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One of the essential hallmarks of deterrence is the ability to effectively detect – and therefore prepare for – a potential adversary’s hostile action in a timely fashion. Just as the threat of effective retaliation must be credible, deterrence also depends on a robust ability to identify and assess aggressive acts, including acts of coercion that fall below the threshold of kinetic conflict. Recent Chinese actions toward Taiwan, for example, have heightened the conviction among U.S. and allied defense planners that effective, interoperable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems are essential for the security of the entire Indo-Pacific theater.
At the individual level, organizations within the Department of the Navy's research and development ecosystem house significant talent and engage in innovative research at the cutting edge of a wide range of disciplines and technologies that could maintain the U.S. Navy’s technological advantage. However, the Navy’s current unmanned autonomous systems R&D construct has an opportunity to continue improving the organization of this effort to further expand and leverage its recent efforts.
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit public policy research institute established to promote innovative thinking and debate about national security strategy, defense planning, and military investment options for the 21st century.
This report summarizes the findings of two Strategic Choices Exercises hosted by The Ronald Reagan Institute and CSBA in October 2020, convening a bipartisan group of senior defense and budget experts, current and former policy makers, and industry leaders. The initiative was supported by the National Defense Industrial Association.
China’s military is going global. In the coming decade, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could be well-positioned to influence events and conduct a wide range of missions, including limited warfighting, beyond the Western Pacific. The United States and its close allies, who have enjoyed largely unobstructed access to the world’s oceans for the last three decades, will need to adjust to new military realities as the PLA makes its presence felt in faraway theaters.
Although the Department of Defense has embraced the concept of "great power competition" as a planning and investment guide, it has yet to fully adapt its processes and priorities to maximize U.S. advantages in this environment. As the United States develops new defense technologies and concepts, policy planners should consider which ones to reveal, as well as the timing and extent to which they are revealed. As evidenced by Chinese and Russian disclosures, these considerations include not only concealing systems to delay an adversary’s response, but also disclosing information for strategic effect, such as provoking competitors to expend resources on defensive countermeasures based upon an incomplete grasp of a perceived capability.