Within Defense

The Defense program focuses on the strategic choices and opportunities available to preserve and extend U.S. military advantage in the face of evolving security challenges. From assessing the past, present, and future security environments to exploring alternative operating concepts, force structures, and basing options to testing alternatives through innovative scenarios and wargames, the Defense program aims to be a hub of innovation and action. Areas of debate and discussion extend to U.S. defense strategy and spending, the evolution of the nation’s nuclear strategy, and its approach to space as an area of competition in the near future. With its innovative research, writing, and engagement, the Defense team drives the defense debate forward.

When senior U.S. defense officials presented the challenge for analysts to help develop a new defense and deterrence strategy for space in light of the growing challenges to the U.S. space architecture, Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow Elbridge Colby answered with his report “From Sanctuary to Battlefield: A Framework for a U.S. Defense and Deterrence Strategy for Space.”

In the report, Colby argues that the United States must prepare to fight and prevail in a limited war in and affecting space, and lays out a framework for how the United States can best do so in ways that are both effective and stabilizing.

Through its Ethical Autonomy project, CNAS examines the legal, ethical, and policy dimensions of increased autonomy in weapon systems. CNAS experts have contributed to ongoing international discussions by highlighting findings from CNAS research on strategic stability and risk with autonomous weapons, an important consideration for policymakers as they grapple with this emerging technology. In February, CNAS Senior Fellow Paul Scharre’s report, “Autonomous Weapons and Operational Risk,” examined the risks in future autonomous weapons that would choose their own targets and the potential for catastrophic accidents. Later, on the sidelines of the April 2016 United Nations meeting on lethal autonomous weapons in Geneva, team members Scharre and Kelley Sayler presented as members of expert panels.

Additionally, illustrative of CNAS’ convening role, Senior Fellow and the Director of the Defense program Jerry Hendrix hosted a workshop on the future of the Navy and Marine Corps team. The event re-imagined the relationship between the Navy and Marine Corps and took an innovative approach to their mission sets in a future security environment dominated by anti-access/area denial technologies.

In 2017, one major effort of the team in will be Project Pathways. The project’s final report will lay out a novel approach to addressing the intensifying challenges to U.S.-Russian strategic stability posed by the development and interrelationship of new technologies in cyber, space, conventional strike, autonomous systems, and missile defense. The work will outline a framework for developing and vetting constructive steps the United States and Russia can take to work toward stability.

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