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Deputy Secretary of Defense Speech

Remarks to the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Convention

As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, Washington, D.C. , Oct. 4, 2016

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     Thank you.  Well, I would just like to start by saying, and with apologies to the CNO who wrote an article on this today that Washington traffic is the most effective A2/AD network in the world.

 

     I very much apologize for keeping you waiting.  And so I want to just dive right in.  I want to thank the AUSA, Secretary Fanning, General Milley, General Perkins for this opportunity.  I am honored to be invited here and speak with this important forum and with an organization that has done so much to support our remarkable American Army.

 

     Now, in talking to General Perkins about what he wanted me to try to do today, he just asked me to kind of set the stage for the future operating environment as we see it and talk in terms of the reconceptualization and concept development that is occurring right now within the joint force and throughout the joint force.

 

     Over 27 years since the Cold War's ended, and as demonstrated convincingly in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Allied force, the conventional campaign and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the United States has enjoyed a remarkable run of unparalleled conventional dominance at both the tactical and operational levels of war.  During this period, we have had generally unimpeded freedom of action, access on the land, in the air, on the sea.

 

     But now, competitors such as big competitors, like Russia and China, medium-sized regional powers like Iran and North Korea, they're developing capabilities and challenges and they contest us in all domains now; cyberspace, space, air, land, sea, under seas.  And this threatens to erode not only our operational advantage, but in some cases, our technological superiority and overmatch, which then impacts our ability to project powers over trans-oceanic distances.

 

     Now, addressing this challenge is, in my view, one of the most if not the most important challenges facing the Department of Defense, and that is why Secretary Carter has directed us to take concrete steps to remain at the forefront of operational and tactical excellence, and changing the way we plan, changing the way we innovate, changing the way we invest and most importantly changing the way we fight.

 

     Now, I don't have to convince this crowd among all the crowds that I talk to that war is won by humans and not technology, but at least since World War II, it is incontrovertible that our national security strategy and our national defense strategy has assumed that we will enter the battle with superior technology, or at least technology that is better than our competitors, and we will be better trained and our individuals will be higher caliber.

 

     And you don't have to take my word for this.  This started in World War II with General George C. Marshall, who said after the war, the vastly superior industrial establishment of the United States eventually overcame the initial advantages of the enemy.  We dared to mount operations all over the world with a strategic inferiority and troops through superiority and mobility and firepower.

 

     Now, for the historians in this group, what he was referring to was his famous 90 division gamble.  Right after the war started, planners said how big of an army are we going to need to fight this global war?  The answer came back 213 divisions and 273 air groups, but Marshall bet, and he admitted this was a gamble, that he thought the material superiority as well as the mobility, the superior mobility, coupled with far-reaching heavy fisted air arm would allow the United States to fight the war with 90 divisions instead of 213.

 

     In the end, he approved the air -- the goal of the 273 air groups.  Now, this gamble was a close-run thing.  As all -- as you most probably know, in the winter of 1944 in the European theater of operations, we literally ran out of infantrymen.  But in the end, the superior training, leadership, skill, tactical ingenuity and tenaciousness of the American soldier made this gamble pay off.

 

     The same thinking animated President Eisenhower in his “New Look” strategy, where he basically said, I will invest in a smaller army armed with battlefield nuclear weapons and backed up by tactical fighters that would deliver tactical nukes against deep targets.

 

     Now, we can debate today on whether that was the same strategy.  The Army debated throughout the '50s that it was not, and in the end, President Kennedy agreed with the Army and introduced the strategy of flexible response which called for a larger army, and not so much, you know, use of tactical nuclear weapons.  But without question, through the 1970's, our conventional defense of Europe assumed that we would -- might have to go to tactical nukes early in the fight, especially once the United States became tied down in Vietnam.

 

     But coming out of Vietnam, we had three problems, and these three problems are exactly -- not exactly, never exactly -- but pretty darn close to analogous to what we face today.

 

     First, the Soviets had achieved nuclear parity at the time and had developed new operational concepts specifically designed to upset the new look strategy.  They would attack by successive echelons against the NATO frontline.  At that time, I think it is called people so the FEBA, so the forward edge of the battle area.  They'd effect a penetration, an operational maneuver group would pound through, go deep in NATO's rear, and the judgment was the Soviets could do that faster than NATO leaders could agree on the use of nuclear weapons.

 

     So our conventional deterrent was completely undermined.  It just was no longer credible.

 

     Second, throughout the 1960s, the Soviets had spent a lot of money on improving their tactical equipment, and the 1973 war showed that the character of war was changing, exactly what Chief Milley is saying.  In '73, the T-62 was pretty darn close to the M-60 that we were using, the SA-6 surface-to-air missiles wrested air superiority from one of the finest air forces in the world for three days, until a ground maneuver was able to break open up that network and wire guided antitank missiles really, really were a problem for Israeli armor.

 

     U.S. Army sent teams over to the deserts and they said, wow, the lethality of the modern battlefield is far above anything that we are used to.  In fact, retired general Bob Scales said the '73 war was the first evidence of the precision revolution in warfare applied to ground combat.  The message was pretty clear, the character of war, had changed significantly, and if we got into a fight in the European front, it could be a big, big problem for us.

 

     Third, we didn't have a lot of money.  We were coming out of Vietnam, so there were -- we didn't have a lot of freedom of action when it comes to budgets.  So again, parity at the nuclear level, new operational concepts which start to upend the way we -- our operational design, tactical, kind of equivalence, and then finally low resources.  So the response really bears remembering because I'm going to come back to it really quickly.

 

     We concluded that a smaller ground force backed by technology and honed by training could still form the foundation of a credible conventional deterrent.  This smaller force would be all volunteer, and would be guided by a doctrinal renaissance with a focus at the operational level of war.  Tactical superiority would be restored by fielding the big five: the M1 tank, the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, the Black Hawk helicopter, the Apache attack helicopter, and the Patriot missile, and by owning the night.

 

     And we would hone the skills of the smaller force through hard, realistic training in places like a national training center and red flag.  Now meanwhile up at OSD, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and his AT&L, is what is now called the Undersecretary Defense for AT&L -- it wasn't then -- but they were going to focus on the operational level of war also, and they envisioned an operational level battle network: a sensor grid, a C3I Grid, and an affects grid, all interconnected.

 

     And that operational level battle network would allow us to solve the problem of the successive echelons.  We would look deep and shoot deep, and we would rely upon the tactical ingenuity, skill, and tenaciousness of the American soldier on the FEBA.

 

     We demonstrated this in a demonstration called "Assault Breaker" in 1982, but here is the key, and it is directly associated with this panel.  Long before the assault breaker demonstrated the technology, the Army was creating a new operational construct focused again at the campaign level, the operational level of war.  They took the lessons of the Yom Kippur war in they said, you're right, the character of war is changing.

 

     And they were driven by the imperative to find outnumbered and win.  TRADOC Commander Donn Starry, teamed with Air Force General Bill Creech, to develop what we now look back upon and called AirLand Battle, integrating fires and maneuvers at both the operational and the tactical level of war.  And when meshed with the technologies that came out of the assault breaker demonstration, the result was an astounding increase in combat effectiveness that has served us well to this day.

 

     Now we demonstrated this at Desert Storm in a very nascent state, and it was a wake-up call for all of our competitors.  This crowd knows warfare is a dynamic interactive endeavor, that's warfare 101.  We shouldn't have expected her adversaries to sit still and they certainly haven't.  So now we are faced with much of the same situation that the U.S. Army in the joint force faced in 1973.  This is what we need to now offset once again.

 

     Most of our combat power resides now in the continental United States or on U.S. territory.  We can no longer assume that we will have large forces in theaters, they are expected to fight, and this will give a potential adversary an advantage in the initiative time and forces initially.

 

     Second, our largest state adversaries will have achieved rough parity in battle networks and guided munitions.  This will make movement to the theater and movement within the theater more difficult; not impossible, just much more difficult than we're used to.  And third, because our adversaries know the fearsome power of our battle networks, they have invested a lot of money in counter network technologies like electronic warfare and cyber.  And so these are changing, once again, I could not agree more with the chief.  The character of war is changing once again.

 

     And as I said, make no mistake about it, this is a big strategic issue because it threatens our ability to project power across the oceans, which is the very foundation of our conventional deterrent.

 

     Now, like the 1973 war, Russian operations in both Ukraine and Syria have given us a glimpse of how this might play out on the tactical battlefield.  I want to make absolutely clear to everyone here, we are not planning to fight a war against Russia, but it would be foolish not to pay attention to their operations because they are quite frankly, a pacing competitor that tells us where we need to go to make sure that we have operational and tactical superiority.

 

     And I know General Perkins, HR McMaster and his team are looking at these lessons very, very carefully.  The Russians have effectively employed cross domain fires using a variety of long-range guided munitions from the air, sea, and under the sea.  They have improved the accuracy and responsiveness of their already formidable indirect fire skills, using artillery and rockets guided by UAVs, cyber, Sigint and ELINT right on the forward line of troops.

 

     Russian-backed separatists have jammed GPS frequencies, communications and imaging radars, so not only will our future Army have to fight on the battlefield swept by precision munitions, but it's going to be swept by persistent and very effective VW and cyber threats.

 

     The old adage was back in the second offset, if you can be seen, you can be hit and if you can hit, you can be killed.  The new adage is, if you emit, you die.  So during the last 15 years of war, the greatest threat that we have really faced was from below, the IED, a simple but very devastating weapon.  But in this future battlefield, we will be faced with precision guided fire from above and a direct line of sight, and all sorts of different capabilities that we haven't faced.  And we still have the Big Five.

 

     We don't have enough money to replace the Big Five.  We're spending money to update them but we're going to have to keep them a while.  So we find ourselves in this very similar broken terrain.  Our adversaries are close to parody at the operational level.

 

     They've demonstrated, at the tactical level, new capabilities we have to be aware of and there's not a lot to be enthusiastic about, our resources at this point.  So it's time to get busy and I'm proud to say that the army has really been getting after it.  I went up to the army work college last year and I said look, technology is one thing and there's all sorts of technological advances we can do.  But if that technology is not guided and shaped by good, operational constructs, concepts and organizational constructs, it just isn't going to work.

 

     And I challenged the army at that time, would you please start thinking about Air-Land battle 2.0.  But thankfully, General Perkins and General McMaster didn't listen to me, they knew that I was barking up the wrong tree.  They looked beyond Air-Land Battle to envision war in what General Perkins called multi-domain battle with cross-domain fires.  On a battlefield swept by precision guided munitions, you've got about two options.

 

     You can dig in and immobilize yourself hoping you survive or you disperse, stay mobile and fire and manuever to gain advantage.  And you're going to have to do that maneuver across all operational domains.  Multi-domain battle chooses maneuver in all these domains.  Both the service and create windows of opportunity to enable the joint force freedom of maneuver and to allow them to achieve effects on the battlefield.  Past campaign plans have called for an extensive roll back campaign against A2AD type technologies so that we could get the rest of the Joint Force in.

 

     But Multi-Domain Battle envisions a future where you synchronize cross-domain fires and maneuver in all the domains to achieve physical, temporal and positional advantages.  So as the CNO often says, it allows us to look at A2AD networks, or whatever we will call them in the future, not as a solid block of cheddar cheese but a block of Swiss cheese with a lot of discrete holes that we can exploit.  Adversaries think they can keep us out, I'm here to tell you they are absolutely wrong.

 

     We will mass effects from the air, from the sea, from the ground, from under the sea and we will quite frankly pound the snot out of them from range and in the close fight.  Now Multi-Domain Battle and cross-domain fires get at the very heart of the changing character of war and how ground forces will be central, as they always have been, in the joint war fight.  They will operate within what we call joint collaborative human machine battle networks at the operational level of war that will provide us an enormous advantage there.

 

     We hope that all of the focus on readiness and training on the high end and the advances are the improvements we can make to the Big Five, well, we're not hoping, we're counting on it and we're absolutely confident that at the tactical level of war, our soldiers are going to outmatch anybody they face.

 

     But we're going to move what this does, what General Perkins and General McMaster have been talking about, is that we're going to move beyond a mere synchronization of joint capabilities to the complete integration of capabilities where anti-air capabilities might be coming from a surge submarine or anti-ship cruise missiles might be coming from an army unit on the ground.

 

     There are so many different ways that we can create dilemmas for our adversaries that if we seize the opportunity, we will be just fine.  I also see another grand alliance, I'm glad to see that General Goldfein is here sitting next to General Perkins.  General Goldfein has said that we have to have a new conception of command and control in these joint collaborative human machine battle networks because command and control must be multi-domain, multi-functional, coalition friendly and often trans-regional and he's taken that on as one of his top three priorities as a chief to think that through.

 

     And just like the Army and the Air Force came together for Air-Land Battle, I think it's absolutely critical that the Army and the Air Force and the Navy by the way that has really advanced thinking about tactical battle networks et cetera and the Marines who are still thinking innovatively about operational maneuver from the sea, multi-domain battle really is where we need to go.  So it's time to get after this.  I'm not certain that multi-domain battle, as it's expressed today, is going to be the final solution.

 

     I can look back in the 1985, 1985, the Army adopted Active Defense but within two years they said, look Air-Land Battle is a better way to do this.  That's the signature of the U.S. Army.  Doctrinal innovation and if they don't think that's going to work, they're going to go to something that does.  And once they have that doctrinal innovation, they train, train, train, and they train better and they field capabilities faster than our opponents.

 

     Look, anybody could have bought night vision goggles in 1977, 1978.  But the Army said, we're going to own the night and it was all the TTP's, the tactics, techniques and procedures and the training that allowed them to own the night.  So when people say, oh somebody might get technology faster than us, I say, OK but will they be able to employ it in an operational, effective way?  And I bet on the U.S. Army and the U.S. Joint Force, we will get there faster than them.

 

     Now the Army has a long history of war gaming and experimentation, whether it's the famous Louisiana maneuvers of the 1940's, the 11th AASLT division of the 60's, the light infantry division experiments of the 80's, the fourth I.D. and the digitization experiments in the 90's, the Army after next program, look we're confident the Army can get after it but we also know that resources are tight.  So we've established a war fighting lab incentives fund so if the Army comes up and says, we'd like to do this demonstration, we can come up with maybe 2 million.  If we could use another two, that fund is designed to let the Army get after it.

 

     So let me say a millionth time, I say it all the time, the third offset is not about technology per say.  It is about the operational concepts and organizational constructs that will shape the way we use technology.  And there is no better organization in the world that thinks about this than the United States Army.

 

     And let me say that Secretary Carter and I have absolute confidence that we can do this for one reason, and that is because one thing that never changes, whether it's in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, it doesn't matter, it's the quality of our people.  Look, this force does things that Second Lieutenant Work in 1975 couldn't even conceive of and the Army is now conceiving what that next great leap will be.

 

     And I am extremely excited to hear this because nothing gets me more energized than advancements at the operational level of war, which is, as the Army has always said, that's where you have to keep your eyeballs on.

 

     So Amy, General Perkins, all I can say is drive on.  This is exciting time.  Just like we own the night, I want you to tell us how we're going to own the electromagnetic night.  I want to know how we do multi-domain battle.  I want to understand how command-and-control has to change because those things -- when those questions are answered, we will -- you will start to see investments flow that way because of force imbued with Army values, trained hard and allowed to operate under the widest latitude possible, will always outperform a force tied to a rigid command structure in an authoritarian dogma.

 

     Our training and professional development must be tailored to empower our people, exploit the technology, but most importantly achieve operational and tactical effects using really smart thinking.

 

     So I'm really looking forward to this panel.  I won't be able to stay for the entire time, but I'd like to commend AUSA for having the panel.  I'd like to commend the Army for their far-reaching thinking.  I'd like to commend all of the services because I'm telling you right now, there hasn't been a situation like this in quite some time, where every one of the services are involved in such deep thought about operational and tactical innovation.

 

     So again, thank you all to you here -- those here in the audience and I can't wait to hear what comes out of the panel.  Thank you.

 

     Now, because I may have to leave, General Perkins has asked me to answer just one or two questions because I already arrived a little late.  I will be happy to do so.  If there are no questions, I am happy to sit down.  So if anybody has a question, I have time for one or maybe two.

 

     Yes, sir?

 

     Q:  You didn't mention about autonomous systems.   In light of the third off-set strategy, what is your thinking about letting in the future autonomous systems make lethality decisions without a human in the loop?

 

     MR. WORK:  I purposely didn't talk a lot about the technology behind the third off-set because in a audience like this, you get that the most important thing is the operational concepts and the organizational constructs that employ that technology.

 

     But let me state this -- state it this way.  There will be some instances where operations are happening at machine speeds and we will have to rely upon A.I. and autonomy to actually fight.  Three of them come immediately to mind; cyber attacks, electronic warfare attacks and heavy guided missile salvo attacks.  In each of those three cases, we will have to delegate authority to the machines to make the final decisions.

 

     In every case that I can think of in terms of offensive operations, we will use machines to empower the human and not vice versa.  Our competitors may go in a different way.  Authoritarian regimes see every single person inside their organization as a potential liability, because if the supreme commander says take this hill and if the squad leader on the ground says I can achieve better affects by taking that hill, that is not something they would want.  And we know this because the conception of the Soviet reconnaissance strike complex was ultimately to be totally automated.

 

     Our battle networks will empower humans.  Humans will make the decisions on lethality, humans will make the decision on campaign design, humans will make the decision on tactical courses of action.  So this is not about Skynet and Terminator.

 

     This is about Iron Man.  Really, think about Iron Man.  This is human.  This is machines helping the human achieve effects.

 

     One last question and then I have got to cede the field.  Did you have a question there?  You were standing by the mic.  Why don't you ask a question?

 

     Q:  I'm good, sir.  Thank you.

 

     MR. WORK:  Okay.  Well, again -- yes.  One more real quick.

 

     Q:  Sydney Freedberg from Breaking Defense.

 

     MR. WORK:  Hi, Sydney.

 

     Q:  You've mentioned the importance of the operational level of war, which is certainly crucial.  But one critique we've had -- well, from Vietnam on, but particularly with Iraq and Afghanistan -- is that we've actually fallen down -- (inaudible) -- strategic level that we've, you know, kind of like the Germans in World War II, have been really, really good at the military parts but terrible at the pol-mil parts.

 

     Is there a way to make sure that in our focus on multi-domain that we don't create a very effective military machine that once again has terrible strategic direction?

 

     MR. WORK:  Listen, the Department of Defense focuses on conventional and strategic deterrence.  That's what we focus on.  And conventional deterrence is based on making sure our adversaries understand that we do have an advantage at both the operational and tactical level of war, and if they decide to take us on, they are most likely, and in my case I would say they are certain, to lose.

 

     The decision about how you employ the military is far beyond what this panel is about.  I want them focused on one thing and one thing only; multi-domain battle, electromagnetic maneuver, operational maneuver from the sea, what is EABO --I really like that one, but I can't remember what it is -- expeditionary advanced basing operations where Marine and Army soldiers control the sea from the land.  I mean, that's what this focus is about.

 

     So I am going to dodge the questions --

 

     And say I'm looking forward to the panels.

 

     And thank you again.