In October, the Biden administration released its full National Security Strategy (NSS) and National Defense Strategy (NDS). The documents outline the overall national security strategy for the United States and for the Department of Defense (DOD). Both strategies note the rise of China and the belligerence of Russia, especially in light of its invasion of Ukraine. The NSS and NDS emphasize the need for the U.S. to secure its supply chain and industrial base, protect its critical infrastructure, empower allies, and strengthen its position in advanced research and technology.
There is an urgency of now, and it’s a key lesson from Ukraine’s preparation to further defend itself after the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea. After 2014, the Ukrainians mobilized all national resources and capabilities to counter the growing Russian threat and were prepared when hostilities commenced in February 2022.
Like Ukraine, we must ensure the same sense of urgency at home, taking advantage of every minute to increase deterrence and create capability against China, both in competition and for potential future conflict. To match the urgency of the threats, we must embrace timely, flexible cross-government approaches to match the complexity of the challenges. As two national security professionals with decades of experience, we propose the following recommendations to jumpstart and operationalize a “whole-of-nation” approach to ensure our nation’s security for decades to come.
Update and empower the defense industrial base: As Ukraine’s conflict with Russia has shown, a nation’s path to victory is often helped or hindered by its ability to deliver capability to its warfighters. The capabilities needed are often provided by a strong and innovative defense industrial base. The U.S. defense industrial base has been the world’s leader in providing capability but is challenged by China and its strategy of “military-civil fusion.” China’s end-goal is to “leapfrog” the United States to become the predominant military power in the world.
For the U.S. to maintain its decisive military advantage, it must procure capability at a much faster rate and at scale while increasing the resiliency of its supply chain. One approach to procure capability is to use the Defense Production Act (DPA), established in 1950 at the onset of the Korean War to prioritize specific capabilities during times of national crisis. DPA authorities were used to secure and produce resources such as masks and vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, DPA authorities allowed the Department of Defense to secure many of the elements needed for domestic production of large lithium batteries, which are critical components in domestic and national security products. In August, the DOD used the DPA to launch an innovative partnership in Texas to accelerate production of inert gasses for military and commercial applications. The U.S. government should expand the use of the DPA to create capacity in areas such as casting, forging and tooling, as well as additive manufacturing.
In addition to expanding DPA, Congress and the White House must work together to allow the DOD to purchase critical items efficiently through multi-year procurement. An amendment recently was introduced in the National Defense Authorization Act to allow multi-year contract authorities to procure munitions on behalf of the DOD and NATO allies. Senior leaders should examine which critical areas will benefit most from enhanced multi-year contract authorities to procure components that are essential in a high-intensity and protracted engagement against a sophisticated adversary.
Empower allies and partners through collaboration: The 2022 NDS notes that “the Department will prioritize interoperability and enable coalitions with enhanced capabilities, new operating concepts, and combined, collaborative force planning.” The Russian invasion of Ukraine has made clear the value of alliances and partnerships, particularly NATO, in the European theater. To build future capability, NATO has launched an initiative, the Defense Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA), which is focusing on developing warfighting technologies through partnerships with allied countries, the private sector and academia. DIANA is an international organization modeled on DOD’s legendary Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
U.S. decision-makers should use the DIANA model to establish a sister organization with allies in the Indo-Pacific Command theater. An Indo-Pacom innovation organization would develop advanced capabilities in theater focusing explicitly on the most critical challenges and could provide support to important initiatives such as the recently signed AUKUS Agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. AUKUS will provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia and increase the advanced technology capabilities of these three nations in the Indo-Pacific region.
An innovation organization would benefit from enhanced procurement authorities such as the DPA mentioned above. These authorities should be coupled with recent IndoPacom investments outlined by DOD’s strengthening the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, which supports key capabilities and grows interoperability between the U.S. and its allies in the region.
In addition, the U.S. government must streamline and reform as necessary its International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and export control processes to encourage information-sharing, interoperability, and co-production of arms among like-minded allies. For example, the U.S. government could create a single database for all ITAR decisions and make the results easily accessible to industry and partner nations.
Given the focus on developing new capabilities, AUKUS would benefit from a DIANA-like organization empowered with both funding and program flexibility to foster collaboration between allies on cutting-edge technology and innovation.
Defend the homeland against cyber threats: Defending the homeland, paced to the growing threat posed by China, is listed as the number one priority in the NDS. While China continues to modernize and grow their conventional and strategic forces, they are also engaged in non-kinetic actions against the U.S., as evidenced by the OPM cyber intrusion in 2014 and continued corporate espionage against major U.S. defense contractors and technology companies. China has targeted companies across multiple sectors to accelerate and build its military and economic strength with the goal of displacing the United States on the world stage.
The 2019 NDAA established the U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission to make recommendations on securing the United States from cyber threats. In its findings, the commission noted, “The United States needs a whole-of-nation approach to secure its interests and institutions in cyberspace.” The U.S. government has implemented many of the commission’s recommendations but, given the evolving nature of the threat, we must relentlessly pursue a comprehensive cyber approach to secure public sector and private industry assets.
The U.S. has made great strides in detecting cyber threats, but it has not made significant progress in deterring hostile cyber actors. As the Solarium Commission recommended, the government and the private sector must work to build a layered cyber deterrence strategy across critical areas such as the economy and elections. Government must put urgency into its own reforms to become more agile, and industry must strengthen their own security posture.
To better facilitate private sector and government cooperation, we need to identify and empower organizations such as nonprofits and federally funded research and development centers to bridge the gaps between the private and public sectors. Only with a unified approach can we secure our nation from those who wish us harm in the cyber domain.
The recent National Security Strategy noted the United States is “in the midst of a strategic competition to shape the future of the international order.” In this competition, we face adversaries who take a long-term comprehensive approach in assessing our vulnerabilities to exploit them. To build the needed capabilities and defenses to secure our nation, we need to embrace the mentality that we, as a country, are stronger when we work together and focus on innovative and flexible paths forward to strengthen our common defense.
Former Congressman Mike Rogers is chairman of the board of trustees for MITRE. An adviser on emerging technologies, geopolitics and cybersecurity, he chaired the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and authorized and oversaw a $70 billion budget to fund the country’s 17 intelligence agencies.
Keoki Jackson, Sc.D, is senior vice president and general manager, MITRE National Security Sector, responsible for the strategic growth and execution of its programs, including support to the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and Intelligence Community. He also leads the National Security Engineering Center.
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