July 21, 2019

The US Is Unprepared to Mobilize for Great Power Conflict

By Elsa B. Kania and Emma Moore

The “fully mobilized Joint Force,” the National Defense Strategy tells us, will be capable of “defeating aggression by a major power; deterring opportunistic aggression elsewhere; and disrupting imminent terrorist and WMD threats.” Yet neither that document, nor U.S. planners in general, are sufficiently grappling with certain mobilization challenges that could prove decisive in a future great power conflict.

There are a few reasons for this shortfall. While U.S. strategists have in the past tended to assume that overmatch will flow from military-technological superiority, this may be no longer feasible, given advances in Chinese military innovation. Tomorrow’s conflicts are also likely to begin far more quickly than wars of the past, allowing little time to shift from a peacetime to a wartime posture and thus necessitating greater concern for competitive mobilization. In addition, efforts to disrupt U.S. critical infrastructure and sow disinformation among the American population to undermine national resolve may be prominent features of future geopolitical competition.

Future conflicts could start rapidly and without warning. Surprise attacks could target U.S. battle networks, satellites, and logistics support in order to undermine C4ISR capabilities, while preventing or impeding power projection. In such a scenario, the American homeland is unlikely to be spared. The attacks of an adversary against U.S. critical infrastructure could cause major damage and disruption in ways that could undermine overall morale and create major impediments to mobilization. Given these threats and these apparent vulnerabilities, the resilience and survivability of the U.S.homeland must remain a core priority. So too, the U.S. military, which has become accustomed to operating in much more permissive environments in its recent history, must also be prepared to mobilize and operate under such demanding conditions.

Read the full article in Defense One.

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