May 20, 2021

The Pentagon needs a plan to get punched in the mouth

By Chris Dougherty

“Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth,” Mike Tyson said of disrupting opponents’ thinking through violence. Today, China and Russia channel Tyson through strategies that attack U.S. military information and command systems and exploit the resulting cognitive and psychological disruption. They believe that degrading these systems and functions will turn traditional U.S. strengths into weaknesses and allow them to win limited, local conflicts, or deter the United States from fighting altogether. This belief isn’t misplaced.

The Pentagon will soon unveil its solution to this challenge, Joint All-Domain Command and Control, which envisions an overarching network-of-networks enabled by artificial intelligence and cloud data storage. In theory, this hyper-network will restore U.S. information dominance by linking every sensor to every “shooter” across vast theaters to deliver converging effects from dispersed forces, thereby presenting multiple insoluble dilemmas to Chinese or Russian armed forces.

Put simply, the Pentagon needs a plan for getting punched in the mouth.

After 30 years fighting below its so-called weight class, the Pentagon has largely forgotten how to deal with opponents that can disrupt its information and command-and-control systems. U.S. armed forces desperately need a new network architecture, but this vision is simultaneously too ambitious, and not ambitious enough. China and Russia have spent decades developing capabilities and operational concepts to disrupt U.S. information and command systems in space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum. Countless wargames, simulations and historical lessons suggest these domains will be highly contested, and systems operating within them will be heavily degraded. Regaining the information dominance U.S. forces enjoyed during the post-Cold War era is a chimerical goal. Instead, the Pentagon should aim for degradation dominance: operating effectively enough with degraded systems. Put simply, the Pentagon needs a plan for getting punched in the mouth.

Read the full article from C4ISRNET.

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • September 14, 2023
    Why There Are No Game-Changing Weapons for Ukraine

    Germany has become the second-biggest contributor of military aid to Ukraine after the United States, but you wouldn’t know it by following the debate in Berlin. In a replay o...

    By Franz-Stefan Gady

  • Commentary
    • The Messenger
    • September 13, 2023
    To Avoid AI Catastrophes, We Must Think Smaller

    These incidents are not theoretical, nor are they projections of long-term dangers; rather, these AI tools are already presenting tangible threats to individual health and wel...

    By Josh Wallin

  • Commentary
    • Breaking Defense
    • September 7, 2023
    For Replicator to Work, the Pentagon Needs to Directly Help with Production

    Today’s innovation ecosystem alone cannot achieve the necessary production scale, especially for the less commercially viable classes of systems relevant in the Indo-Pacific....

    By Andrew Metrick

  • Commentary
    • Sharper
    • August 23, 2023
    Sharper: Campaigning and the National Defense Strategy

    The United States faces the unprecedented challenge of simultaneously deterring large-scale conventional aggression by two nuclear-armed powers while also managing other threa...

    By Philip Sheers, Molly Campbell & Anna Pederson

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia