Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work has called for a new offset strategy to help maintain the United States’ military technical superiority. But is a third offset strategy the best approach for the United States today and can we successfully implement one? Previous offset strategies addressed massive Cold War threats by leveraging clear U.S. technological advantages. Today, the U.S. does not face such significant threats nor does it hold unique access to new technology. If done well, pursuing a third offset strategy could provide the Department of Defense an opportunity to set the United States on a more sustainable footing for ongoing military technical superiority. However, it could also see a regression into old thinking focused on a single, state based threat and the pursuit of exquisite weapons systems.
Reviewing the analysis, planning and context for the previous strategies offers insight into which aspects we can leverage from old concepts and what new thinking we must undertake to develop and maintain technological superiority in the 21st century. It is particularly interesting to do this when the DOD is explicitly referencing prior initiatives, such asSecretary Hagel announcing in Newport that Bob Work and Frank Kendall will be leading a new Long Range Research and Development Planning Program.