The Defense Department has embarked upon a new strategic directive to better prepare and deliver weapons systems specifically tailored to prevail in massive major warfare against a major rival.
The directive, which was issued to the military services on July 1, calls upon weapons developers to not only pursue “speed.” Instead, they should focus on incorporating four key principles of joint warfare to enable each service to engineer technologies with a specific mind to how they may integrate and interoperate with the other services.
“Our Department of Defense has become bureaucratic and slow in terms of our ability to respond rapidly, and we have adversaries that move fast in this area,” Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten told an audience at the 2021 Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama. “We cannot respond in years to problems that emerge in months.”
Hyten explained that, historically, requirements were crafted almost entirely by the respective individual services and then brought before the Defense Department’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council for assessment and approval regarding capability gaps and other key performance elements of a given system. While this process is extremely valuable and highly effective, Hyten says the Defense Department is in the process of crafting a new “Joint Warfighting Concept” intended to specifically focus upon the needs and synergies of the joint force.
“We are building a Joint Warfighting Concept focusing on the pacing threat which is China,” Hyten said. “There are certain capabilities that have never been specified to the joint force.”
Hyten explained that the Defense Department’s joint staff is now moving intensely on a concept called “functional battles” to include joint fires, joint command and control, logistics and information advantage.
“If we write down requirements of what we are supposed to do as a joint force, and give that to the services . . . they can talk to each other,” Hyten explained. “If we get requirements right, we don’t have to ask again.”
The intent is clearly to prepare the force for major multi-domain warfare, reduce developmental redundancy and enable operational integration between the respective military services. Perhaps a missile can be built with new ranges in mind, given that targeting data can be networked beyond the horizon through aerial networking nodes. Perhaps aircraft can be engineered with a particular mind to the needs of advancing infantry moving to contact with an enemy on the ground.
While some of this kind of multi-domain networking and joint integration is already underway, Hyten seeks a new “requirements” emphasis. This will help the military to envision and mature future weapons systems differently so as to deliberately address, anticipate and build them in response to the various major cross-domain threats posed by major adversaries such as China.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.