The Special Competitive Studies Project (SCSP) released its first of six interim panel reports (IPR), “The Future of Conflict and the New Requirements of Defense,” today. The SCSP Defense IPR outlines a technology-centered strategy for the U.S. military called Offset-X.
“Offset-X is a technology-enabled competitive strategy that aims to outsmart, outpace, outmaneuver, and – when necessary – outgun our adversaries,” said SCSP Board of Advisor Bob Work. “Offset-X provides Congress and the administration a framework for the next and future national defense budgets.”
“Offset-X is not a war plan against China or Russia. It seeks to lay the groundwork for achieving and maintaining military-technological superiority, much like we did with stealth, precision strike systems, and networks in our previous offset strategies,” said SCSP Chair Dr. Eric Schmidt.
The Defense IPR provides 10 recommendations that the Department of Defense (DoD) and Congress should adopt, beginning with the fiscal year 2024 budget cycle.
“Our first recommendation is that the DoD more fully embrace distributed, networked operations. This plays to the United States’ strengths, reflects the new demands of warfare, and exploits the weaknesses of Chinese and Russian rigid and hierarchical operations. Our second recommendation is that the U.S. military should incorporate human-machine collaboration and teaming throughout its activities. Human-machine collaboration can enable faster and superior decision-making. Human-machine teaming can enable execution of complex and high-risk missions, while reducing risks to mission, force, and civilians,” said SCSP Defense Panel Senior Director Justin Lynch.
Another critical recommendation is for DoD to gain and maintain software superiority. “A military’s ability to deploy, employ, and update software faster than its adversaries is likely to become one of the greatest determining factors in relative military strength,” said SCSP Defense Panel Senior Advisor (USAF, Ret.) Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan. “In future crises and conflicts, the side that adapts faster and demonstrates the greatest agility – to include rapidly updating fielded software and AI models – may well gain a significant tactical and operational advantage.”
The other core elements of the Defense IPR include:
- Ensure resilience, including through low-cost redundancies. In a war, China will likely aim to paralyze the U.S. military, economy, and decision-making capacity. The U.S. military needs to build resilience across every link and node of its operations. This is not only about cyber-hardening, which is key. It is also about redundancies in our space sensors, communication networks, command and control systems, and attack platforms. This redundancy will come from fielding a large number of low-cost platforms in all domains.
- Pursue Information Advantage. The United States needs to be in a position to undertake three fundamental missions in the information domain: to undermine the censors of the autocratic regimes so that information can flow freely to their populations; to disrupt their military’s ability to communicate; and to defend our own society against misinformation – particularly AI-generated misinformation that can be propagated at scale.
- Develop Counter-Autonomy. As the U.S. military integrates more AI, human-machine teaming, and autonomy, adversaries can be expected to do the same. The U.S. military should, therefore, develop capabilities and concepts for countering adversary autonomy. While the immediate focus of the U.S. military should remain on developing its own autonomous systems, the United States cannot afford to wait for too long to develop the ability to counter and defeat adversarial AI-enabled and autonomous operations.
- Enabling actions. The U.S. government cannot do this alone. It must help its allies to develop a degree of interchangeability with our military. And a new public-private partnership paradigm is required that capitalizes on the strengths of partners in private industry, academa, venture capital, and civil society.