February 20, 2016 | College of William & Mary

What is the Third Offset Strategy?  Is it a contest over military-technical superiority? Is it U.S.’s goal to sustain its advantage deep into the 21st century?  What does “military-technical superiority” mean and why does that matter?  Simply put, does U.S. national security depend on our military being more technically advanced than any other?  The U.S. military must project and sustain power across oceans and be able to perform complex offensive and defensive operations in all types of geographic terrain and in all operating domains.  While this is true, the diverse group assembled for DEFxW&M acknowledged that discussions surrounding the Third Offset Strategy solely leveled on aspects of technological advances miss an incredibly salient point – what about the people and processes necessary to effectively and efficiently wield those technologies to deter, and when necessary, win our nations’ wars?

Information Structures and the OODA Loop

This breakout session considered the implications of how the Third Offset Strategy initiative could be enhanced by an explicit consideration of two inter-related concepts: information structures (or information institutions) and the OODA loop.

Between investments in technology and the desired strategic outcomes lies the entire range of tools commonly employed in statecraft: diplomatic, information, military, economic, financial, intelligence, and legal.  Information Structures are interconnected communications channels for receiving information from the environment, for processing that information to serve specific objectives, and for sending internal and external messages.  At first glance, information institutions would appear to deal strictly with the intelligence and information components of a state’s grand strategy.  As we discussed, the concept is, however, scalable upward to the extent that communications channels connect different national security organizations (for example, military, diplomatic, and intelligence organizations) in ways that can facilitate common strategic and/or political objectives.  As one participant noted, information institutions are the sinews among state-level organizations that facilitate “whole-of-government” approaches.  With regards to future implementation, the quality of a nation’s information institutions can and will affect capacities and capabilities to collect and analyze information about adversaries and the ability to coordinate functionally distinct capabilities across the U.S. interagency.

Force of the Future

This discussion examined not only the Force of the Future initiative, but the complex dynamics and vexing questions that accompany all organizational changes.  The group explored lessons learned for change makers and future “intrapreneurs” who seek to transform the institutions to which we belong. 

The Human Offset

This breakout explored how we maintain the edge in a world increasingly disinclined to technological advantage.  We discussed the human offset, from officer and leader development to the professional, intellectual, and technical dialogue necessary for success.

Civilian Perspectives

The focus of this breakout session was to capitalize on the creativity and diverse educational backgrounds of the non-military community in examining Anti-Access Area Denial and cost imposition strategies as well as the Third Offset Strategy.  Specifically, the session covered if there are any lessons learned from the civilian world that would have implications for implementing a Third Offset Strategy. 

NATO and the Third Offset Strategy

For almost 70 years, NATO has been successful in providing stability and security in an often unstable an insecure world.  The third offset strategy is primarily a U.S. construct enacted unilaterally by U.S. policymakers.  Without adequate consideration of its NATO partners now, the third offset strategy may risk failure in the long run.

As the U.S. pursues new and innovative technologies that promise to off-set enemy capabilities, it also risks advancing at a pace which could greatly hamper interoperability and overall combat effectiveness.  As such, the U.S. should invite partner nations to participate freely in exercises, wargames, and experiments so that the U.S. can address interoperability issues early in the capability development process.  The U.S. should consider advocating a Third Offset approach for all of NATO in the 2016 Summit.  If such an approach was agreed to by partners, it could drive common funding toward the funding of innovative ideas Alliance-wide.  This also has the potential to give the strategy greater depth and collect a much-wider array of innovative ideas, making the approach much stronger and more effective.

Change Intelligence

Given that 70% of large-scale changes fail in the business world, we need to slant the odds in favor of success.  We argued that the U.S. military is in the business of deterring, and where necessary, fighting and winning our nations wars.  To be nimble and adaptive to changes associated with the Third Offset Strategy we need better leadership for change. 

We initiated our discussion by exploring Barbara Trautlein’s research on change intelligence, which suggests three key dimensions to leading change: head, hands, and heart.

  • Head-oriented leaders focus on the long-term vision.  They are strategic and purpose-oriented, adept at inspiring others toward the bright new future;
  • Heart-oriented leaders help engage and care for others in the midst of change.  They are motivational and supportive coaches;
  • Hands-oriented leaders make the change happen on time, to budget and to specifications. They plan the work and then work the plan.

After setting the stage using this framework, the session explored how our change leadership style prepares us to lead change, and at the same time limits our ability to lead change by ourselves.  In other words, all change intelligence styles have advantages and drawbacks.  What matters is knowing yourself and others, then combining styles and adjusting to the situation to maximize the odds of success for your change efforts.  

As the U.S. military pursues a Third Offset Strategy, it would behoove senior leaders to be cognizant of organizational leadership dynamics, especially as it relates to managing disruption and organizational change, that will ensure new and advanced technological systems are efficiently and effectively integrated into existing military strategy and doctrine.  

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