(Note: I originally published this on LinkedIn on 11/23/18. The URL may be found here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/chair-joint-chiefs-wants-money-has-some-interesting-comments-holstad/.)
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford wants some serious budgetary money from Congress to “maintain its [the US military] eroding military edge against Russia & China — but also to start innovating.” Interesting, & interesting choice of words. I have many questions, among them being … why haven’t we started innovating already? Funny, but I was under the distinct impression that we have been innovating recently & in some cases, for awhile. I remain under the impression that we’ve committed to EW & have been making some new, “innovative” progress in that field. And with Cyber Command’s new directive & “rules of engagement,” again I was under the impression that we’ve been moving in the innovation department there for awhile with major plans to proceed at lightening speed. Moreover, I research, read & am exposed to a number of various types of information implying or outright stating that, with the help of the increasingly numerous defense contractors, new technology with new capabilities, & new weapons systems are well under way, not only in R&D, but in actual production. So, I guess what I want to know is are my beliefs & assumptions wrong or did General Dunford simply utilize a somewhat unfortunate & potentially misleading choice of words in his statement?
Dunford further goes on to say “U.S. alliances would provide a decisive advantage in any major conflict. The U.S. would not lose a war with Russia or China, but such a war would be lengthy. And the U.S. has the edge today.” Again, interesting. Much of the information to which I am exposed suggests that the US does NOT have the edge today & moreover both Russia & especially China have surpassed us over the past couple of years. Indeed, China has doubled down on its R&D & technologies budget while allegedly, America’s R&D investment budgets have been slashed! Are we really that confident that in 3-5 years, the US would NOT lose a war (presumably cyber) with either country, particularly China, as that country has done more in the past two to three decades than what no country in the history of the world has done, in terms of the overall advancements it has made with its continuing commitment to Asian leadership, if not the world’s, as the US withdraws into nationalistic isolationism?
Please forgive me if I sound skeptical, jaded, sadly naïve or anything else that a number of you may not appreciate. My purpose in commenting on these issues is sincere. I truly DO want to know if I misunderstand current & future facts as they seem to appear, or if my understandings & assumptions are simply wrong – or perhaps a combination of both. And perhaps right as well. I have a great deal of respect for the Joint Chiefs & have many, many connections there, at the Pentagon & even with certain individuals who are or have been on the actual Joint Chiefs. I listen to the things they say – as well as to the things they don’t say. And I have numerous connections throughout the military & foreign policy communities. I have heard a great deal of worrisome predictions, beliefs, facts, data & statistics, & I find it difficult not to assume certain things, & my particular personality is one in which I hope for the best while planning for the worst. Additionally, while I do not presently have time to address this topic, I am curious to which “US alliances” the Chairman is referring. Such things are subject to change at any time, as we have seen & will likely continue to see….
The Chairman makes some additional interesting observations & statements, which I really do not have the time to address at the moment. And I do realize most to all of you in these respective industries are not at liberty to comment or address them. But I would welcome communication from any who wish to discuss these & related topics, who wish to share my concerns or correct my understanding of certain things, etc. Feel free to contact me. I promise to keep our communication confidential. As I tend to stay tremendously busy & am regularly deluged with hundreds of messages & emails, it may take me awhile to respond, but I shall certainly try to as best I can. And if anyone does care to publicly comment on these & related topics, that would also be welcome.
Finally, the article that inspired this post may be found at https://www.defensenews.com/congress/2018/11/17/saving-americas-military-edge-will-take-money-and-new-ideas-dunford-says/. I’ve always found DefenseNews to be a solid, reliable source of information & appreciate the job the people there do on a consistent basis.
I strongly support our military & the strides & efforts made throughout its branches, as well as joint efforts. But for too long, I have been worried about the seeming trend in which we fall behind other growing powers, particularly in technology, R&D & cyber. Space too, for that matter. And I am anxious to see new & greater commitment to these & other substantial areas, as many of us believe many real threats do exist & will certainly grow, most likely fairly quickly. And I’m determined we regain our lead & remain in the lead in new & expanding theaters & branches. This is my stance. I like to believe it is shared by many. Thank you.
Scott C. Holstad
November 23, 2018