From space to the land, sea and air, the United States must be prepared to fight and win any war.
The scope of these domains, and the growing extent to which they intersect in real-time, seems to provide a conceptual framework to a certain degree for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s “integrated deterrence” strategy. Austin details certain key parameters to his thinking in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, in which he explains that an attack in one seemingly disparate or disconnected sphere may inspire or generate a decided response from another domain.
“The nature of warfare is changing; it spans an unprecedented theater that stretches from the heavens to cyberspace and far into the oceans’ depths. That demands new thinking and new action inside the Defense Department. Any adversary thinking about pressing for advantage in one domain must know that we can respond not just in that arena but in many others as well,” Austin explains in the article.
In reference to what he calls “edge computing,” Austin seems to argue that artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled computing, information processing and real-time networking can “find not just one needle in one haystack but 10 needles in 10 haystacks and share those locations with various forces and partners.”
Operating within this premise of interconnected domains, Austin naturally emphasizes the significance of networking, AI and high-performance “edge” computing, as they can help establish the technological infrastructure necessary to expedite secure, real-time cross-domain information sharing. This information sharing will let military forces share targeting information and respond more quickly to any attack or threat.
“....[D]eterrence today doesn’t rely on any particular platform or service or skill set. It relies on the networks we build across the whole of our military,” Austin writes.
Interestingly, Austin frames his discussion of “integrated deterrence” in the context of what could be likened to “nuclear weapons strategic deterrence thinking”—the concept of engineering weapons of unimaginable destructive power, with the specific intent of never using them. The premise of strategic deterrence rests upon a paradox in that the existence of weapons sufficient to cause unparalleled devastation exist for the singular purpose of maintaining peace.
“The cornerstone of America’s defense is deterrence, ensuring that our adversaries understand the folly of outright conflict. “Only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt,” said President John F. Kennedy in 1961, “can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.”
Austin’s concept of “integrated,” quite significantly, seems deliberately intended to expand beyond various possibilities for an American response to an attack or provocation.
“Under what I call “integrated deterrence,” the U.S. military isn’t meant to stand apart, but to buttress U.S. diplomacy and advance a foreign policy that employs all instruments of our national power,” Austin writes.
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.