Providing Options to Inform Future National Security Strategy

May 2014
Topics: Military Operations (General), Investment Strategies, Strategic Planning
In today's world of limited U.S. resources and globally diffused technology and wealth, our nation must adapt its national security approach and systems. MITRE's National Security Framework is spurring the conversation.

Resources for defense and intelligence efforts are declining with the return to a "new normal" in the post-Iraq/Afghanistan era. With budgets stretched thin nationally, there are fewer dollars available to cover benefits for retiring Baby Boomers, and compensation and healthcare costs for military personnel and veterans.

At the same time, globalization has spread both technology and great wealth to historically non-aligned nations. These nations now populate a multi-polar world, with a broad range of attitudes toward the existing global order. Violent extremist groups and regional rogue states operate amidst a mix of multi-polar states, failing states, and trans-national business, crime, and public infrastructure.

Given these competing needs, the nation must reassess what specific goals it will pursue and how to meet them. It must decide what capabilities to adapt and acquire for the next decade, and which to shed as unaffordable or unnecessary. MITRE's "National Security Framework for the Teens" presents a coherent strategy for this era. This strategy presents options—for refocusing the nation's security goals, for adapting our operational and technical approach to key problems, and for redirecting resources to enable changes.

Helping Senior Leadership Analyze Critical Choices

As the operator of DoD's National Security Engineering Center (NSEC), MITRE developed the "National Security Framework for the Teens" to help senior leadership explore strategy options and counter-balance the constant attention to incremental budget cuts. The Framework distills MITRE's collective insight—based on our expertise in systems engineering, acquisition, and technology. MITRE's National Security Analysis Group produced the report in consultation with NSEC portfolio directors and members of MITRE's Board of Trustees and Army/Air Force/Navy/Intelligence Advisory Boards.

A long series of briefings—up through the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Armed Service Vice Chiefs of Staff, and senior leaders in the Joint Staff and Defense/Intelligence Agencies—have contributed to recent major strategy and program decisions in the DoD. The Framework predicts that the national security community will be compelled to fundamentally change strategy and investments in the near future. It points to two trends underlying that forecast.

Tighter U.S. Budgets Confront Cheaper Technology

The first is the new era of budgetary constraints. The 20th-century model where the United States and its allies possess an overwhelming economic edge over its rivals is ending. Over the next decade, China will continue asserting its place as an economic superpower, putting itself on more equal footing with the U.S., Europe, and Japan. The U.S. will no longer be able to afford the military strategy it used to win the Cold War: vastly outspending its rivals.

"The problem," says Kirk Yost, one of the MITRE analysts who worked on the Framework, "is that our defense programs are based on the assumption that we still have the same disproportionate economic advantage that we held in the 1980s. But we no longer do."

The second trend is the rapid advancement in—and shrinking costs of—technology. This trend puts capabilities into the hands of our adversaries that were once available only to the U.S. and its allies. So as America confronts the realities of shifting budget priorities, global supply chains are providing potential adversaries with the full range of dual-use technologies.

"You've got people with power to affect events that's completely disproportionate to their economic power," Yost says. "It's a new problem brought on by advances in technology: extraordinarily nasty stuff getting into the hands of people who didn't have to spend much money to get it."

Laying the Groundwork for Strategic Change

One of MITRE's greatest responsibilities is to provide the government with completely unfettered advice. In the case of the National Security Framework, the government is listening to our advice. The DoD has charged MITRE to build on our Framework analysis by recommending specific near- and mid-term changes to DoD ground, maritime, and aerospace forces.

"It's fundamental that MITRE get involved in these sorts of debates," Yost says. "As a systems engineering partner for the government, we understand the diffusion of power through technology. And as neutral advisers, we are free to contemplate virtually every option. Weighing in on this debate is MITRE acting as a good steward for the nation."

——by Christopher Lockheardt

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