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Work: NDU Students Should Become ‘Strategic-level Leaders’

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity


WASHINGTON, August 5, 2014 — Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work urged National Defense University students to become strategic-level leaders, telling them that “this exceedingly complex and potentially more dangerous world” demands critical and creative thought.

In remarks prepared for delivery to the Class of 2015, Work called on students to “develop critical ways of thinking, to question assumptions, to come up with new ideas, fresh insights, and answers to the world’s most vexing security challenges.”

Work noted that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has emphasized that while U.S. military involvement in conflicts overseas during the past decade has wound down, service members instead face “… a fractured global security environment, characterized by great uncertainty, rapid change, new and sophisticated threats and continued political turbulence.”

He also addressed the challenges DoD faces in budgetary turbulence in the coming years.

“This is an unprecedented time of maximum challenge for [DoD],” he added, noting that DoD’s future decisions will determine the size, shape and composition of the U.S. military “for decades to come.”

“We need creative ideas on how to posture our forces globally to accomplish the greatest strategic effect, how to fight more effectively in new domains with possibly game-changing technologies, how to protect U.S. interests and enhance our security in new areas. And we must do all this with fewer resources and what will no doubt be a smaller military,” he said.

U.S. forces face the possibility of arriving in a future combat theater to confront an arsenal of advanced, disruptive technologies “that could turn U.S. previous technological advantage on its head,” Work said, where the nation’s military no longer has uncontested theater access or unfettered operational freedom of maneuver.

And that is a future in which he, Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey are determined to avoid, Work said.

“To maintain our technological superiority as we transition from one warfighting regime to another, we must begin to prepare now,” the deputy emphasized. “In addition to new technologies, a new offset strategy will require innovative thinking, the development of new operational concepts, new ways of organizing, and long-term strategies.

“As future strategic leaders, you need to ask how we should prepare for a future where new and disruptive technological developments are continuously occurring,” Work continued. “What policies are needed? What investments are warranted?”

Such creative ideas, he said, often come from students and their networks outside the military, and from allies and partners in the interagency community.

And with a “sense of urgency,” the deputy said, the nation’s entire national security community needs to stimulate new critical thinking and research on how the nation maintains its technological dominance, and to enable a smaller force to maintain overmatch against any potential adversary.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)