A Glimpse of the Pacing Competitor

Russia’s operations in Ukraine and Syria provide a glimpse of how the character of war is changing, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said Tuesday. Speaking at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C., Work referred to Russia as a “pacing competitor that tells us where we need to go to make sure that we have operational and tactical superiority.” He said Russia has “effectively employed cross-domain fires using a variety of long-range, guided munitions from air, sea, and under the sea” and has “improved the accuracy and responsiveness of their already formidable indirect fire skills using artillery and rockets guided by UAVs, cyber, SIGINT [signals intelligence], and ELINT [electronic intelligence] right on the forward line of troops.” He said Russia-backed separatists have jammed GPS frequencies, communications, and imaging radars. “So not only will our future Army have to fight on a battlefield swept by precision munitions, but it’s going to be swept by persistent and very effective EW and cyber threats,” he said. “The old adage was, back in the Second Offset, ‘If you can be seen, you can be hit, and if you can [be] hit, you can be killed.’ The new adage is ‘If you emit, you die.’”

Work said the Pentagon faced a similar glimpse of a rough technological parity when Soviet weapons were demonstrated in the 1973 Yom Kippur War while also facing a similar limitation of resources, but still achieved the Second Offset. “We concluded that a smaller ground force backed by technology and honed by training could still form the foundation of a credible, conventional deterrent,” Work said. And while technological advances—including multi-domain capabilities—are part of the Third Offset strategy Work has proposed, they need to be guided by good operational concepts and organizational constructs, he said. “So it’s time to get busy,” he said. “There are so many different ways that we can create dilemmas for our adversaries that if we seize the opportunity, we will be just fine.” (See also: The Third Offset from the August 2016 issue of Air Force Magazine.)