Asking the Right Questions, Repeatedly

The Pentagon’s Third Offset effort “isn’t an answer, it’s a question,” Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday. “It questions our ability to be able to offset advantages we see emerging in potential competitors’ forces,” he told the audience at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington, D.C. Selva said if the Third Offset had a fixed destination, he would simply drive those requirements into the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, mandate them in every acquisition program, and impose them on all of the services. Instead, the Pentagon needs to repeatedly ask itself what advantages its adversaries are accruing over time, what threat those advantages pose to US fielded forces, and can addressing those threats strengthen conventional deterrence. Selva suggested operational experimentation—including through wargaming and eventually exercises—is the way to answer those questions and turn Third Offsett-inspired technologies and ideas into tactics, techniques, procedures, and doctrine. “So from an operational perspective, the journey we’re on has the potential to vastly increase the effectiveness of our conventional forces, but we have to ask the right questions,” Selva said. “We have to experiment with the right tactics, techniques, and procedures. We have to disseminate those in doctrine to our fielded forces, our partners, our allies, and our friends and figure out how to offset this capability that all of our competitors are bringing to the conventional battle space, which is, in simple terms, long-range, precision strike at volume in space, in cyberspace, in the air, on land, and at sea.” (See also: A Glimpse of the Pacing Competitor.)