Selva Urges DOD to Take Risks

The Defense Department must be willing to take on more “risk” and be more “willing to fail,” said Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Thursday. Speaking on the importance of innovation in US military strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Selva described 21st century military challenges as “exponentially different” from those of the Cold War because state actors like Russia and North Korea, as well as non-state violent extremists, have taken up “asymmetrical approaches” that demand, in response, “new ways of doing things.” Pointing to the development of technologies like GPS, he rejected the notion that the military is “genetically predisposed not to innovate.” Selva urged senior leaders to look down the chain of command for “nuggets of potential change” by leading with the question, “are you willing to be wrong?” He said DOD officials have often conceived of innovation and risk-taking as a “wildfire” when they should be seen as “brush fires” that clear out new ways forward, and he asserted that such an approach is “becoming systemic in the department.” (Watch Selva’s speech.)