If you like our newly updated Outlook page, you will find it full of opinions from people in the national security community sitting in the front row, to the daily machinations of armies around the world. From Defense News global headquarters, which is currently my kitchen table, let me join the discussion by humbly proposing some improvements I'd like to see in the national security community for 2021.
More access: President elect Joe Biden made daily briefings with the Pentagon and the State Department as part of its formal platform. Such a move would improve transparency and strengthen relationships with allies about how national security leaders think. Transparency also improves accountability. In 2018, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., To Defense News: "I'm afraid that by not discussing issues, we will only ensure that there is no public pressure to fix them." Still true. Also more details about the US Air Force F-35, or the Advanced combat management system, or the secret prototype his next generation fighter jet would be nice.
Less jargon: This is a wish list, so let me dream, okay? Perhaps Elon Musk's greatest contribution to national security is the Falcon 9 rocket, and SpaceX's Starlink constellation could ultimately have bigger ramifications. But his work to do away with unnecessary acronyms, especially if adopted by more leaders in the military, would be a significant legacy. From a well-circulated 2010 letter, Musk sent SpaceX employees:
“Individually, a few acronyms here and there may not seem so bad, but if a thousand people come up with these, the result will over time be a huge glossary that we have to provide to new hires. No one can really remember all of these acronyms and people don't want to look dumb in a meeting, so they just sit there in ignorance. This is especially difficult for new employees. "
A new attempt at reform: Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the recently retired longtime Republican leader of the House Armed Services Committee, made defense reform one of the founding principles of his tenure. At the same time, the Pentagon's efforts by its chief management officer found savings, but did not include the broad, sweeping measures envisioned by Congress and were shut down. Finally, with a new government, it is unclear whether former Defense Secretary Mark Esper's efforts to find savings will continue. A new serious and sustained effort for reform is needed.
A clearer vision for the Space Force: If there is one more pew-pew-pew joke about the Space Force, it's too early. But for decades, the military has relied on space for an information advantage. A recent briefing from Morgan Stanley noted that the Pentagon has doubled its spending on space in the past five years, with at least $ 4 billion spent on risk mitigation. How the Space Force will work to protect or extend that benefit is a worthy discussion.
A Navy Shipbuilding Plan That Remains: The industry needs a plan, or at least a core plan, to meet the needs of the service in the future. The back and forth & # 39; will they, won't they & # 39; That has hampered shipbuilding plans in recent years – particularly a plan by the White House National Security Adviser – makes it more difficult for the industry to prepare and raises questions about cost and capacity, neither of which is needed.
A meaningful public conversation about cyber operations: The Breaking through SolarWinds has shown how little is known about how effectively the Department of Defense protects its networks. The Pentagon's cybersecurity program, known as CMMC, or the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, is admirable. But it also looks like it is two years late. The debate about cyber in the federal government focused on taking more responsibility for their agency's cybersecurity. That approach is well-intentioned, but felt too punitive. In light of what SolarWinds has uncovered, accelerating and funding protective measures, such as the introduction of zero trust, would be an easy first step.
Fast delivery of a vaccine: I am encouraged by the anecdotes of new ways for Department of Defense employees to get their jobs done in this work time of coronavirus. I'm less optimistic that the pandemic has opened up opportunities for companies or innovators trying to get in – the so-called lifeline of innovation that we hear so much about. Instead, I worry that in a time of unprecedented change, leaders are relying on what they already know.
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