CNAS’ Colby on Nuclear Strategy, Deterrence, Developing New Capabilities, INF Treaty  


Bridge Colby, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force planning — one of the authors of the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy — now the director of the defense program at the Center for a New American Security, discusses new nuclear strategy, the INF treaty and the National Defense Strategy Commission’s recent report with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian in Washington, DC.

Bridge Colby

Center for a New American Security

December 2018 

Vago Muradian:  Welcome to the Defense and Aerospace Report.  I’m Vago Muradian here at the Center for a New American Security at the conclusion of a fascinating discussion about a limited nuclear war and its prospects with Bridge Colby who is the Director of the Defense Program here at CNAS.  Served in the Pentagon as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development.  Wow, that’s not a very long-term, but also one of the key architects of the National Defense Strategy which is to universal acclaim, one of the best strategy documents produced certainly out of the Pentagon in a very, very long time.  So kudos to you on that, Bridge.

You wrote in Foreign Affairs that we need to — the United States and its allies — really need to think about limited war given that the Russians do spend quite a lot of time thinking about what escalate, to de-escalate.  I had this conversation with NATO leaders including a man who was the architect of the UK Nuclear Strategy, Patrick Turner, whose view was look, all nuclear weapons are strategic.  But the Russians are trying to use it in a very, very different way, to use tactical nuclear weapons.  They have a vast assortment of tactical nuclear weapons in their arsenal, not just at the strategic level.

How does the United States and its allies need to think differently about countering a Russian strategy and what is actually an evolving Chinese strategy as well, to use nuclear weapons selectively as basically a brush-back pitch?

Bridge Colby:  Thanks, Vago.  Great to be on.

I think you’ve hit it exactly right, which is I think both the Russians and the Chinese have the increasing ability to escalate in a nuclear level in a limited and selective and potentially decisive way.  A lot of that is about their nuclear capability, but a lot of it is really about their conventional capability and particularly the problem of the fait accompli, the ability to move very quickly and decisively to take over NATO or say Taiwan territory, extend their A2AD umbrella, and then push the burden of escalation onto us.  Then have these nuclear capabilities that they can selectively use to basically say there’s no way you’re going to come back at us in a way that’s compatible with your interests.  And if they can succeed at that, that really undermines the credibility of our alliance commitment.

So our strategy really needs to be designed to defeat that strategy, and I think the NDS, which is Secretary Mattis’ strategy for sure, really was a big part of that. A lot of the solution is actually at the conventional level which is about delaying or degrading or denying the fait accompli, about blunting the ability to take over allied territory and then use nuclear weapons to seal the deal.

Part of it, and what I wrote about in this Foreign Affairs piece is also about the nuclear level and being ready on our part to match or use nuclear weapons in a selective way that recognizes the incredible danger, the apocalyptic danger of of course a nuclear war, never thinking that we could control it.  But ready to go there if circumstances dictate.  I don’t think we can pretend that we can be 100 percent confident that the other side won’t think that a limited nuclear war I possible, so we have to be ready.

Mr. Muradian:  By the way, you were using in your talk military tech–, Paul Sonne of the Washington Post was here, moderated what was a great discussion, and a lot of very smart people in the audience, so an excellent invitation list. I’m the sort of low-hanging fruit that managed to roll in under the doorstep.

But you used some military technical which is really good, quite Russian, quite Soviet.

Mr. Colby:  — Russian, yeah.

Mr. Muradian:  It does.  But how much of this is a technical thing?  You know, you talked about submarine-launched cruise missiles and tactical nuclear weapons coming back into the space.  How much of this is a technical piece?  How much of this is an intellectual piece?  Because wargame after wargame after wargame, I take an interest in wargames and I found, oh, you know, we were in D+5 in a conventional slugging match on the Chinese continent, and you’re like come on, guys.  They’re going to pull the nuclear lever a lot earlier in this.

So at what point do we really need to more accurately test how quickly things go up that escalatory ladder?  Because if you have national strategies that are predicated on de-escalating or compelling your adversaries to stand down by scaring the living crap out of them, you’re going to have to consider that at some point.  So talk to us about the technical piece, talk to us about the intellectual strategic piece.

Mr. Colby:  I think it’s mostly intellectual, and then what comes from that, and I think a lot of the technical are sort of force development aspects, are actually largely going to be at the conventional side.  I mean the nuclear force, there would be some changes to it, particularly doctrine, planning, exercises, strategy, some technical shifts.  But it’s much more I think about the conventional forces and what it would mean for them.

I think the intellectual side is the recognition that we are facing potential adversaries who have the real ability to contest our ability to defend our forward allies and partners, and especially with the growth of Chinese military power.  That’s going to be a greater and greater ambit of our allies and partners.

So what does that mean?  And particularly the fact that they also have survivable nuclear arsenals.  So if we don’t have a sensible recourse, a limited nuclear strategy is dominating.  It wins. It’s like a dominating hand in a card game or something like that.

So we have to have some way to go back at that level.  But we also need to shape our forces down the ladder at the conventional level so that they are putting us in the best position so that the other side doesn’t have that dominating strategy.  A lot of that, again, is about delaying, degrading, denying the fait accompli, blunting adversary forces.  We’ve got to move away from this kind of CONUS-based surge force that takes a long time. I mean the Desert Storm model is a way of putting it.  The Desert Storm model was incredibly successful against an Iraq that had a large conventional military, but was behind us, and didn’t have nuclear weapons.  You could take six months to build up the iron mountain of capability.  When the coalition got good and ready, establish aerospace dominance, turn out their lights, start the ground campaign, and call it quits when we were good and ready.

That’s not going to work, because the war’s going to be over after a couple of weeks, if that. So we have to have our forces be able to contest Russian or Chinese aggression from the get-go and not let them harden their control over a Kuwait or whatever the target would be — Taiwan, the Baltics, et cetera, et cetera.  And that will put us in a better position if the situation escalates, to make it less advantageous, less likely they will do so to the nuclear level, and therefore, make nuclear war less likely in the first place.

Mr. Muradian:  Have we already, in terms of choices made, right?  Everybody always talks about hard choices.  There’s another budget drill that’s coming.  Folks in the administration say hey look, the Pentagon got warning about this.  This is not a surprise cut.  Folks were discussing this a year ago.  Others say hey look, the additional four and a half was not anticipated. We had a sense that ’20 was going to be another strong year.  Immaterial. The figure is going to change, and everybody always talks about making tough choices at the end of the day.  But there is a concern, and it’s been discussed whether in comments by Admiral Davidson, the Indo-Pacific Commander, and others that actually in a lot of ways the Chinese — the threat of our conventional deterrent is actually ringing hollow to the Chinese who look at their continent and say there are 300,000 to 400,000 aim points.  You attack any of those, it’s game on on the nuclear side. You don’t want that.  Your carriers have a tremendously very, very short range in terms of the capability they can project.  For example, the critics of the F-35 program.  Although the airplane does have a lot more range than people think, a lot more payload than they think.  The bomber force is a very, very small one.  We don’t have conventional missile throw capability, for example, like they do.

What do you think, now that you’re unconstrained from having to sing a particular song, what are some of the major muscle movements that it’s time to make for the U.S. military to regain some of its conventional deterrent [Schlitz], because the greatest danger about conflict is China gets economically unstable and then doesn’t really regard the U.S. military as really as formidable as the U.S. military might think it is?

Mr. Colby:  I think hard choices are exactly what needs to happen.  I think we absolutely need to adequately resource the Defense Department, but I think the strategy, and under Secretary Mattis’ leadership have made it clear what the basis for those hard choices should be, and it’s a focus on the Chinese and the Russians and being able to right and prevail in a strategically significant, plausible scenario.  Particularly this fait accompli scenario.  And that means forces that are lethal, resilient, agile, and ready.  And they’re able to contest from the get-go through combat credible forward force.

What does this mean? It probably means something like a high/low mix at the high end, as well as a high/low mix across the conflict spectrum.

At the high end, it means forces that are very probably exquisite and survivable, that are more expensive, even at the high end, that do a lot of the kind of core missions, but then complemented by a very large sort of force of lower end attritable systems that can contribute to the survivability and the ISR and the strike aspects and so forth.

So I think in the context, you mentioned the carrier.  I think the future of the carrier has got to be in combat aviation, carrier aviation, that involves significant numbers of penetrating strike that can operate in the most severe parts of a scenario in the Pacific.  That’s got to be the future of the carrier.  Otherwise the carrier’s left in this middle where it’s too expensive to operate at the low end, but it can’t survive at the high end.

So I think friends of the carrier should all be thinking about how do we make the carrier air wing more lethal?  How do we make it more survivable?  Et cetera, et cetera.

Similarly with tactical aviation.  How do you increase the range?  How do you make it more likely to operate from a greater variety of basing locations given that a lot of them are going to be under attack?  How do you increase the munitions payload?  How do you allow it to marry up with lower end systems? These are all the kinds of things that need to happen.

But I think the strategy is pretty clear.  The Department cut JSTARS which is not survivable in a high-end scenario.  There was an article in the Washington Post a week or so ago saying that there’s less of the sort of commanding focus for the Middle East that has been the case for 15 years.  That’s exactly the signals that we should be seeing, and those should keep going forward to say let’s make more use of unmanned systems that can enable the survivability, lethality, ISR, et cetera, of our systems.  And that’s where it’s going to go.

I think on the force employment side you want to see less sort of use of the force in say the greater Middle East and more Air Force practicing at Red Flag, more naval aviators at Top Gun, more Army rotations at NTC designed for high-end scenarios. More exercises in Europe showing, like REFORGER, that our forces are ready to go, fall in next to the Bundeswehr which is making serious progress in recommitting to collective defense.  Or in Asia with the Japanese Self Defense Forces showing that our forces are ready, they’re combat credible, they can survive in contested environments, they have the capability, they’re experimenting on new concepts of operations, they’re employing new technology, et cetera, et cetera.  That is the best way we’re going to have a credible deterrent here with great power competition.

Mr. Muradian:  Was it an error, do you think, to start becoming as aggressive about China?  It’s one thing for the Chinese and the Russians to be aggressive.  We as the super power have always been a balancing force on that, that okay, hey, that registers, we’re planning, we’re preparing. But we never want to give any potential adversary a card to turn the argument around rhetorically or otherwise and point it at us.

Do you think that’s getting a little too muscular in sort of being much more specific in terms of naming and shaming and amping up the rhetoric as we have, as sharply as we have on China?

Mr. Colby:  Not at all, because I think we’re not being aggressive toward China, we’re being honest now, and the Chinese have shifted from the bide your time, hide your capabilities.  Under the new leadership they’re much more assertive, much more aggressive, and it’s only going to get more so as they’re more powerful in the future.

We’re calling it out and making it clear what’s going on.

In addition, what we’re seeing in countries in the region, and I think it’s really important that they understand this, is the Americans are committed to our interests in Asia.  That we are committed to a free and open Asia.  We have been since the early 19thcentury if not before.  And we are, by taking the heat, by being the clear ones, we are giving political cover and confidence to countries in the region that all we want from countries in the region is that they are essentially independent and autonomous, able to make their own political and trading decisions. That’s our interest.

China looks like it’s seeking regional ascendancy.  We don’t want that.  We’re not trying to seek regional ascendancy in Asia.

So I think things like Vice President Pence’s speech is to be applauded because it’s candid, it’s realistic, the National Security Strategy is very clear about that.  Also the National Defense Strategy.  It’s not aggressive on China.

What are the characteristics of the force that we’re talking about?  Lethal, resilient, agile and ready.  You don’t have a force that’s resilient and ready if you’re looking to attack.  China has nothing to fear from our defense strategy because it is status quo oriented.  We’re looking to defend our allies and established partners.

So if they have a problem with that, that suggests something, that they want to use force to change the rules of the road in the region and that’s something that I think everybody should be quite worried about.

Mr. Muradian:  Full disclosure, I wasn’t endorsing that view, but certainly that’s a criticism.

Let me ask you about Taiwan.  We even heard it here, a close U.S. ally.  The dynamics in Taiwan are changing.  It increasingly sees itself as its own country.  China has really laid a marker down.  You mentioned Xi going to the province just on the other side of the islands and said hey, you guys have got to gird for a potential war in this region.

What does the approach have to be?  Because ceding Taiwan — it’s an ally, it’s a partner.  It’s fraught with, as one of the people here today suggested, we should worry less about defending Taiwan.  That’s ground we can cede to the Chinese.

Talk to us a little bit about what are the stakes for doing that, and particularly, what are things the United States can do to bolster what is a key ally independently, but also as a whole of Asia kind of approach to it.

Mr. Colby:  Look, Taiwan is a partner with which we’ve had long and established relationship, in which we’re committed through the Taiwan Relations Act, the six assurances and so forth.  I think the people of Taiwan and we respect their kind of democratic wishes, that the status quo be maintained and not be changed through force.  I think we should be clear that we would regard Chinese aggression or use of military force to change the political disposition on Taiwan as a very grave threat to our interests, so I think we should be very clear about that. I don’t think we should support any effort by Taiwan to change its status quo.

Mr. Muradian:  Meaning the declaration of independence.

Mr. Colby:  A declaration of independence is not something we should support.

But certainly against unprovoked attack on the part of China, that’s something we should more clearly say that we would intervene against.

I think Taiwan has been taking some important steps.  Taiwan has, I think, been laggard in many ways over the years.  Now it appears that they are fundamentally moving with their new defense concept, and that is really to be applauded.  That it’s a defense concept designed to really defend themselves using asymmetric means, working with obviously the experts and so forth here and elsewhere.  I think that’s a really important step and it shows the seriousness on the part of Taiwan that will make our ability to help them much easier.

But I think a threat to Taiwan and Chinese aggression against Taiwan, or ability to suborn Taiwan would be a very, very negative step for the region, for U.S. interests.  It would say a lot about China’s behavior and about China’s power.

So I think certainly from my perspective we should be clearly focused on helping Taiwan defend itself and making it clear to China that that would never be a good idea to use force against Taiwan.

Mr. Muradian:  And you believe it is one of the most dangerous potential conflicts in the world.

Mr. Colby:  I do.  I think it is the most dangerous conflict in the world probably, because obviously China thinks, at least notionally or formally, wants to unify with what it regards as a renegade province.  The people in Taiwan are not interested, and less and less interested in being identified as Chinese.  And of course the government on the mainland is moving away from liberalization.  At the same time the military balance is becoming more competitive and our commitment to Taiwan, some people question here in public.  So that’s a situation where there could be some uncertainty or ambiguity and I think things like the National Security Strategy and the Indo-Pacific Strategy have sent a pretty clear signal about the U.S. view on Taiwan.  But I think we should all be clear that China’s attack on Taiwan or an attempt to suborn Taiwan would be really a grave threat to our interest and would be responded to accordingly.

Mr. Muradian: Last two questions.  One, conventional missilry.  The Bush administration said that ballistic missile submarines should carry some conventional weapons on them for prompt global strike.  That’s been a priority.  There’s a lot of investment, for example, in hypersonic systems as well, to try to aid that particular focus of Dr. Griffin on the R&D side of the organization in the Pentagon.

But there’s always been a lingering concern that a conventional ballistic missile coming off of a submarine, a conventional D5, could be misconstrued as an attack.  You gave a rather fulsome counter-argument to that point, but that was something that numerous people in the audience asked. What’s your counterpoint to that kind of thinking, that actually the outfitting of the submarine force with this capability would be destabilizing?  You similarly sort of addressed why submarine-launched nuclear cruise missiles actually would not be destabilizing.  So you’ve got two things the submarine force is doing there. Address both of those, on why you believe both are actually stabilizing influences, not destabilizing influences.

Mr. Colby:  I think the conventional submarine-launched ballistic missile, I think it’s mostly a cost question, whether the value of such a weapon would be more valuable than a nuclear missile or a nuclear warhead on that missile, and I’m skeptical.  I think there are probably conventional strike options that we could use otherwise.

I think if we could use a different trajectory to make it clear that it’s not a nuclear missile, that’s to our advantage.

I am a supporter of the low yield ballistic missile SLBM.  I think the distinguishing problems on the part of the Russians are real but they tend to be exaggerated in the sense that the Russians seeing a small number of ballistic missiles in the context of, probably were they to use nuclear weapons first, they essentially, the people who are concerned about their reacting by launching their entire strategic deterrent force are saying that they would commit suicide for fear of death.  I think the Russians would be more likely to look at that more rationally.

Of course that’s an assumption that people would behave at least somewhat rationally in that kind of context.

I think it’s a problem, but it’s one that can be managed.

I think the sea-launched cruise missile issue is more that I’m concerned about when we’re going through the SSN bathtub, that whether those systems could be more profitably be used for conventional strike.  I think those are really precious and I think that function, maybe the LRSO and other things could be useful in that function.  So I think the low yield ballistic missile is actually more valuable in the SLCM.

Mr. Muradian:  Very good.

By the way, people work their entire careers to not come up with a line that good, and that’s a really, really good line.  Very strategic, but very evocative.

Last question.

There was a lot of debate and discussion about what happens with Jim Mattis at the Pentagon.  His detractors have a litany of, he’s not doing this, readiness hasn’t improved that much, there isn’t that big of a change in the posture, look at what’s happening in Afghanistan, as if all of those are sort of his challenges. His supporters say look, he’s a stabilizing influence and really does have the department on the rails for a strategic future.

From your standpoint, how important is Jim Mattis to the execution of this strategy?  And do you believe that he’s going to stick it out like some people say?  Obviously it’s the number one parlor conversation in Washington.  I don’t want to compromise any conversations you may have had with the boss on this.

But what light can you shed in terms of the importance of his role at the department and his longevity?

Mr. Colby:  I think Secretary Mattis is a tremendous Secretary of Defense.  I think he’s been the most strategic Secretary of Defense, which is in some sense the basic function of that job.  He’s set a clear vector.  He’s set a clear vector with the National Defense Strategy, with the NPR which is I think a very strong reflection of the bipartisan consensus.  So he’s set a clear vector.

Mr. Muradian:  Nuclear Posture Review, for those of you who don’t know the acronym.

Mr. Colby:  He’s helped to gain a significant increase in defense spending in a pretty tough budgetary environment over the last couple of years.  I think there’s been a lot of progress on the NATO front with the 30-30-30-30 Initiative to get NATO’s military readiness up.  Obviously doing a lot with both established allies and new ones like the Indians, the Vietnamese, really taking the relationship to a new level.

Obviously, I don’t really know who’s going to be the Secretary of Defense.  I think he’s a tremendous one.  So the longer he stays, that’s great for America and for the department. I think he’s made the tough calls on a strategy and he’s given a vector, and I think we’re going to look to the department and his leadership to show in things like the FY20 budget, how that’s being realized.

That said, it’s not a simple thing to turn the aircraft carrier, the Department of Defense.  So we also need to be realistic.  I think he’s already put himself in the hall of fame in terms of being Secretary of Defense, but we’re still looking, we’re still in the regular season in terms of getting to the final, getting to the world series.

Mr. Muradian:  So you say it’s a ten-year project, do you think, to turn the ship?

Mr. Colby:  I think it’s got to be faster than that.  Of course it’s going to be ongoing, but I think we need to start moving much more quickly than that.

Mr. Muradian:  Before you go, two questions.  One, Intermediate Nuclear Forces Agreement.  The United States is getting out of it.  You’ve editorialized you think that that’s not a bad thing necessarily. But there’s a question about how we did it, because the Russians wanted out for the same reasons we did which was worrying about the Chinese.  And now that we pulled out the way we did, we’re sort of the bad guy.

Was there a different way to sort of play this?  Either create an international regime that pulls the Chinese in?  Or do it in a way that we didn’t end up actually feeding into the Russian propaganda that we’re the bad guys?

Mr. Colby:  A couple of points.  First of all, it’s absolutely right that we need to make sure that the spotlight goes on the Russians.  I think it’s important to correct the story.  This has been going on for over four years now.  This administration in particular, but also the Obama administration, have been discussing this extensively with the Russians and the Europeans.  So the Europeans do know that the Russians have been and are violating the treaty in a very significant way.

We’ve also tried to globalize the INF Treaty.  I believe about ten years ago there was an effort to do that at the UN.  The Chinese were completely uninterested.

So I don’t think we should sort of flagellate ourselves too much.  The Europeans I think understand and should understand that the Russians are the ones who are violating this.  I think the administration has really had a robust effort to communicate this to the Europeans.

Two main factors. One is, the Russians are clearly and patently violating the treaty.  The right way to do this, if they were really concerned about this, is to do what we did with the ABM Treaty, and withdraw.  There’s a supreme national interest clause.  We’d be disappointed but that’s their prerogative.  But if it’s a one-way treaty, ultimately that leaves questions about its utility.

And then I think the decisive factor for us, and this is really a conventional issue not a nuclear issue.  It’s conventional.  But INF does constrain conventional systems as well, is that we have a huge problem in Asia from a military perspective, and we need more capacity to deliver strike options and also to be more survivable given the costs of survivable naval vessels and long range penetrating aircraft.

So I think it makes a lot of sense.  I think the optimal outcome of all this, and I think it’s doable, is for probably an arms control treaty with the Russians that regionalizes and provides ceilings and inspection measures and so forth.  The Russians are going to have to satisfy us that they aren’t going to brazenly violate that treaty, but I think that’s an outcome that we can both arrive at.

Mr. Muradian:  So once we’re out of INF, what are the kind of capabilities then that we should be building and what are — does that go back, for example, to the small ballistic missile and other things that you’ve been talking about?

Mr. Colby:  I think it’s non-nuclear stuff.  I don’t think we should be looking at nuclear capable INF systems.  I don’t think we need it.  I think what we need is conventional intermediate range systems in a cruiser ballistic type of land attack as well as potentially anti-ship, given the nature of the Pacific theater.  So I think that’s what we need to look at.

Mr. Muradian:  Let’s go to the National Defense Panel.  They’ve reported out their findings, their assessment of the strategy over which you labored late into the night.  What do you think of their assessment of it?  That’s the first question.  The second question is, is it really too late to shape anything at this point?  Because one of the criticisms is it is arriving at a time when pretty much everything is baked at this point.

Mr. Colby:  I don’t think it’s too late.  I think the top line message that the Commission has delivered is one that’s really very consistent with the NDS and I think they look at it the same way and I have tremendous respect for the Commission and their work, is that great power competition is the focus.  And the American military is losing its conventional military edge, and that this really requires a focus on the part of the American people and their representatives as well as a sense of the urgency of the problem.  So for that, I really applaud them.  There’s a great deal that I really agree with and applaud with the Commission.

I think there are a couple of places where I disagree.  One of them is, one of the toughest things that Secretary Mattis did with the National Defense Strategy was to make the hard calls.  He said great power competition, not terrorism is the priority for the Department of Defense.  And I think if a strategy is going to be useful, it’s got to take at the political level and say here are the things I care about and here are the things that I’m going to take responsibility for downgrading in prioritization and Secretary Mattis did that.  I don’t think the Commission took the chance to really support Secretary Mattis’ hard calls in that direction.  They called for growing pretty much the entire force, they called for not cutting anywhere, and that’s a different message and I think that’s going to make it harder.

I know they called for greater resources.  I think that’s certainly something the American people are going to have to think about over time.  But even with those greater resources, we can’t keep doing everything.  We have to make hard calls and that’s what Secretary Mattis did.  And I think that’s why the NDS really stands up very well.

Mr. Muradian:  Let me ask you one more question.  You and Bob Work wrote a great piece about why pretty much everything we’re doing is not the right thing, and — not to put too fine a point on it right? Like almost every system we have is actually not good enough for a great power competition, especially for anybody whose focused on unhinging us, whether in space, whether through long range missilry, whether inundating any of our systems.  It’s possible the Chinese will only shoot a handful of DF-21s and 26s at our carriers, but that’s unlikely.  It’s going to be barrages of this and you’re on the wrong side of the cost equation as Andy Marshall would observe.  Right? And even against a counter-insurgency, we don’t have the manpower.

If you look at our manpower trends, the cost of each individual person is skyrocketing, the cost of the weapons are skyrocketing, so you can’t even out-source this to industry to solve it because part of the problem is we didn’t outsource things to industry.  That became maybe easier, but actually more expensive in some ways.

What’s the right way to think about where we’re going?  Because if you look at it, at some point any smart adversary is going to go oh my God, they don’t really have any capability against me ultimately.  So then the deterrent value of that becomes a completely different proposition.

Mr. Colby:  I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, which is that the Chinese and the Russians have really gone to school on us over the last kind of 10 to 25 years.

I think the answer is a high/low mix, both at the high end scenarios and across the spectrum. So in terms of the high end, we’ve got to have a combination of very exquisite, penetrating, lethal systems that really can survive at the high end.  They’re going to be expensive, but can do the most dangerous, the most vital jobs. Coupled with a large number of often attritable systems that together form a learning network, that together provide a very lethal force.

I think the thing we need to remember is we can’t spook ourselves out.  We can do this.  Because we fundamentally, from a military perspective, are trying to defend.  I would always say this to the Chinese and the Russians when they would criticize National Defense Strategy, we’re talking about a resilient and a ready force.  That is not a force that’s designed for strategic offense.

As Bob Work rightly puts it, and Andy Marshall and others, Barry Watts.  We live in an era dominated by precision strike.  Let’s turn that to our advantage.  The way we do that is through this high/low mix which is going to involve changes to the force, changes to its composition, and so forth.  But we need to turn that lethal A2AD and some strike capability in our favor and in defending our allies and our partners and our interests overseas.

And then at the low end, quote/unquote, I mean it’s obviously extremely lethal and dangerous, but at the counterterrorism side and kind of the greater Middle East and North Africa and so forth, we need ways of operating that are more sustainable, that are more cost effective and that don’t demand so much of the force as a whole.  You’re not using F-35s and B-1s for strike missions. You’re not breaking apart whole BCTs to go deploy and so forth.

That’s where I think the department is trying to move, but that needs to be accelerated as well.

Mr. Muradian: Bridge Colby who heads the Defense Program here at the Center for a New American Security.  Great suit. Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Planning, and one of the architects of the National Defense Strategy, and key inputs in the National Security Strategy.

Always a pleasure, Bridge.  Great seeing you.

Mr. Colby:  Great to see you.  Thanks a lot.


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