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Vice Chairman Discusses Defense Deterrence Strategy

By Amaani Lyle DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, March 13, 2016 — The U.S. military aims to counter threats presented by potential adversaries Russia and China through its Third Offset Strategy, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said March 10 in his remarks at the annual McAleese & Associates and Credit Suisse 2017 Defense Programs conference here.

“Given the asymmetric approaches of China and Russia, what do we change that allows us to apply technology, operational concepts and organizational structures to defeat their advantage in offensive, long-range precision strike systems?” Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva said.

The Third Offset, he said, “is about figuring out what we do differently that unhinges their advantages with the goal of maintaining conventional deterrence.”

Following two previous strategies, the Third Offset exploits the vulnerabilities of potential foes and capitalizes on the United States’ existing adaptable assets such as tanks, fighter aircraft, and ships, Selva said.

Massive Soviet-Warsaw Pact Forces

As part of the First Offset Strategy, which occurred during the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. military deployed tactical battlefield nuclear weapons to Western Europe to deal with a massive Soviet land power threat, the general said.

“On the heels of our first development of miniaturized nuclear weapons, we came to the conclusion that we could not outspend the Russians … and build the kind of combat power in Europe that they had right across the border in the Warsaw Pact,” he said. “So, we made a choice to substitute explosive power for manpower.”

At the end of the ’60s and early ’70s, the U.S. military “started thinking about conventional weapons precise enough to have near-nuclear effects on the conventional battlefield … that allowed us to pull most of our tactical nuclear weapons off the battlefield,” Selva said.

The Second Offset Strategy, developed in the 1980s, leveraged American technological dominance to compensate for greater Soviet numbers -- an offset, Selva recounted, that held for decades. The Second Offset, which has endured since the early ’90s, featured the air-land battle doctrine that was employed in the Gulf War.

“It allowed us to change the way we operate because we could build a defense and offensive grid of sensors, C2 and the associated weapons to do air-land battle,” Selva said.

Firepower, Precision, Stealth, Speed

The general noted that firepower mixed with precision, stealth and speed has offset manpower on the modern battlefield.

“We have lived on that legacy since the early ’90s,” Selva said.

Yet, future defense planning and budgets must also reflect a sustained commitment to strategic nuclear deterrence, the general said. The U.S. nuclear deterrent features naval, air and intercontinental ballistic missile delivery systems -- the three “legs” of the nuclear triad.

“Our capacity to deter nuclear foes adds credibility to our conventional force,” Selva said. “And if we are ever threatened by a nuclear foe that’s our equal or our better, then our conventional force loses relevance quickly.”

He added, “So, we have a bill to pay to modernize our nuclear force in all three legs of the triad.”

(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDoDNews)