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  • Author: Huba Wass de Czege
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Does The US Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028 lack a clear theory of victory? A comparative analysis of the development of MDO and the historical concepts of Active Defense and AirLand Battle reveals the necessity of greater insight into sources of Russian and Chinese behavior and countering mechanisms, what constitutes effective deterrence, and greater clarity regarding the political will of Allies to assist in this deterrence.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Army
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: C. Anthony Pfaff
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: As is well known, then acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly fired Captain Brett Crozier, captain of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, after he wrote a letter arguing that all but ten percent of the crew should disembark the ship to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Doing so, he acknowledged, would diminish the carrier’s readiness and slow its response time in a crisis. Justifying that decision, however, he argued, “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”1 The problem for the captain, of course, was not the content of the letter as much as it was the subsequent leak to the San Francisco Chronicle. Setting aside the fiasco that resulted in his firing, and led to Modly’s sudden resignation, 2 the captain raises some important concerns regarding what the risks sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines3 should be required to take in peacetime. Because it is peacetime, he argues, “[W]e … cannot allow a single Sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily.”4 Of course, even in war no one should die unnecessarily; however, the captain raises a good question: “what risks are necessary in peacetime?” To answer that question it is first important to understand what risks are necessary in wartime
  • Topic: War, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Risk, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: United States of America
  • Author: John R. Deni
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Over the last month, an array of analysts and experts has attempted to ascertain what the post-pandemic world might look like from strategic, policy, or institutional perspectives. Several of these assessments feature dramatic predictions of a new world unlike what existed just months ago. It’s reasonable to expect change following a global crisis, but the near breathlessness detectable in some of these analyses evinces a lack of nuance or an appreciation for stasis. Moreover, few of these or other analyses have addressed the implications in a transatlantic context, or suggested specific mitigation steps. This brief essay reflects a more balanced attempt to fill these gaps, identifying recommendations for the US Army and Department of Defense to leverage the crisis and mitigate the damage across the transatlantic community.
  • Topic: Armed Forces, Transatlantic Relations, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Steven Metz
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: As the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the United States, the Army is simultaneously providing extensive support to civil authorities and maintaining readiness to perform its deterrence and warfighting missions. Eventually the current crisis will subside but the United States and its Army will not simply return to the way things were before. The pandemic has unleashed great change within the United States and the global security environment, accelerating forces that will, in combination, be revolutionary. As Dmitri Simes put it, "If ever the modern world faced a “perfect storm,” this is it. The combination of a deadly and highly infectious virus, an emerging worldwide economic depression, the collapse of global governance, and an absence of a coordinated and effective international response—all have contributed to a tragedy of historic magnitude, one that will not be easily overcome." While it is impossible to predict precisely the course of any revolution, it is important to assess the likely or possible direction of change. Given that, this discussion paper suggests some of the long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the US Army and recommends one or more senior leader steering committees the Army should undertake once the immediate crisis is under control.
  • Topic: Security, Army, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Mr. Nathan P. Freier, Robert Hume, John Schaus
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The Department of Defense (DOD) needs to re-institutionalize horizon scanning for “strategic shock” and integrate this perspective into its strategy, plans, and risk assessment. Defense-relevant “strategic shocks” are disruptive, transformational events for DOD. Though their precise origin and nature are uncertain, strategic shocks often emerge from clear trends. Shocks are often recognized in advance on some level but are nonetheless “shocking” because they are largely ignored. Too often, rapid strategic shock catches the DOD off guard because leadership fails to account for it. To be sure, accounting for shock is a value judgment. Many may actually see what ultimately becomes a shock well in advance. However, readying for shock requires leadership to understand a contingency event’s potential for strategic-level hazard. Failing that, and once confronted with shock, leadership frequently mischaracterizes it as defying reasonable prediction and prior planning.
  • Topic: Armed Forces, Army, COVID-19, Strategic Planning
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: John Schaus, Mr. Nathan P. Freier
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to over three million confirmed infections and more than one hundred thousand dead globally. In the United States, over sixty thousand people have died and more than 1 million have been infected. According to epidemiologists, this is only the first phase. Thus, near-term “success” against the outbreak reflects a current snapshot in time, not necessarily a permanent outcome. In light of our very preliminary understanding of the long-term impact of the outbreak and national-level responses, there are discernible trends about how countries’ responses are impacting their standing in key regions and around the world. Few regions offer such stark contrast in stories as the Indo-Pacific. In that region, South Korea is up, China is down, and the United States is out. These shifts may or may not endure. What is increasingly clear, however, is that ineffective responses—perceived at home or abroad—will limit policymakers’ freedom of action for some time to come.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Armed Forces, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Korea, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Christopher J. Bolan
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: It is worth approaching an assessment of the likely impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Middle East with a strong dose of humility. Nonetheless, it is clear that the spread of this disease has already had major impacts on the global economy, drastically reducing demand for Middle East oil exports, and leading to a historic collapse in oil prices. The immediate challenges of dealing with the monumental health and economic challenges posed by COVID-19 will add to the troubles of a region already burdened by multiple civil wars, poorly performing economies, growing civil discontent, and intensified sectarian divisions. This article offers a preliminary assessment of the potential impacts of COVID-19 on the security landscape of the Middle East and advances recommendations for how US military strategy and operations might adapt.
  • Topic: Security, Oil, Military Strategy, Economy, Exports, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Isaiah Wilson III
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Almost no more need be said. This is not the traditional “monster” America prepared to destroy. But, it is the monster we face. The coronavirus, COVID-19, typifies the “compound” nature of today’s security threats. This deadly adversary is inimical to accepted international laws and conventions regarding warfare and human security protections. It is a true omnivore, respecting no borders and consuming all classes, genders, races, and faiths. This adversary has driven mass societal disruption and managed in about four months’ time to infect over 1.2 million (confirmed cases) with nearly 72,000 deaths, in the United States alone. Worldwide economic recession, even depression, seems likely and national publics now question their governments’ capacity and will to contain the adversary. Should governments fail to do so (most experts agree that the opportunity to contain COVID-19 is lost), big-data computer projections predict as many as 173,000 could die in the United States by the end of May 2020. The yet untold damage from such a toll across all sectors—political, economic, and societal—is incalculable. The potential for a global paradigm shift in the way we should perceive these threats is real. Some may ask, why speak of combatting a global pandemic as though we are waging an epochal war? This moment takes the popular fashion of war rhetoric beyond the metaphorical: We are at war against this virus…or at least we should be. We should regard this threat and its compounded implications as the security issue it is. COVID-19 is indicative of the changed nature of many of today’s threats.
  • Topic: Security, Government, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: United States of America
  • Author: Matt Lawrence
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic is going to change military recruiting. Recently, the Army and its sister forces have been forced to recruit virtually and have slowed processing through basic training. The Army has been vague about its recruiting goals, instead focusing on end strength, so it will not have to deal with the fanfare of missing its mission as it did in 2018. But the virus and its effects will actually help recruiting in the future. There was a storm gathering for recruiters, as the number of target youth would decrease in the years 2026-2031—a result of a decreased birth rate through the 2008 financial crisis and its fallout. Competition was going to be fierce with businesses and higher education. The virus changed everything.
  • Topic: Education, Military Affairs, Army, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: C. Anthony Pfaff
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: There has been a great deal of speculation regarding how the current COVID-19 pandemic could affect civil-military relations in the United States. Oona Hathaway observes that after the terrorists attacks on September 11, 2001, which killed approximately three thousand Americans, the United States “radically re-oriented” its security priorities and embarked on a two-decadelong global war on terror that cost $2.8 trillion from 2002 to 2017. Given that COVID-19 could kill more than one hundred thousand Americans, she argues that it is time to re-orient those priorities again.1 Of course, simply re-orienting security priorities by themselves will not be transformative. Nora Bensahel and David Barno, for example, argue that diminished defense budgets resulting from shrinking revenues will make less funds available to maintain expensive forward bases and legacy weapons programs. Moreover, they argue, the increased sense of vulnerability will give the National Guard and reserve components a greater priority than active forces given their more prominent role in addressing the current crisis.2 They are probably right that these things will occur. However, a smaller active force and an empowered National Guard and reserve components will not fundamentally alter the role the military plays in American society. That kind of transformation requires not only taking on new missions, but more importantly, taking on new expert knowledge. Since a profession’s status is contingent on a distinct body of expert knowledge, and the autonomy to apply that knowledge within a given jurisdiction, prioritizing human security will require developing expertise in more than the use of force. Doing so will shift the military’s focus from lethality to the prevention, or failing that, the alleviation of suffering, potentially blurring the lines between military and civilian realms. Of course, such an outcome is not inevitable and the US military has played a role in disaster response before without re-orienting its security priorities. However, the COVID-19 pandemic may prove a pivotal moment but not simply because of reduced funding for military expenditures or increased vulnerability to pandemics. Diminishing external security threats, due in some part to the effects of the virus, coupled with increasing demand to assure human well-being both in the United States and abroad, could lead to a rethinking of the military’s role in American society. This rethinking could include the redistribution of roles between the military, civilian agencies, and other organizations, which extends beyond simply decreasing funds spent on defense.
  • Topic: Security, Armed Forces, Pandemic, COVID-19, Civil-Military Relations
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Paul R. Kan
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic is the byproduct of illicit global trafficking. Although COVID-19 was likely transmitted to humans via pangolins sold in the wet markets of Wuhan, China, these markets acted as mere way stations for the virus. The natural habitats of the pangolins are the forests, grasslands, and savannahs of Africa. But, through a network of impoverished local communities, poachers, transnational organized crime, gangs and corrupt officials, approximately 2.7 million of this endangered species are captured and smuggled to Asia every year. The pangolin has earned the sad distinction of being “the most trafficked animal on earth.” The illicit global network of wildlife trafficking was a major facilitator of the pandemic, but the effects of the virus’ spread are, in turn, facilitating more criminal activities while creating the potential for greater internal instability in many states. The contagion-crime nexus has been overshadowed by the urgent need to combat the spread of the virus. Nonetheless, COVID-19 is acting as an amplifier for crime and conflict that will have repercussions in the international security environment in the near and long term.
  • Topic: Crime, Trafficking , Conflict, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Global Focus
  • Author: Dr. Evan Ellis
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic will have profound and enduring negative effects on Latin America and the Caribbean, significantly impacting the security, interests, and strategic position of the United States. Department of Defense and other US senior leaders should begin planning now to mitigate or manage the consequences. The effects of COVID-19 on Latin America and the Caribbean, as in many other parts of the developing world, will be far more significant than is commonly anticipated for two reasons. First, the virus will likely play out across the region over an extended length of time owing to a variety of factors discussed later. Second, the pandemic’s mutually reinforcing health, economic, social, and political effects will combine to wreak far more havoc than anticipated in analyses that only consider disease propagation or effects on commerce. Together, these two dynamics of COVID-19 will leave a Latin America that is far sicker, poorer, beset by crime, violence, social unrest, and political instability than today. It will also leave a region with expanded People’s Republic of China (PRC) commercial presence and political influence, even while being more resentful of it.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Latin America, Caribbean
  • Author: William Braun
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare several long-dormant vulnerabilities, and opportunities, associated with US national security and military business practices. Military leaders must consider political context when making resource prioritization decisions that attend to these new perspectives. Three controversial political themes dominate the national security dialogue in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. First, the nation’s initial focus will likely be on the economic recovery effort, while incorporating preparations to mitigate the reemergence of COVID-19 or a future pandemic. Second, the nation may experience a prolonged period of austerity, possibly combined with greater taxation, to recover COVID-19 related mitigation debt. Finally, because of these first two issues, defense budgets are likely to experience cuts. Defense spending is the only viable discretionary spending category subject to belt-tightening measures amid the divisive political gridlock and vitriol of a highly contentious election year. Emerging analysis suggests the probability of economic stagnation, uneven sector and state economic recovery, mounting national debt, and political infighting in the shadow of a contentious election will underpin these themes. However, analyses of military implications are less developed. Military resource prioritization choices are often biased by traditional justification reasoning and conventional force management assumptions. Arguments defending these choices may not adequately account for the influence of domestic political agendas, structural power pressures, or the military’s culture. This paper will examine domestic political trends, their potential military implications, and offer a few defense management arguments to augment traditional justification reasoning. A future article will consider the influence of stakeholder’s structural power, the culture of the Army’s defense management enterprise, and their influence on arguments used to defend resource prioritization choices.
  • Topic: National Security, Military Affairs, Domestic politics, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Matt Lawrence
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will have significant implications for the military and the US Army. Some experts have suggested that massive budget cuts are likely and will force the Army to increase the size of the reserve components. After all, the reserve components have performed the majority of the military’s work during the pandemic, and have argued for years that they are a low-cost alternative to active forces. However, there are several reasons this should not happen—at least not without a major shift in America’s global military presence and a significant revision of our National Security Strategy. There is no doubt that the Army’s reserve components have played an important role in the nation’s coronavirus response. Over forty-six thousand National Guard troops have been mobilized across the country, and the Army Reserve mobilized over three thousand soldiers. This was most notable in the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces, which deployed to various cities in need of additional manpower. They have provided vital services and a visual reminder of the Army’s homeland responsibilities. The importance of their efforts have led some to suggest that the reserve components will become more important and that resources should be diverted to them or that their numbers should grow. After all, reserve units in reserve status cost less. The National Guard consumes 12 percent of the Army’s base budget, and the Army Reserve only a paltry 6 percent, the major savings being the full-time pay, additional benefits, housing, installation, training, and operations and maintenance costs required by their active counterparts.
  • Topic: Budget, Army, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Nathan Freier, Robert Hume, Al Lord, John Schaus
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: These are complex, turbulent, and uncertain times to be sure. The Department of Defense (DOD) is at an important inflection point. COVID-19 has irrevocably altered the dynamics of international security and reshaped DOD’s decision-making landscape. As a result, DOD will have to adapt to significantly different strategic circumstances post-COVID than those assumed operative in the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS18). We recommend that DOD recognize this to be true, seize the initiative, create opportunity from crisis, and recraft defense strategy to re-emerge from COVID as a stronger, more hypercompetitive institution. The past is definitely prologue in this regard. DOD’s current strategic circumstances mirror those of the immediate post-9/11 period. The wars that followed 9/11 forced a substantial strategic course correction on DOD. By 2003, it was clear that the azimuth set in the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR01) was fundamentally compromised by the stark reality of the Iraq and Afghan wars and the wider “Global War on Terrorism.” There was corporate recognition at the time that the path described in QDR01 was not likely to position the American military for the demands of the post-9/11 environment. Just as war reshaped DOD’s strategic agenda then, COVID-19 will change the dynamics of great power rivalry and the defense choices associated with it going forward as well. By itself, we suggest this necessitates a thoughtful re-examination of the assumptions and approach described in NDS18. To use a pop culture analogy, DOD’s current situation is reminiscent of “Neo’s choice” in the dystopian movie The Matrix. In the film, rebel leader Morpheus offers protagonist Neo the choice of a red pill or a blue pill. The red pill extends to Neo an unvarnished view of “the matrix” and its broader and more difficult set of governing facts. The blue pill, on the other hand, returns Neo to his prior blissfully naïve existence plugged into a land of computer make-believe. The blue pill is all about doubling down on a comfortable yet already discredited past. The red pill offers Neo the opportunity to boldly enter a difficult but nonetheless transformational future. In the end (spoiler alert), Neo chooses red. Like Neo, DOD has its own difficult “red or blue” choice on the near-horizon. COVID forced the issue. DOD’s choice is between prudent risk-taking, transformation, and increased hypercompetitiveness (red) on the one hand, and status quo, steady decline, and inevitable loss of position in key regions and domains on the other (blue). As in the case of Neo, we suggest that DOD choose the former (red pill) transformational option.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Armed Forces, Strategic Competition, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Dr. Jose de Arimateia da Cruz
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The global pandemic known as the novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been wreaking havoc upon the world since it was first detected in Wuhan, China, at the end of December 2019. The disease rapidly spread to all provinces in China, as well as a number of countries overseas, and was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the Director-General of the World Health Organization on 30 January 2020. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) contends that the COVID-19 pandemic is having widespread economic, social, and political effects on Latin America and the Caribbean, a region with strong economic and political ties to the United States. Brazil has been particularly hit hard by COVID-19. It has become a global epicenter for the disease with the second most COVID-19 positive cases in the world after the United States. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro announced July 8, 2020, that he had contracted the virus.
  • Topic: Security, Pandemic, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Brazil, South America, United States of America