March 15, 2016

Sustaining the Third Offset in the Next Administration

By Shawn Brimley, and Loren DeJonge Schulman

After more than a year of speeches, debate, and discussion (much of it curated here at War on the Rocks), the recent fiscal year 2017 (FY17) budget submission finally provides facts with which to evaluate the Pentagon’s so-called third offset strategy. After examining the portfolio of investments and initiatives identified by the Department of Defense, we think the Pentagon is off to an excellent start. Looking forward, we hope that progress is sustained well into the next administration — Republican or Democrat. Whether or not this strategy is continued by the administration will govern whether the third offset strategy will succeed or fizzle out.

Discussions about the third offset strategy have been complicated by the range of messages that have come out of the Pentagon since the initiative was first announced by then-Secretary Hagel in November 2014. Descriptions have run the gamut from the need for game-changing technologies, to the challenge posed by anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) technologies and strategies, to the need for autonomous systems and human–machine teaming, to the broader need for innovation. Other related efforts such as Secretary Carter’s structured outreach to Silicon Valley and the launch of several defense innovation initiatives like the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental (DIUx) have further muddied the waters. With no “third offset” line item in the 2017 budget submission and a simplistic tendency to lump every high-tech capability into this bucket, legitimate questions have been raised about how to truly evaluate the effort.

Read the full op-ed in War on the Rocks.