The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has released a new report that calls for the creation of a "global surveillance and strike network" to offset the military modernization programs of Russia and China and the proliferation of disruptive technologies and weapons to unsophisticated militaries and terrorist groups.
According to the Oct. 27 report, the Defense Department should develop the network by leveraging capability advantages in unmanned systems and automation; extended-range and low-observable air operations; undersea warfare; and complex system engineering and integration.
This plan, if implemented, would particularly see a ramp-up in investment in remotely controlled aircraft and underwater vehicles and lessen the Pentagon's reliance on spaced-based capabilities such as the Global Positioning System through the expansion of airborne communications nodes.
The GSS network should be "balanced, resilient, responsive and scalable," the report states. Furthermore, the network should be a mix of low-end and high-end platforms that could operate across a range of permissive and contested environments, including anti-access/area denial.
"While many elements of the U.S. military would have important roles to play in a future GSS network, it would rely disproportionately upon air and maritime forces in general and unmanned platforms in particular," the report states.
The CSBA commissioned the report at least partly in response to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's Sept. 3 speech in Rhode Island where he called for a "game-changing offset strategy" that would reinstate the United States' technological edge over potential adversaries despite the austere budget environment.
Report author Robert Martinage -- who led the development of the Navy's fiscal year 2014 and 2015 budget requests -- points to several operational challenges the United States faces, including threats to regional bases and space-based capabilities. He notes that non-stealthy aircraft and large surface ships and aircraft carriers are more vulnerable to detection and attack than in the past.
The report explains:
These growing operational challenges have problematic strategic ramifications: heightened crisis instability; waning credibility of U.S. deterrence threats and allied confidence in the U.S. military's ability to meet its security commitments; and increasing cost imposition on the United States that will undermine its ability to compete with prospective rivals over time. As Secretary of Defense Hagel recently opined, "If we don't take these challenges seriously now, our military could arrive in a future combat theater facing an arsenal of advanced, disruptive technologies that thwart our technological advantages, limit our freedom of maneuver, and put American lives at risk."
The GSS network concept would require greater investment in long-endurance surveillance and strike platforms that could be generated within hours or even minutes, according to the report. The network would be scalable to react to and influence multiple contingencies around the globe concurrently, the report adds.
-- James Drew