with the Federal Aviation Administration) was also crucial. He indicated the complex process of securing airplanes at that time. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) had to determine what responsibilities it had and whether it had the wherewithal and authority to execute
2 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2016, Owning the Technical Baseline for Acquisition Programs in the U.S. Air Force, The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, https://doi.org/10.17226/23631.
those responsibilities. However, even though NORAD had the capability to intercept and shoot down aircraft, the White House and DoD wanted it to have the responsibility without the authority.
He explained that cockpit doors were secured, some pilots elected to be armed, the Transportation Security Administration was established, and new rules for take-off and landing at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport were implemented. The next step was to determine how to organize, what technology was needed, how to train and equip for a new mission, and what the rules of engagement would be. Combat air patrols were established over the nation’s largest cities. To quickly attain initial operational capability, NORAD had to understand its responsibilities and expectations—it had to consider how to secure the borders as well as to react to terrorism within the United States. He depicted the organizational structure on 9/11 as very cumbersome, with too many people sharing responsibilities: the Joint Forces Command; the services that controlled installations, bases, and posts; NORAD; and the National Guard. The National Guard was key to standing up NORTHCOM successfully and has brought the total force together in new ways.
When NORTHCOM was created, the U.S. Space Command was stood down, which Gen. Eberhart described as a mistake because no organization remained with space as its number one priority. However, he championed the decision to wait to transfer the mission, roles, responsibilities, and authorities to NORTHCOM until it was ready to execute. For the mission to be successful, relationships with interagency staff and liaisons were critical as was empowerment of people. He indicated a high level of friction in the beginning (especially between first responder associations and NORTHCOM) because people did not want to relinquish their responsibilities and authorities. Gen. Eberhart asserted that in times of crisis, it is best for a representative from the local area to be in charge (as opposed to NORTHCOM arriving and trying to take control). He highlighted the amazing progress that can be made when people no longer care who is in charge and/or who gets the credit.
Gen. Eberhart concluded his presentation by reiterating that the key to responding successfully to crisis is empowering the people who have been trained properly and have thought about what to do when something unusual happens. When a plan does not move as intended, he continued, an organization has to be willing to change its authorities and responsibilities and equip and train for a new mission.
During the question-and-answer session, Gen. Martin remarked that over time, it appears that U.S. citizens expect more and more of their government when problems arise. He wondered if the nation could have benefited had an organization such as NORTHCOM been developed sooner. Gen. Eberhart replied that the nation would have been well served had NORTHCOM existed earlier because it allows efforts to be focused across the services and across agencies. NORTHCOM could not have prevented 9/11, but if it had been in place prior to 9/11, it would have allowed for better organization (e.g., security at airports). As a unified command, NORTHCOM includes Canada and Mexico, for example, and allows the United States to leverage capabilities. He suggested that NORTHCOM continue to evolve to best serve the citizens of this nation.
In response to a follow-up question from Gen. Martin about how to engineer success, Gen. Eberhart reiterated the value of seeking advice and building relationships. Dr. Michael Yarymovych, president, Sarasota Space Associates, asked how to prepare and protect the nation from a future hybrid warfare attack. Gen. Eberhart responded that DoD is dedicating more time, effort, money, and training resources to prepare to counter peer competitors, especially in cyber and space. However, he cautioned that the nation remain on guard for foreign and domestic terrorism as well. Gen. Martin asked how to confront conspiracists, and Gen. Eberhart explained that every action has to be rooted in fact and be accompanied by bipartisan messaging. He added that the worst approach is taking offensive action in uncertain situations.
Lt. Gen. Wendy Masiello (USAF, ret.), president, Wendy Mas Consulting, LLC, inquired about the increasing demand on federal resources to support states. Gen. Eberhart commented that states view the federal government as a source of money and manpower; states like dealing with the federal government as long as they retain the power to decide how resources are used. He said that it is unclear whether this reliance has increased because the disasters have become larger or simply because states have grown accustomed to support now that a structure exists. Lt. Gen. Masiello wondered if the shift in reliance is also generational. Gen. Eberhart added that the media’s spotlight on disasters may create a sense of urgency for federal resources.
Dr. Richard Hallion, senior adviser, Science and Technology Policy Institute, asked Gen. Eberhart if he is comfortable with the emphasis that the nation is placing on cyber and space to address looming threats. Gen. Eberhart
suggested that the nation spend whatever is necessary to dominate in cyber and space, both for offense and defense. In response to a question from Gen. Martin about the stress of his job, Gen. Eberhart responded that he wonders every day why there has not been another attack like 9/11. He questioned whether the United States is winning the war on terrorism and noted that diplomacy, economics, and appealing to the minds and hearts of peers and possible competitors may be essential. He expressed concern that the United States may not be moving in the right direction in terms of international relations, given that the global feelings toward Americans have diminished in the past 20 years and the toolbox of terrorists continues to expand.
ADVANCED BATTLE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Mr. Preston Dunlap, Chief Architect Officer, Assistant Secretary of the USAF (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics); Defense Science Board Study Member, explained that ABMS endeavors to accelerate change in the frame of digital warfare, digital airmen, and digital space professionals and deliver capabilities. He emphasized that air, space, and cyber are collaborating on this initiative. Because the USAF did not have an organization to integrate across all of its major commands (in terms of requirements, developments, and future force design), the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability was created. Two years into this effort, the USAF realized the need for an organization to focus specifically on technology and development issues. Previously, a series of individual programs were developed inside of stovepipes, which created artificial barriers between the technologies and capabilities as well as among the people developing them. To address these issues, the position of Chief Architect Officer of the Department of the Air Force (which includes the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force) emerged. Mr. Dunlap’s goal as the Chief Architect Officer is to integrate and design across all program executive offices and research laboratories to achieve a unified effect.
Mr. Dunlap commented that ABMS plans for future operations based on potential actions of an adversary. For example, kill chains are often too long to achieve an intended effect. The goal is not only to move faster operationally but also to cover expansive geographies and to understand decision times and action times for potential adversaries—no single platform can accomplish all of these tasks. The Department of the Air Force is currently too slow, he continued, as well as too vulnerable, static, and stovepiped. However, these operational challenges are being addressed in stages:
- Design and develop platforms, which DoD has already done fairly successfully.
- Build bilateral relationships in the “dial-up stage” (e.g., one senses, another shoots), which began 10–15 years ago.
- Enable platforms to share information as menus of sensors with menus of effectors, through a published and subscribed data architecture, taking advantage of the cloud and AI. In this “Internet stage,” bilateral relationships become multilateral relationships, making data available in a resilient, redundant, and ubiquitous way. Cloud data provide a pathway to AI with all available data and the apps to use them.
- Embrace the Internet of Things.
He explained that ABMS is the keystone program of the Internet and Internet of Things stages, which are both under way now. ABMS houses the technical underpinnings for joint all-domain operations and joint all-domain situational awareness and command and control, which allows local tactical edge compute and the ability to continue operations seamlessly even when disconnected from the global cloud system.
An architecture based on the commercial enterprise would help to achieve this vision of 21st century digital warfare, he indicated. The foundational element of this architecture is warfighter on-ramps, which are architecture-level evaluation activities. During the on-ramps, the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Space Force, and Joint Force come together in a series of uncertain, difficult, and overlapping combatant commander challenges, test what is working and what is not, and then perform automatic and regular lead-behinds of those capabilities within a short time horizon (e.g., no more than 4 months). This mechanism focuses the warfighters, technology developers, and vendors on a tangible near-term problem with a long-term horizon for the architecture that is being built. It allows the teams to experiment and demonstrate to learn, try, fail, and succeed, and it provides the management staff with
the ability to shift investments and contracts. It also allows the developers to provide technology to the warfighter that can be used in day-to-day operations. In addition to the ability to deliver the technology quickly, Mr. Dunlap continued, the warfighter has a mechanism to provide feedback to the developers to change the applications and hardware. He emphasized that this is the first time such a mechanism has existed to develop, test, implement, and deliver simultaneously an architecture of several capabilities. Open standards and a digital thread are critical, he asserted, as is secure processing. He noted that the hardware and software are developed and operate inside the same environment, which aids in security accreditation and ensures confidence in the delivery of functioning systems. The next layer of the architecture is the data layer, in which a data network of information is built, applications and AI are introduced, and people and sensors are connected into the process.
This process is achieved by fully digital movement on the development, design, and production of capabilities. A digital thread takes capabilities through multiple cycles before beginning to produce a satellite or an aircraft and moves a DevSecOps pipeline into a hardware pipeline (not just in the software development realm). He explained that DevOps, Agile, and Digital Engineering are the three main functions for success. This perspective has changed the requirements process to a longer-term performance base. He stressed that the most important objective of ABMS is to ensure agility and responsiveness to rapidly changing technology in the digital space and potential adoption of those technologies by adversaries.
Mr. Dunlap said that non-materiel solutions are also being considered—testing new concepts, tactics, techniques, procedures, and organizational constructs for exploiting information; making decisions on a quick timeline; and dividing up responsibilities in conflict when needed rather than forcing the warfighters, operators, and intelligence professionals to make changes about responsibilities because they happen to be on the right platform in front of the right computer. This new process creates significant opportunities but only if a significant shift in mindset occurs: It is now possible to eliminate the physical lines on the battlefield, moving missions and being responsive enough to leave the primary and alternate locations of some of the assets and capabilities. A common data architecture increases efficiency and allows for more effective training (i.e., training once and then training on the deltas for the mission from one job to the next as a human-centric operator). He explained that this enables a more seamless transition from one assignment to the next, with less relearning on the particulars of the systems moving forward. New processes for acquisition have also emerged, he continued. Previously, acquisition staff were asked not only to do acquisition tasks but also to think about products and capabilities, having been given a requirement set from a major command that gets stamped and sealed and takes several years to build. That process is too rigid to support the timelines and the pace for quick movement in tight time cycles. Now, there are separate product leads and category leads; there is also an integration execution team, in which the acquisition professionals, security experts, and contracting staff can team across all of the product leads so they can do what they do best while the product visionaries can work with the operators to deliver capabilities without having to spend time thinking about contracts, programs, and finance.
Mr. Dunlap explained that the third architecture on-ramp with the services has begun. The second on-ramp—which had 70 industry teams, 65 government teams, 40 types of platforms, 30 geographic locations (including space), 6 domains, 4 national test ranges, 2 Combatant Commanders, and 1 joint team—concluded in September 2020. The joint forces were tasked with determining, dissuading, and defeating a slew of complex challenges. He described this as the largest technical experimentation within DoD in terms of geographic expanse and number of new capabilities coming online. In conclusion, he noted that the outcomes of digital speed include using 5G at the tactical edge, integrating proliferated low-earth orbit satellite communication, retrieving new data sources that are unmanned and manned, and incorporating new over-the-horizon radar and space situational awareness and domain awareness capabilities on a truly integrated cloud-based data environment, where all of the sensors and decision nodes could see the same information simultaneously.
During the question-and-answer session, Gen. Martin asked about the size of the team needed to conduct the warfighter on-ramps. Mr. Dunlap explained that he has spent 1 year on this process and has 20 operators and technologists working on his team via secondary jobs—he hoped for a larger force that could take this project on full-time. The first on-ramp required 3 months of effort and was successful; the second on-ramp had a few failures and several lessons learned. Mr. Dunlap is not as concerned about whether each system works but rather how the systems work together across all of the services. He said that the right vision and some resources are in place, but
more people are needed to institutionalize this work. This “start-up” could become scalable and sustainable, with a highly talented team comprised of experts in all six domain areas. Gen. Martin also inquired about the status of industry partnerships. Mr. Dunlap replied that most are contracted through the integration execution team. Each month, new vendors are onboarded, many of whom have not traditionally been associated with DoD, which allows for even more innovation. For example, the “Commercial Innovation Pioneers” is comprised of industry partners with data, cloud, and AI expertise who help educate DoD on steps to become a digital company. That team has grown somewhat in size but has had less involvement as the activities have moved from design to implementation. Mr. Dunlap described the “four Ps” to achieve this effort: Pioneers; Partners, such as university-affiliated research centers; Prospects, such as the 350 companies that are non-defense-traditional; and Primes, which are traditional defense partners.
Dr. Godfrey wondered about the strategy for minimizing cyber vulnerabilities in such a large digital enterprise. Mr. Dunlap replied that cyber is “baked in, not bolted on” and noted that it is no longer possible to rely on perimeter defense alone. End-user devices have been made much more secure, and the network is sliced digitally so that it can be reconfigured dynamically through software—“zero trust” permeates this capability. He mentioned the value of borrowing from the best modern industry practices on personas, geofencing, and role-based actions in the network. Dr. Hallion posed a question about how these achievements, the level of effort, and the capabilities compare to those of the adversary. Mr. Dunlap responded that DoD no longer wants to be the primary research and development driver of important key digital technologies; non-defense and commercial research and development will drive progress (for which AFWERX could play an important role). He described the problem as one of innovation adoption and integration, not just one of innovation. DoD wants to position itself as the “partner of choice,” with a broad commercial innovation base and incentives to work on issues related to national security. DoD has worked to dramatically increase the ease, desire, and flexibility of partnership with cutting-edge technology vendors. It also wants to help American and partner companies be widely successful. He stressed that DoD does not want adversaries to be the primary partner of choice with these companies. He explained that marketplace competition is the best approach for the long term, even if it is more difficult in the near term. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory are still innovating, but it is crucial to be able to leverage the commercial enterprise as well. Ms. Westphal asked about the strategy to secure human capital talent, which is critical to achieve success. Mr. Dunlap observed that this is a U.S.-wide problem; he has a vision for a workforce and digital university to attract talent and ensure that working for the Department of the Air Force is perceived as challenging and exciting. Ms. Westphal suggested developing a human capital architecture, because the human resources channels are still too cumbersome—it is time for a revolution in human capital.
GLOBAL FUTURES REPORT: ALTERNATIVE FUTURES OF GEOPOLITICAL COMPETITION IN A POST-COVID-19 WORLD
Lt. Col. Jacob Sotiriadis, Ph.D., and Chief, Strategic Foresight and Futures, AFWIC, DCS Strategy, Integration and Requirements, Headquarters USAF, emphasized the importance of building a futures-based capability to challenge current assumptions and “future proof” strategic planning. COVID-19, in particular, is driving the demand signal for a new way of thinking. AFWIC released an unclassified report in June 2020, the Global Futures Report,3 which presents alternative futures of geopolitical competition across a host of areas (e.g., autonomous systems, space, supply chains, maligned influence campaigns), including the transatlantic relationship and China’s “Belt and Road” initiative. He noted that the report is successful in part because the service took the lead and reached out to a global network of foresight practitioners and futurists. Having received positive feedback, the Strategic Foresight and Futures team is now considering virtual reality–type applications to walk through the scenarios developed for the report. Forums have also been held with allies and partners to discuss some of the more complex issues.
3 Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC) Strategic Foresight and Futures Branch, 2020, Global Futures Report: Alternative Futures of Geopolitical Competition in a Post-COVID-19 World, https://www.afwic.af.mil/Portals/72/Documents/AFWIC%20Global%20Futures%20Report_FINAL.pdf?ver=2020-06-18-124149-070.
Lt. Col. Sotiriadis commented on a fundamental shift in the culture of futures-based thinking in national security. The goal of the Global Futures Report was not to be used for budgeting purposes but rather to disrupt and redefine perspectives of national security. He defined “strategic foresight” as anticipatory thinking to support better decision making, which relates to understanding and anticipating how change occurs in society. Strategic foresight uses the STEEP (scientific, technological, environmental, economic, and political) framework to explore how weak signals (e.g., a political statement, a religious or social movement, or a technological development) create emerging trends that affect the USAF’s core mission. He said that because it is impossible to mitigate uncertainty in national security, it is imperative to become more comfortable dealing with uncertainty, avoid making definitive conclusions, and consider how developing alternative futures can defy accepted probabilities.
He explained that futures thinking is too important to be relegated to a select few experts in the Pentagon. Lt. Col. Sotiriadis championed the idea of building an inclusive culture within the workforce, in which everyone is focused on futures-based thinking. It is imperative to invest in people and education to create cultural change, he added. If futures thinking is to be democratized, he continued, three pillars are key: (1) Adopt a systems-based approach (i.e., everything is interconnected), (2) view everyone as a futurist (i.e., create leaders who are empowering people and developing their own cognitive operating system), and (3) embrace analytic complexity in thought processes.
Lt. Col. Sotiriadis observed that the U.S. military has a digital connection deficit, which initiatives such as ABMS and joint all-domain command and control could address. However, a cognitive connection deficit also exists. He noted that this strategic foresight is not the same as trend analysis. Trend analysis generally reveals the expected outcomes if the present trajectory continues. Strategic foresight demands imaginative approaches to design that are often at odds with organizational cultures requiring high levels of cohesion in order to develop and maintain intellectual capital for new thinking and to take the intellectual high ground when the security environment is turned upside down. He said that the main source of violent conflict over the past several years has been ideology. Thus, it is important to look at the national defense strategy and the ideational structures of peer competitors. He asserted that more could be done to address ideological issues that lead to war. The unprecedented environment of technological advancement among U.S. adversaries demands change, and the Global Futures Report could help drive discussion about future-proofing assumptions.
Lt. Col. Sotiriadis reiterated that strategic foresight uses data to identify weak signals and emerging trends, maps the trajectory of change, and develops scenarios for aspirational futures. The private sector has conducted this type of scenario planning for several years. Most organizations struggle to anticipate change and craft preferred futures, because the magnitude of changes tends to be either over-projected or under-predicted. He pointed out that this becomes even more difficult in a hierarchical organization mired in bureaucracy, such as DoD, in which a focus on budget cycles and short-term gains hampers the ability to take a macro view and reflect on strategic planning. The value proposition of strategic planning is that each alternative futures scenario has a clear winner and loser, and senior leaders want the United States to maintain its competitive advantage.
His team utilized the “Four Futures Framework” from the University of Hawaii at Manoa to build its own framework, by looking at generic images that recur throughout history and applying theories of stability and change to create a useful exercise. Weak signals and emerging trends are used to build scenarios (that are not necessarily meant to be taken literally), which could give insights into winners and losers across ranges of possibility (e.g., systemic transformation, collapsed future, disciplined future, and continued growth). He stressed that one can take stock of a disruptive shift, identify the sources of disruption, compare to history, identify weak signals and emerging trends, and determine how to use data to develop alternative scenarios to understand whether the period is one of rapid growth, decay, or continuation. He mentioned that today’s weak signals become tomorrow’s reality, and each scenario serves as a “horizon scanning.” Lt. Col. Sotiriadis provided brief overviews of four 2035 “global future scenarios”:
- The “Transformation Scenario” is a fundamental shift in the rules of the established order, from bio-hegemony to bio-supremacy. In 2035, the new great powers are states with superior levels of bio-resiliency against their competitors, including dynamic changes in immunity and genetic variability that transform the way that intellectual and human capital are protected. National security itself becomes redefined as a
- continuous maintenance of national bio-data stockpiles. Developments such as real-time contact tracing, genetic profiling, pattern of life analysis for contagion, and AI-enabled heuristics are driving this reality. In a decade-long fight against COVID-19 and other pathogens, there are states with the ability to maintain successful mapping of their national bio-data stockpiles and their military forces concurrently—they become the winners of this competition.
- In the “Systemic Collapse,” there is a sudden loss of a particular order in 2035, called the New Warring States Period, including the urbanization dilemma that the Chinese are facing, as well as issues of food and water scarcity and issues of governance and legalism in Hong Kong and elsewhere. Aligning the weak signals and amplifying the volume results in the second Chinese civil war in less than 100 years. Internationally, there is a legitimacy crisis in the state and in governments themselves, in which populations on a global scale no longer accept that governments are able to provide security and stability. This leads to a secondary crisis of the truth narrative, in which vaccines, for example, are questioned, and states have a difficult time mobilizing populations based off of this breach of the fundamental social contract.
- The “Disciplined Future” reveals that collapse is not complete. In this “authoritarian regionalism” scenario, liberal regimes and authoritarian regimes dealt with the unrest as COVID-19 and other pathogens continued returning in similar ways. Surveillance regimes are mandatory, and there is an increased tolerance for these regimes in the name of public health and safety. There are also national militaries; the winners and losers become apparent, and the USAF is augmenting commercial supply chains and oversight of production and distribution of goods to prevent rioting.
- The “Continued Growth Scenario” is called the “endemic disruption,” showing future costs of today’s inaction. If the United States does not make decisions on key issues, there is a continued growth in which states recognize that an outbreak gives a window of opportunity to take progressive action and pursue foreign policy through violent means. This rushes in an era of instability. The USAF significantly benefits in this scenario with the necessity of a new offset strategy to limit a reliance on overseas troops levels. The U.S. military reduces its base footprint overseas, and there are staffing shortages, weakened populations, decreased economic output, and unrealized breakthroughs. This becomes a decade of improvement and recovery rather than what was once predicted as a decade of disruptive transformation.
Lt. Col. Sotiriadis shared several key takeaways: The premise of futures-based thinking acknowledges that the future does not exist as a singular entity; there are multiple possible futures that are constantly in flux. The organizations best positioned to leverage this uncertainty in their strategic planning of the future are those that can build this capacity for anticipatory change. Geopolitical competition and disinformation are not limited to Russia, China, Iran, or extremists; a confluence of factors and a full assault of a combined force of actors at a global scale could target every facet of society, he cautioned. Educating the population and raising the level of awareness also has a national security component, he continued. COVID-19 has revealed thin levels of inventory and the vulnerability of supply chains. As a result, society could move toward a new consensus around the notion of public health as a national security issue. He said that a path forward for the USAF is not only to build this culture of futures-based thinking but also to create an Office of Strategic Foresight to harness knowledge across the enterprise, collaborate with joint and service partners, and create a venue for public–private sector cooperation (including academia).
During the question-and-answer session, Gen. Martin pointed out that critical decisions about national defense and national security strategies will be made between now and 2025, and he emphasized the importance of providing guidance on what to do with the information these scenarios present. Lt. Col. Sotiriadis said that the next step is to create virtual/augmented reality walkthroughs of each scenario for senior leadership. He asserted that combining this type of data visualization with futures methodology would make a difference. Dr. Ryan asked if Lt. Col. Sotiriadis explored storytelling as a means to highlight features such as value systems and cultural approaches. She also wondered if global technology shock was considered—for example, the development of new mathematical algorithms that render cryptography obsolete and the inability to trust command and control systems. Lt. Col. Sotiriadis noted that those are strong corollaries to their analyses. The report is grounded in the academic discipline of strategic foresight: Most authors are established futurists who embrace storytelling. However, he mentioned that the “four futures” method is not the only way to approach data visualization; it was
selected in this instance because it helps to characterize blind spots. A disruption such as global technology shock could be addressed in a separate report, he continued. Even though the Global Futures Report does not explore that particular scenario, it considers key technology areas pertinent to the Department of the Air Force.
Dr. Rama Chellappa, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, expressed concern about weak signals that lead to catastrophic events and the ability to predict such disruptions. Lt. Col. Sotiriadis explained that the baseline assumption in the report, and in the field of future studies, is that the future does not exist and cannot be predicted. The goal is to mitigate uncertainty presented by a current disruption. Being able to ask difficult questions and overlay the emerging trends through a series of scenarios allows one to plan strategically. Dr. Hallion asked how to filter the range of possibilities, which is almost infinite, to focus on confronting problems for which a plan is needed to organize, train, and equip. Lt. Col. Sotiriadis described this as the value proposition for investing more in strategic planning as a day-to-day aspect of the operational culture.
Dr. Hallion inquired as to how the ideological war is emerging. Lt. Col. Sotiriadis explained that ideology has a price tag. Ideas materialize, create path dependencies, and manifest themselves to overtake foreign policy, which is a critical security issue. Understanding great power conflict comes from framing this idea of competing ideological power networks. Dr. Hallion added that the price of ideology over the past century is 200 million deaths. Dr. Joseph “Jae” Engelbrecht, president and chief executive officer, Engelbrecht Associates, LLC, applauded Lt. Col. Sotiriadis’s efforts and offered suggestions to ensure that the methodology is internally consistent: While it is very useful to educate people and change their thinking, it is even more important to test the strategies that the organization is considering for different futures to identify what might work, so that the futures are a path to the real decisions that the organization is going to have to make. Ms. Westphal advised that Lt. Col. Sotiriadis contact Gen. Ronald Fogleman, who could offer guidance about implementing strategic foresight into the organization. She anticipated challenges in convincing people to walk through and accept the futures scenarios.
Dr. Yarymovych noted that much of the theoretical thinking of the 1970s no longer occurs at the same scale today. Gen. Martin added that since Operation Desert Shield, the USAF has focused primarily on preparing its people for the next-in-harms-way deployment. As a result, developmental planning that used to occur across the board has been inconsistent, and the USAF would benefit from more strategic thought. However, he pointed out that staff school does not include training in the analytical processes and critical thinking needed to solve problems. Dr. Hallion observed that some of the last great strategic thinkers in the USAF included Gen. Charles Boyd, Maj. Gen. Robert Linhard, and Dr. Sheila Widnall. Ms. Westphal added that Gen. Fogleman implemented an organizational structure that emphasized strategic thinking. Dr. Engelbrecht commented that the USAF has an unmatched capability to deliver vigilance, but Gen. Martin reiterated how difficult it is to work within bureaucracy.
Dr. Engelbrecht highlighted one of the paradoxes of the USAF in terms of time: It trains, organizes, and equips (which are long-term and input-based activities) but strives to increase the speed of acquisition and organizational change, to integrate technology and people, and to accelerate. All of those efforts take a long time, but he explained that several workshop speakers offered a different perspective. For example, Hon. Geurts emphasized the human dimension—giving young talent a challenge and the initiative to take risk—the need to focus on deployment, and the value of human networks to solve problems quickly. Gen. Eberhart also discussed the human dimension, underscoring the value of relationships and trust to cope during a crisis. Dr. Engelbrecht noted that commercial organizations are committed to developing trusted relationships and creating networks, are almost always time-focused on a specific outcome, and recognize how important talent is. Commercial organizations emphasize a balance among return on investment, stakeholders, and customers. He added that the USAF is beginning to recognize the importance of relationships and trust as well as to focus on the customer (i.e., the warfighter operations and outcomes). This, however, is a different time dimension—relying on current relationships and trust to achieve some near-term outcomes with the recognition that relationships take a long time to develop and are difficult to sustain. Dr. Engelbrecht indicated that the USAF is confronting problems (with China, Russia, and Iran) from very different perspectives.
Gen. Martin described the purpose of basic military training as shifting the focus from the self to a team tasked to complete missions. He said that because the USAF is execution/compliance oriented, it teaches people to use high-tech equipment effectively but does not encourage people to think critically or to ask questions. The USAF’s focus on “doing what you are told” is different from that of the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army. If airmen are going to be asked to review problems and develop solutions, critical thinking skills have to be taught, he continued. It remains to be seen how an effective fighting force can be recruited and transitioned into a leading force that takes over responsibilities to organize, train, and equip; learns to answer questions; and solves difficult problems. Ms. Westphal recalled Hon. Geurts’s observation that the USAF terminates people for bad behavior instead of for poor performance, which is different from the U.S. Navy and from the business world, where people are held accountable. She explained that there is no reason for people to think critically if they are not given responsibility and are not held accountable. Gen. Martin pointed out that, in the U.S. Marine Corps, order of merit is less important than uniformity and teamwork. Talents and skills are mixed in assignments after basic training, and diversity exists across the force by virtue of performance. He agreed with Dr. Engelbrecht that the USAF expects execution from some, and thought, leadership, and risk-taking from others. However, he reiterated that the training does not encourage the latter. Dr. Hallion asked about the tradeoff between diversity and competency in the U.S. Marine Corps model. Gen. Martin replied that every event is graded, which creates a rank-order based on competencies, and he described it as a team-based mentoring system. Reflecting on the training in industry, Dr. Powers explained that Ford enrolled every new college graduate in a 2-year curriculum with rotations, at least one of which was through the product program. The three attributes of the training were quality and function, cost, and timing. He added that some amount of regimentation is necessary for success in any organization. As a company progresses, it builds processes, which are models of how to operate. The individuals operating within those models could always be looking for ways to improve those models, he continued. The goal is to have a structure that people are both comfortable in and able to change. Gen. John Jumper (USAF, ret.), said that what Dr. Powers described at Ford was mission-focused training. The motivation for both the U.S. Marine Corps and the USAF is also the mission. He emphasized that the USAF is at its best when it invokes the warrior spirit. Training to a standard enables crew chiefs from anywhere in the world to be deployed to one location and produce the same results. What is missing from the training is the opportunity to lead, he asserted. Senior leaders do not have the opportunity to be exposed to critical thinking skills. He noted that a daily mission focus is critical to creating the conditions for critical thinking.
Ms. Westphal shared five thematic observations from the workshop discussions that could either increase or decrease the speed at which the USAF operates: (1) mission focus; (2) people; (3) relationships, trust, and networks; (4) authorities; and (5) integrated war. She added that terminology is very important; suggestions to “change culture” tend to be ignored. Dr. Powers wondered why “process” was not included as a theme since it can help gain or lose speed. Dr. Yarymovych observed that process cuts across all five of the themes. Dr. Engelbrecht pointed out that sometimes the USAF focuses on process at the expense of the mission. Ms. Westphal clarified that this workshop series highlights what the USAF could emphasize to leverage technologies. Dr. Powers raised a question about the role of ABMS, and Ms. Westphal replied that if ABMS does not focus on people and outcomes, it could continue to drive the USAF into more processes and failed architectures. Dr. Powers reiterated that although “process” has a negative connotation as it relates to the USAF, it will always exist because it is the way that work is completed. Gen. Martin suggested creating a separate list of impediments to success. When process becomes more important than product, he continued, problems arise. Gen. Jumper added that focusing on product while building processes allows the processes to become more efficient. He said that checklists do play an important role in that they allow for the safe operation of complex equipment. Ms. Westphal proposed that instead of using the word “process,” the thematic observation could be “how work gets done in a human–machine integrated environment.” Dr. Powers emphasized that the goal is to impedance-match the process with the product.
Referring to Dr. Engelbrecht’s earlier comments, Gen. Martin clarified that the mission of the USAF is not to organize, train, and equip but rather to prepare people and things to go to war successfully. He added that it is important not to lose an emphasis on output, product, and outcome. Ms. Westphal said that as more tasks are outsourced from humans to technology, it is imperative to focus on the distinctive human abilities absent in technology. People’s unique talents have to be nurtured, and an emphasis on the human role can lead to useful new
processes. Dr. Ryan described a 2020 National Academies study on talent management for the USAF,4 which found that there is a lack of understanding of how to create optimum teams, how to measure effective collaboration, and how to nurture teams. She depicted the importance of productive human-to-human teaming. But with the explosive growth of technology, she continued, humans are often teamed with technology (e.g., pilot + airplane). A question emerges about how to create and maintain effective teams when a human loses trust in a technology and vice versa.
Dr. Powers noted that despite the improvement in computer models since the 1980s, the speed of development has decreased in aerospace. When technology is used incorrectly, speed decreases. Because speed is necessary for both building and using a product, the focus could be on how best to use technology to increase speed. Gen. Jumper commented that a human applies judgment in situations. As technology advances and parts of processes are replaced, it remains to be seen how judgment will be used to speed up (or allow) these processes. Dr. Chellappa mentioned that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is designing an institute to study how humans and AI algorithms work together for improved performance. Dr. Godfrey noted that the issues the USAF is confronted with will likely differ from those of concern to NSF. Dr. Chellappa agreed but emphasized that the investments could be similar. Dr. Godfrey suggested a method to influence NSF to address issues of importance to DoD. He added that the USAF could benefit from a better understanding of the man–machine interface. Dr. Chellappa observed that the USAF is not leveraging top universities and companies to solve problems. Gen. Jumper perceived that the USAF has relationships with top universities to work on technical problems, although more could be created. Dr. Godfrey acknowledged that the key is to interact consistently and establish long-term relationships with these universities.
Returning to Ms. Westphal’s list of workshop themes, Gen. Martin pondered (1) the increased opportunities and speed that digital offers and (2) the need to posture for 2035. Ms. Westphal described the hype surrounding digital technology. She explained that the USAF assumes that a digital transformation will increase speed, but as more communications and databases are added to an organization, the speed of decision making could decrease owing to trust issues, a lack of coordination, or questions about how the work will be completed. In terms of posturing for 2035, Ms. Westphal commented that the concept of strategic foresight relates to the USAF’s need to focus on output versus input. When doing concepts of operations, one thinks about how the world is changing and about how to incorporate the people, who are now being educated differently. She determined that it is important to consider the relationships that need to be established for future war. Dr. Powers interjected that “digital” is not the right terminology; instead, the appropriate phrase is “distributed intelligence and sensing.” Dr. Yarymovych mentioned that the world has nearly reached the end of Moore’s Law—because things cannot be made any smaller, other ways of increasing speed will have to be invented. Gen. Jumper indicated that the limitations of today may cease to exist as more discoveries are made. In the meantime, it is important to consider how to make today’s processes better and more efficient. Ms. Westphal pointed out that in times of crisis, the USAF is especially innovative.
Dr. Engelbrecht explained that since one of the workshop planning committee discussions (see Preface) related to the USAF’s bias for speed and acceleration, a nuance for the themes is what each means in terms of time. Gen. Martin said that the workshop themes have to be viewed holistically as a philosophy and a continuing mechanism by which the USAF conducts business. He characterized a goal of this workshop series as helping the USAF to run its organization faster. Ms. Westphal suggested the overarching theme of “time as a warfighting domain,” with each subtheme contributing to how that could be accomplished. Gen. Martin noted that the USAF, as part of the greatest military in the world, has to understand how the world values time, money, and resources, and take responsibility for guiding actions in a more effective and efficient way. Dr. Powers reiterated that in industry, cost, quality, and timing reign supreme. Ms. Westphal emphasized that the USAF has different challenges, but Dr. Powers said that the USAF perceives its high-level technology as the reason for missing timing or costs, which Dr. Godfrey thought could be a result of failing to provide complete information to Congress. Ms. Westphal observed that everyone has different relationships with and understandings of time. Dr. Chellappa stated that it is important to index time with what the USAF is facing: The modulation of the concept of time with respect to advances in technology may have to be addressed.
4 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2020, Strengthening U.S. Air Force Human Capital Management: A Flight Plan for 2020–2030, The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, https://doi.org/10.17226/25828.