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US military risks being ‘disrupted into irrelevance’ by China and Russia, new Hudson Institute report says

U.S. Soldiers deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve await aerial extraction via CH-47 Chinook in Iraq, Oct. 31, 2018. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leland White)
June 29, 2021

The Hudson Institute released a new report on Tuesday saying that the future of global warfare is decision-centric, an approach China and Russia are prepared for, but the U.S. is not – and it can’t effectively counter its adversaries without it.

“The US military needs operational and institutional decision-making advantages to effectively deter opponents such as the PLA or Russian Armed Forces,” said the report, which was written by Hudson’s Center for Defense Concepts and Technology fellows Bryan Clark, Dan Patt, and Timothy Walton.

If the Pentagon can reform itself by improving decision processes, delivery of its capabilities, and technological integration, it would be more competitive against China or Russia. If not, the U.S. military could be “disrupted into irrelevance.”

Decision-centric warfare is comprised of forces that are more adaptable with units more distributed and diverse, who can then reintegrate on the battlefield, and also adopt technologies to confront threats and challenges, the report explains. The approach is intended to boost the speed and efficacy of commanders’ decision-making while also degrading an adversary’s own decision-making.

“Decision-centric forces will emphasize a combination of adaptability and effectiveness to maximize the useful decision space available to commanders. Increasing the adaptability of military forces should help them address a wider variety of future situations and reduce the reliance on accurate forecasts,” the report explained.

However, the Pentagon’s current structure isn’t compatible for a diversified unit posture that is reliant on decision-making versus attrition. The department’s “centralized industrial base and forecast-centric requirements and budgeting processes” are inhibitive of the flexibility and heterogeneity that’s needed to facilitate the decision-centric approach and all its advantages.

This is particularly problematic against adversaries like China and Russia, whose military actions are decision-centric in nature, and more likely to create “operational dilemmas that further degrade the defender’s decision-making,” the report said.

China is adopting decision-making military concepts with its System Destruction Warfare and Russia with its New Generation Warfare, which focus on strategies to attack communication networks, thus crippling its opponents’ ability to coordinate.

Specifically, the report points the potential for China or Russia to use networks of sensors and weapons into U.S.-allied territory that would endanger U.S. troops supporting those allies. As a result, the U.S. would be left with deploying additional units, further endangering its force, or aggregate units into larger formations perceived as a provocative action.

“Forces in decision-centric operations succeed primarily by using their composability to achieve an optionality advantage that can create an insoluble set of dilemmas for the enemy or overwhelm opposing defenses to allow attacks on enemy centers of gravity,” the report explained.

The U.S. must become more agile in how it delivers and deploys its capabilities, the report said, adding that doing so requires a more proactive approach in exploiting defense technology.

“DoD should engage the defense industry as a partner in its effort to compete operational and strategically with the PRC and Russia,” the report said. “The Pentagon should stop letting the evolution of technology pass it by.”