Special Commentary: Memorandum for SECDEF: Restore “Shock” in Strategic Planning

Mr. Nathan P. Freier, Robert Hume, John Schaus
Content Type
Commentary and Analysis
The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
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.
Armed Forces, Army, COVID-19, Strategic Planning
Political Geography
North America, United States of America