Technology, Innovation and Modern War — Class 17 — Organizational Design — Safi Bahcall

  1. The first is a preference for big versus small. Many of your previous speakers have talked about that. Bigger jets, bigger engines, bigger ships, as opposed to the small changes that can make an enormous difference.
  2. The second is a preference for product over strategy. A preference for things that you can touch — ships, guns, planes. As opposed to new strategies that are less obvious, less glamorous, but can make an enormous difference. For example, the tank was invented in the mid-1910s. And it was used in World War I. But it wasn’t the tank as a technology, by itself, that allowed Nazi Germany to take over Western Europe in a matter of weeks. It was their strategy, the Blitz. Focusing on technology alone, getting caught up in the shiny glamour of it and neglecting the less glamorous strategies on how to deploy those technologies creatively, is a common trap. Not just in the military, but also in Silicon Valley, where it dooms otherwise successful companies.
  3. The third is a focus on technology as opposed to transfer. In other words, a large investment in acquiring sexy new technology. With much less energy and attention on identifying and navigating the internal barriers to adoption. Assuming that good ideas and technologies will win the day, by themselves, and neglecting the often-hidden sources of internal resistance, agendas, misaligned incentives, legacy stakes. You can spend billions on great technology, on dozens of innovation labs, but if you don’t put energy and creativity into winning those internal battles, the technologies will die.
  4. The fourth is a focus on prototyping as opposed to pretotyping. Pretotyping is about what to do beforethe minimum viable product. How to test hypotheses incredibly fast. In one day for $100. Doing it well bakes into the system a preference for hypotheses rather than opinions; fast experiments rather than big plans; and testing ideas and strategies, not just products and technologies.
  5. And the fifth pattern is a focus on minimizing as opposed to maximizing risks. By which I mean maximizing the intelligent risk-taking you need to discover important breakthroughs. I see this all the time in mission-driven, as opposed to profit-driven, organizations. When lives are at stake, there’s an enormous focus on reducing risk. In the military, you don’t want a lot of risk in your parachutes, or in your nuclear silos. But if you want to discover a new technology before your competitor, you want risk. You want to fail. A lot. If you only try things that don’t fail then you won’t discover the truly important breakthroughs, the ones where everyone gave up because they didn’t think it could be done. And who will discover them? Your adversary, who is taking those risks, who is working through the nine failures to get to then 10th iteration, the one that works. And you’ll see that 10th iteration when it’s too late, when it’s a bullet coming at your head.
  1. 1 is measurement. If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. Conversely, the things you measure well, with easily understood and visible metrics, tend to improve without much extra push. So how you do that with innovation? Follow the money is the bottom line. But the fact that we aren’t doing that at all is a real problem. I remember speaking with someone senior at the Joint Chiefs of Staff who said, “We have no tangible way of knowing how we’re doing on innovation across the service branches. Absolutely no idea.” If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
  2. 2, rewards. A quote from a major in the Air Force, “You get promoted in the Air Force by not screwing up. Trying something new means risking failure, scaring people around you, and therefore risking advancement. Do what the guy did before you and train those below you to do what you do.” A widespread mindset in the DoD is that the №1 priority is don’t get fired. What are the implications of that mindset? How much risk will people take? I mean among the people that you want to be taking intelligent risks, the ones that you want to discover new technologies and strategies before your adversaries do? Do you want the №1 priority in the minds of those people to be how do I play it safe?
  3. The need for a “special forces” for innovation. Not another innovation lab but standing up a new functional combatant command of program champions who can identify the internal barriers to adopting new technologies, come up with solutions, and get the job done. With representatives from each of the service branches. A joint surgical strike on innovation, rather than a disconnected massive attack.

Final Assignment– Technology Innovation and Modern War

  • Specific actions to be taken including investment or divestment in specific technologies/capabilities, shifts in operations/doctrine, budget/acquisition implications, and other policy changes
  • The timeframe for taking these actions: how these actions might differ in the near-term, mid-term, and long-term situations described in the scenarios
  • Tradeoffs of your proposed solutions. For example, how do you address a capability shortfall if you eliminate a weapon system in the near term?
  • Key obstacles to adopting your proposed solution
  • An assessment of relative impact. Which of these actions would impose the greatest cost on China if implemented? Which could sway China’s decision calculus the most?
  • How might China utilize influence campaigns to support their objectives in each of the scenarios described above?
  • How could the U.S. help defend Taiwan and the American populace against these threats?
  • Key risks and vulnerabilities China would seek to exploit
  • Required tools/technologies/capabilities to counter these tactics, and how to extend these capabilities to U.S. allies
  • The policies and strategies required to coordinate responses between public and private entities
  • How might China exploit weaknesses in the C4ISR networks fielded by Taiwan or the U.S. to facilitate the actions described in the scenarios above?
  • How could the U.S. ensure that C4ISR capabilities are resilient enough to survive the full spectrum of potential confrontations with China?
  • Key vulnerabilities (e.g. overreliance on communication satellites or centralized nodes)
  • The architecture/capabilities needed to build out a more resilient communication network
  • Current obstacles to building out more survivable networks
  • How might China view the willingness and ability of forward deployed U.S. forces to respond to each of the scenarios described above?
  • In each scenario, how can the U.S. ensure that forward-deployed forces present a more credible, survivable threat?
  • The right types of capabilities/platforms to pre-position in the Asia-Pacific
  • Defensive capabilities needed to protect forward deployed assets
  • How to delineate when/how these forces would respond to events in the region
  • In each scenario above, how might the perceived ability of the U.S. to gather a critical mass of combat power in the INDOPACOM AOR influence China’s decision-making?
  • What could the U.S. do in the near, mid, and long term to better utilize out of area assets to provide a timely response?
  • The best way to position resources across the globe
  • Key limiting logistical vulnerabilities (fuel, repair parts etc.)
  • The impact of advances in manufacturing/production (e.g. localized 3D printing)
  • Technologies/capabilities that could “hide” the movement of ships, aircraft and ground forces
  • How might the PRC use cyber and electronic attacks against the U.S. and Taiwan in each of the scenarios described above?
  • What near, mid, and long term steps could the U.S. take to better defend against these threats?
  • The most critical risks and vulnerabilities in each scenario
  • Foundational tools, capabilities, processes needed to counter these risks
  • How to coordinate a flexible response across military and civilian sectors
  • What near, mid, and long-term steps could the USMC take to successfully deter lower-level aggression or engage Chinese forces in open conflict?
  • Offensive capabilities needed to effectively skirmish with Chinese forces
  • Defensive capabilities needed to avoid detection or defend against precision missile strikes
  • Required shifts to USMC, Navy, and Joint Force doctrines
  • What value would the current U.S. inventory of high-end ships, aircraft and other platforms add in each scenario described above?
  • In the long term, how could the U.S. ensure it can project the type of offensive power needed to push back Chinese forces?
  • New platforms/offensive capabilities that might be required
  • Changes to operating doctrines or tactics
  • Ways to utilize existing platforms differently, or make them more survivable
  • How might the U.S. leverage regional alliances and partnerships in each scenario above?
  • How could the U.S. ensure that allies and partners in INDOPACOM and elsewhere are able to better balance Chinese power and ambitions?
  • The different offensive or defensive capabilities key allies and partners would need to acquire to effectively counter Chinese military power
  • The operational role key allies and partners should be willing to play in future conflicts
  • How to convince allies and partners of the urgent need to adapt to the current strategic environment
  • How might the PRC leverage access to global infrastructure, commercial markets, and financial resources in each scenario above?
  • How could the U.S. counter these tactics?
  • How China could exploit key economic, financial and diplomatic vulnerabilities the U.S. faces in a global, interconnected system
  • How technology might be used in diplomatic, information and economic realms to counter Chinese efforts
  • Required partnerships with the private sector or between the DoD and other government agencies
  • Could the U.S. have fundamentally changed China’s decision calculus in each of the three scenarios above?
  • What could the U.S. do in the near, mid and long-term to effectively voice an understanding of deterrence?
  • The specific capabilities and employment strategies needed to create reciprocal predicaments for Chinese forces
  • How to clearly voice the manner and conditions under which the U.S. would be willing to respond (i.e. how would the U.S. respond to a state-sponsored cyber attack?)
  • Policies clarifying the of capabilities with ethical implications, such as artificial intelligence or autonomous systems
  • Invention is having an idea
  • It doesn’t become an innovation until it’s developed and deployed at scale
  • We need different organization to facilitate rapid adoption
  • Measure innovation
  • Reward innovation
  • Create a special innovation force to champion and facilitate adoption

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