Today marks the fourth annual conference for The Center for New American Strategy. This year’s conference, Shaping the Agenda: American National Security in the 21st Century, began with a panel of experts addressing the “Future of the Force”.
Thomas Ricks, Senior Fellow for the Center for a New American Security, was the panel chair and with him was Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Navy Admiral Eric Olson, President of the Center for a New American Security Dr. John A. Nagl, Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative of The Brookings Institution Dr. Peter Singer and Vice President for Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments Jim Thomas.
The panel discussed topics regarding the direction in which the Defense Department and its operations may follow during this time of evolving irregular warfare. Thomas Ricks proposed the initial question of how the experts see the military strategy in the future. The overall response of the four guests dealt mainly with the issue of technology and the impacts it will have on warfare and strategy.
Peter Singer explained how the technology advanced generations will impact future forces. “To succeed, we need to understand the generation that will lead this force. They have different expectations of technology,” he explained. “They have a ‘Google’ mindset – information is not meant to be guarded – it’s meant to be shared.”
John Nagl also shared his input on the future officer of the military. He explained that it is important to have an officer who can “stretch across the entire spectrum.”
When asked about the implementation of robotics into future warfare initiatives, the panel explained that there are still too many questions that remain when thinking about autonomous machinery. There are still too many questions regarding human decision making, rationale and where the line ends for an unmanned machine’s ability to carry out its own actions.
Jim Thomas explained that robotics cannot take over the majority of the manpower in the military, but it can assist in overcoming tactical obstacles. “It’s about how you enhance the war fighters that you have,” he explained. “To help to overcome physiological constraints.”
Admiral Olsen offered his concerns for the current military. He explained that he is most concerned with “what we are asking them to do, how hard we are asking them to work.” He believes the future depends on the ability to predict what is needed.
The panel addressed other topics as well as a question-and-answer forum at the end. This was the first event on CNAS’s agenda for the conference.