Marcus Aurelius: SSI Monograph on Known Unknowns – Unconventional “Strategic Shocks” in Defense Strategy Development

Advanced Cyber/IO, DoD, Ethics, Government, Lessons, Military, Officers Call, Strategy
Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius

Ladies and Gentlemen:

You may want to check out US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute paper at link below and attached:

Read with a view to some of the strange things that have been ascribed to FEMA.


Nathan Freier

Strategic Studies Institute, November 2008


The likeliest and most dangerous future shocks will be unconventional. They will not emerge from thunderbolt advances in an opponent’s military
capabilities. Rather, they will manifest themselves in ways far outside established defense convention. Most will be nonmilitary in origin and character, and not, by definition, defense-specific events conducive to the conventional employment of the DoD enterprise.

They will rise from an analytical no man’s land separating well-considered, stock and trade defense contingencies and pure defense speculation. Their
origin is most likely to be in irregular, catastrophic, and hybrid threats of “purpose” (emerging from hostile design) or threats of “context” (emerging in the absence of hostile purpose or design). Of the two, the latter is both the least understood and the most dangerous.

. . . . . . .

Defense analysis and strategy are inherently reactive. Historically, defense strategy development and planning have demonstrated three critical flaws. For too long, they have been overly reactive. Corporately, they have lacked sufficient imagination . And, as a result, both have been vulnerable to surprise.

. . . . . . .

Shocks do, as Tangredi suggests, undermine prevailing strategy and planning assumptions. And thus, they also often lie outside “traditionalor permitted” areas of defense inquiry.

. . . . . . .

The gap between the conventional and well-considered and the incredible or highly speculative should be a priority in future defense analysis.

. . . . . . .

Purposeful threats are defense-specific or defense-relevant security challenges originating in the hostile designs of a consequential opponent. Threats
of context are defense-relevant security challenges emerging slowly or suddenly from circumstances endemic to the strategic environment itself; all in the
absence of hostile design vis-à-vis the United States.

. . . . . . .

The most challenging defense-relevant shocks might emerge from adverse conditions endemic to the environment itself. This is made more certain by
the unguided forces of globalization, toxic populism, identity politics, underdevelopment, human/natural disaster, and disease. In the end, shocks emerging from contextual threats might challenge core U.S. interests more fundamentally than any number of prospective purposeful shocks. This is especially true given the degree to which threats of context remain unconsidered or, at a minimum, undervalued in contemporary defense planning and decisionmaking.

. . . . . . .

Defense strategy and planning are trapped by excessive convention.

. . . . . . .

Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order
and human security. Deliberate employment of weapons of mass destruction or other catastrophic capabilities, unforeseen economic collapse, loss of function-
ing political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters are all paths to disruptive domestic shock.

. . . . . . .

The United States might also consider the prospect that hostile state and/or nonstate actors might individually or in concert combine hybrid methods
effectively to resist U.S. influence in a nonmilitary manner.

. . . . . . .

At the national and subnational level, purposeful opponents could synchronize nonmilitary effort, agitating quasi-legitimate proxies into concerted social
action and precision political violence targeted at nullifying traditional U.S. military advantages, limiting American freedom of action, and adversely shaping the strategic choices of or political outcomes inside key but vulnerable American partners.

. . . . . . .

Under these circumstances, when competitor militaries are in the mix, they are less tools focused directly against U.S. military superiority and more effective foils against American military intimidation. In this regard, U.S. military forces would be sidelined. Employment of U.S. military power would hold little promise for reversing adverse political and economic conditions. Further, the overt use of military force by the United States would largely be viewed as illegitimate for redress of competitor success in nonmilitary domains.

Phi Beta Iota:  None of the above is new, but it is most helpful as a reminder that since at least 1988, smart loyal experts have been trying to ring the bell.  The author avoids the stark reality that corruption and a lack of integrity have gutted OSD and the service “leaderships” (enabled by an intelligence community that is unintelligent and largely worthless at producing compelling decision support for strategy, policy, acqusition, and operations). We do not lack for imagination.  We lack for integrity.

See Also:

1989 Al Gray (US) on Global Intelligence Challenges

1990 Intelligence in the 1990′s – Six Challenges

1991 MCG Intelligence Support for Expeditionary Planners

1992 AIJ Fall ‘New Paradigm” and Avoiding Future Failures

1992 MCU Thinking About Revolution

1993 From Schoolhouse to White House

1993 On Defense & Intelligence–The Grand Vision

1996: CREATING A SMART NATION: Strategy, Policy, Intelligence & Information

1997 Strategic Intelligence in the USA: Myth or Reality?

1997 USIP Conference on Virtual Diplomacy Virtual Intelligence: Conflict Avoidance and Resolution through Information Peacekeeping

1998 Information Peacekeeping: The Purest Form of War

1998 JFQ The Asymmetric Threat: Listening to the Debate

2000 Presidential Leadership and National Security Policy Making

2001 Threats, Strategy, and Force Structure: An Alternative Paradigm for National Security

2003 Information Peacekeeping & The Future of Intelligence: The United Nations, Smart Mobs, and the Seven Tribes

2008 Rebalancing the Instruments of National Power–Army Strategy Conference of 2008 Notes, Summary, & Article

2008 U.S. Naval Power in the 21st Century

2009 Fixing the White House & National Intelligence

2009 Human Intelligence: All Humans, All Minds, All the Time

2009 Intelligence for the President–AND Everyone Else

2009 Perhaps We Should Have Shouted: A Twenty-Year Retrospective

2009 Robert Steele: Politics & Intelligence–Partners Only When Integrity is Central to Both

2011 Peace from Above: Future of Intelligence & Air Power

2011 Robert Steele: Reflections on Revolution, Information & Civil Affairs

2012 Robert Steele: Reflections on Healing the Americas

2012 Robert Steele: Reflections on Inspectors General

2012 Robert Steele: The Human Factor & The Human Environment: Concepts & Doctrine? Implications for Human & Open Source Intelligence

2012 Robert Steele: The Human Factor & The Human Environment: Concepts & Doctrine? Implications for Human & Open Source Intelligence 2.0

2012 Robert Steele: Reflections on the US Military — Redirection Essential — and a Prerequisite to Creating a 450-Ship Navy, a Long-Haul Air Force, and an Air-Liftable Army

2012 Foreword to NATO Book on Public Intelligence for Public Health [As Published]

2012 Robert Steele: Addressing the Seven Sins of Foreign Policy — Why Defense, Not State, Is the Linch Pin for Global Engagement

2013 The Evolving Craft of Intelligence [As Published]

2013 Public Governance in the 21st Century: New Rules, Hybrid Forms, One Constant – The Public [Work in Progress]

2013 ON REVOLUTION — HelpngTransform the US Army Consistent with CSA Guidance

2013 Robert Steele: Reflections on Reform 2.2 Numbers for 30% DoD Cut over 2-4 Years

2013 Robert Steele Reflections on NATO 4.0 — Key Challenges AND Solutions [written for NATO ACT Innovation Hub]

2013 Robert Steele Reflections on Alternative Command & Control (AltC2) — Five Questions and a Game Plan 1.1 [written for NATO ACT Innovation Hub]

2013 Robert Steele — Alternative Command & Control and Four Transformation Forcing Concepts [written for NATO ACT Innovation Hub]

2013 Story Board: Improving Decision-Support — Analytic Sources, Models, Tools, & Tradecraft