Part I: The Consensus View
Editor’s Note: In anticipation of the 2001 congressionally-mandated Quadrennial Defense Review, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff chartered a small working group at National Defense University to “identify probable issues and build intellectual capital for the upcoming QDR. ” The group, which began work in September 1999, was led by a former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and consisted of one officer from each military service. Results of the working group have included a public conference held at NDU in November 2000, two monographs, and an edited volume. One of the monographs has attracted considerable attention, and THE SUBMARINE REVIEW invited its author, a past contributor to our journal, to summarize its conclusions. This is Pan I of that summary of one of the monographs. Part II will be published in the July issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW. For brevity, footnotes and references have not been included. The complete work is available on the web at www.ndu.edu/insslmacnairlmcnair63/m63cvr.html. Whether or not the Bush Administration decides to conduct QDR 2001 in the same manner as QDR 1997, or elects a different type of defense review, the debate over the characteristics of the future security environment will undoubtedly affect the future Submarine Force.
Planning always involves an assessment of the future. Thus, it is natural for any comprehensive defense review-such as the Congressionally-mandated Quadrennial Defense Review 2001 (QDR 2001)-to begin its work with an explicit or implicit assessment of the future security environment. The intent of this article is to outline the nearest to a consensus view of the future security environment in which the United States will conduct its international relations from now until the year 2025.
Futures Studies and the QDR
Theoretically, there should be no shortage of futures studies that could potentially be used to form the basis for the future security environment assumptions of QDR 2001. However, there are severe problems in attempting to apply the results of these futures studies to effective policy-making. Among the difficulties is the lack of coordination between these studies; the significant differences in their methodologies and the time periods examined; the broad and divergent scope of topics; the presence of underlying and often unidentified biases; and the wide range of contradictory results. Many of the individual studies are constructed from a clean slate, taking scant interest in previous, related work. An unedited compilation of these studies would be capable of generating much debate, but with an apparently limited basis for the construct of policy.
To construct a policy requires a baseline consensus from which implications and issues can be examined in an analytical context. In order to develop a baseline, thirty-six existing studies (unclassified or with pertinent unclassified sections) concerning the future security environment and published between 1996 and 2000 (with two exceptions) were selected based on standardized criteria. Conceptually, these studies are representative of views from the range of organizations involved with or interested in national defense issues. The requirement for a 1996 or later publication date was chosen based on the assumption that earlier themes would have been examined and potentially incorporated into the results of QDR 1997. [The studies selected are identified and discussed in detail at www.ndu.edu/inss/macnair /mcnair63/m63cvr. html]
The thirty-six studies were then surveyed, analyzed in detail, and compared on a subject-by-subject basis in order to identify agreement or disagreement between the sources concerning common subjects. From this comparison, sixteen points of consensus and nine points of divergence are identified. The points of consensus do not necessarily represent absolute agreement between all sources, but do represent a majority agreement. Points of divergence do not necessarily represent a fifty-fifty split, but indicate that there was no clear majority position.
After the consensus and divergence points were developed, they were tested for validity against the conclusions of over three
hundred other sources, most of them specialized studies of the individual common subjects. The purpose was to identify dissenting positions on the points of consensus, as well as validating the fact that the consensus represents a majority view.
Additionally, both the primary and consulted sources were surveyed for the identification of wild cards-events that could not normally be predicted, but could present a considerable challenge if they were to occur during the 2001-2025 time period. Combined with the dissenting positions, the wild cards indicate changes in the security environment that may require the development of hedging strategies.
Of course, there are limitations, both conceptual and practical, to providing a consensus view of the future. First is the difficulty in comparing a mixture of assessments that use differing techniques and methodologies not designed to be compatible. More importantly, while an assessment of the future security environment is the essential starting point for all strategic planning, history cautions against both its inappropriate use and a belief in a high degree of certainty. Other factors also justify caution including the problems of normative assessments, institutional bias, emotional reaction of individuals, and feedback effects, or the effects of taking action.
The limitations of futures analysis and the historical caveats concerning its use mean that the acceptance of any assessment entails risk. As a starting point for defense planning, the assessment of the future security environment is essential, but it cannot guarantee the success of any policy based on its premises. Compiling a comparative assessment from a balanced mix of representative sources thus appeared to the NDU Working Group to be the best method of mitigating this risk.
Aspects of an Anticipated Future
Using the comparative analysis generated by the survey of the thirty-six identified studies, a series of sixteen propositions can be identified that represent a general consensus of the sources concerning potential threats, emerging military technology, and opposing strategies. However, almost every consensus point has a corresponding dissenting or contrary view which are also briefly discussed.
1.There will not be an ideological competitor to democracy on the scale of Cold War communism. The propellant of the Cold War was the ideological struggle between democracy and communism as embodied in the United States and Soviet Union, ending in dramatic victory for the West. The majority of future security environment studies-both governmental and private-do not identify any other ideologies with global appeal, and thus do not foresee a competing ideology before at least 2025. The expansion of democratic values appears to be a by-product of globalization. That does not mean there will not be authoritarian nations that claim to be democracies, when in fact their political structure falls far short. However, with a significant dissent-Samuel P. Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis-the consensus remains that the future will be one of an evolutionary increase in democratic states. But the consensus view does include room for the potential for public discouragement and disillusionment in democracy and market capitalism.
2. There will not be a rival coalition of states to challenge United States militarily. The consensus view is that economic and political globalization makes it unlikely that a rival coalition could form to militarily challenge the United States. Various nations may express their displeasure at particular U.S. foreign policies or the overall specter of American cultural imperialism, but most would have much to lose and little to gain in an anti-U.S. alliance. There have been no credible forecasts that the European Union’s interest in developing a unified military force independent from NATO will lead to a potential military confrontation with the United States.
Supporters of the view that a rival coalition is unlikely argue that the desire of lesser-developed nations, as well as Russia and China, to join the economic First Tier mitigates anti-Western hostility. The closer both nations are economically tied to the West, the consensus view argues, the less likely that an anti-United States coalition will be formed . However, a representative dissenting view postulates a
loose rival coalition driven by “an increasingly more assertive China aligned with a much weaker, authoritarian Russia.” A primary driver could be U.S. action to deter a PRC pressure on Taiwan, potentially including a naval blockade, in the 2010 timeframe. Although this is an unlikely scenario, there has been evidence of a desire on the part of the Russian leadership for a symbolic rapprochement with China as a way of countering “global domination by the United States,” especially U.S. criticism of Russian military actions in Chechnya. Russia also sought, in late 1999, to recharge its diplomatic relations with the so-called rogue states. Likewise, there have been suggestions that China would seek to put together alliances that “can defuse hegemonism by the U.S.” Since the publication of the original version of the study, several commentators have suggested a loose linkage between Russian, Chinese, and rogue state interest in reducing American political influence with that of France and other potential economic rivals in reducing American “cultural and economic arrogance.” But this remains distinctly a minority view.
3. There will be no conventional military peer competitor capable of sustained, long-term power projection beyond its immediate region. Whether the term military peer competitor is defined in terms of a Soviet Union- equivalent or by the capacity to sustain global power projection, the consensus view is that such a peer competitor cannot develop prior to 2025. It is not simply a question of pursuing the development of power projection capabilities; rather, twenty-five years appears insufficient to duplicate the unique U.S. logistics and alliance networks. However, the QDR 1997 report held out the possibility of the emergence of a “regional great power or global peer competitor,” with Russia and China “seen by some as having the potential to be such competitors, though their respective futures are quite uncertain.” Additionally, a Russia-China-led alliance could pose the possibility of simultaneous conflicts in multiple regions, which would severely tax the ability of U.S. forces to respond. This would be the closest equivalent to a global peer competitor, but it would still not match U.S. power-projection capabilities.
4.Economic competitors will challenge United States domination of the international economic system but this will
not lead to war. Propelled by the perception of increasing trade competition between the United States and Japan, the 1990s saw a series of publications suggesting the potential for military conflicts based on economic rivalry. Although the particular controversy was effectively smothered-for at least the time being-by the Asian economic downturn of the late 1990s, the view of a linkage between economic conflict and war has remained. A staple of Marxist theology and post-First World War assessments, it resurfaced in the view that the Gulf War was “all about oil.” The potential for China to become an economic power, along with the evolving European Union, have also been cited as precursors to politico-military confrontation with the United States.
Despite popular concerns, the consensus remains that economic competition need not lead to military confrontation, and that it is very unlikely to do so in the 2001-2025 period. The particulars of U.S.-Japanese economic conflict are largely seen as “reconcilable differences,” that will not affect security arrangements. The prevailing view of the phenomenon of globalization is that such greater economic interconnection decreases, rather than increases, the potential for military conflict. There remain, however, contrarian views.
5. Regional powers may challenge the United States militarily. The threat that regional powers will challenge the U. S. militarily and seek to prevent the United States from projecting power into their regions is universally considered the primary challenge that U.S. foreign and defense policy will face in the first decades of the 21st century. Regional dangers is the term used over and over again to describe the potential for “the threat of coercion and large-scale, cross-border aggression against U.S. allies and friends in key regions by hostile states with significant military power.” There is, however, disagreement over which power will pose such a challenge.
Initially, the first prime regional threat was thought to be the unpredictable actions (or collapse) of North Korea, the world’s last true Stalinist state. The second was the actions of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, or the simmering hostility of Iran towards its Arabian Gulf neighbors and the West.
However, these two major theater wars or MTWs do not necessarily represent the most demanding future threats. Nations that can sustain sophisticated defense industries and produce significant quantities of relatively modem weaponry, and have access to a large pool of trainable manpower, would be the most formidable foes. From that perspective, there is clearly a rank order of potential (and current) regional military powers. Within this order, almost every futures assessment identifies Russian and China as having the greatest potential for regional dominance.
One or more of the rogue states (North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya) may seek to militarily challenge the United States in the near term. Such an assessment is based on current hostilities, plans or desire for regional dominance, propensity for aggressive military action, or a pattern of anti-U .S. military activity. In a longer-term view, the potential for conflict with a major regional power may grow, with Russia or China as the most difficult potential military opponents. However, there is no consensus as to which regional power or rogue state is likely to take action at any particular time, or whether or not effective U.S. actions, along with a well-trained and technologically superior military, could deter such conflict.
6. There will be more failing states, but U.S. involvement will remain discretionary. The terms failed states or failing states have been increasingly used to describe nations that cannot provide law, order, or basic human necessities to their population. Such states may be wracked by civil war, ideological or ethnic hatreds, or other conflicts that prevent the central government from providing internal security or promoting general welfare.
While the internal consequences of such disorder have long been recognized, the external effects within the international environment have not always been considered a security threat to distant, stable nations. The question of exactly where the United States has vital or important interests fuels the argument that American efforts to restore order in failed states is largely a humanitarian effort that has little positive impact on U.S. national security. However, there are still compelling arguments for American intervention to stop genocide or massive loss of life. Such arguments contributed to the American decision to prompt NATO intervention in Kosovo. But given the nature of democratic politics, such intervention ultimately remains discretionary.
7. There will be more non-state threats to security, but they will increase gradually, not dramatically. The term non-state threats is used to denote those threats to national security that are not directly planned or organized by a nation-state. Today, foremost among these threats are acts of terrorism other than those sponsored by a rogue state. A loosely defined spectrum of non-state threats includes humanitarian disasters, mass migrations, piracy, computer network attack (hacking), organized international crime and drug trafficking, terrorism with conventional weaponry, and terrorism with weapons of mass destruction. Non-state actors includes international organizations, non-governmental organizations, multinational corporations, and multi-national interest groups.
Alarmist predictions that non-state actors, issues, and threats would overwhelm and break the abilities of most nation-states to deal with them have not materialized. Nations that have collapsed into anarchy have largely been victims of civil wars, a phenomenon that long preceded the current definition of non-state threats. Many of these civil wars have been fueled or supported by foreign parties, international actors, or other nations. To that extent, non-state or transnational threats do contribuce to such internal collapse, but in ways that are not unprecedented historically.
The consensus of the sources is that non-state threats will increase in number and intensity in the future. Yet, this anticipated increase parallels vulnerabilities that are by-products of the evolutionary process of globalization. Non-state threats may seem more potent due to the advantages modem technologies may bring to the perpetrator. But the same or other modem technologies can be used to strengthen defenses. However, some sources do view the rise of these threats as exponential rather than gradual, with more alarm than the consensus view might imply. Of particular concern is the possibility of terrorism with WMD, also known as catastrophic terrorism.
8. Advanced military technology will become more diffuse. The category of advanced military technology constitutes a spectrum of technologies or innovative uses of technology developed during the last few decades: from emerging biological
weaponry and other weapons of mass destruction, to new forms of non-lethal weapons including information operations using mass media. It includes highly accurate ballistic and cruise missiles; fourth-generation combat aircraft; complex surveillance, detection, tracking and targeting equipment; surface-to-air missiles; nuclear powered submarines; and other relatively high-cost systems.
The consensus of the sources is that advanced military technology will continue to be diffused through sales, modification of dualuse systems, and indigenous weapons development programs. Although international export control regimes may exist for certain types of advanced weapons, these agreements appear to be easily circumvented. Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan and India have all effectively foiled the efforts of the such as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Under current circumstances, proliferation of advanced systems appears to be simply a matter of time and resources.
9. Significant operational intelligence will become commercially available. Given the current trends in space launch and commercialization, the consensus is that operational intelligence-primarily satellite imagery-will become more and more commercially available. Yet the consensus is that the United States will “maintain a preponderant edge, using its technical systems to produce timely and usable information.” The consensus viewpoint concerning militarily-significant commercial information is that it would be available to a potential aggressor until the commencement of hostilities, but would be voluntarily or covertly shut down upon the initial attack. But the fact that operational intelligence would not remain available during conflict may be of little consolation, since the information obtained before hostilities would be sufficient to target fixed sites, such as land bases, in advance. The use of WMD might also make the need for real-time targeting information moot.
None of the sources surveyed suggested that operational intelligence will not become commercially available in the 2001-2025 timeframe. Opposition to the consensus view revolves around two points: (1) that satellite information is largely irrelevant to the most likely threats the U.S. military will face, such as Third World anarchy and small-scale guerilla warfare, or (2) that a cut-of of commercial imagery during hostilities cannot be presumed.
10. Other nations will pursue a revolution in military affairs (RMA), but the United States will retain the overall lead in technology. A number of advances in military technology are frequently cited as evidence that a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) is underway, and even skeptics concede chat these advances have had a tremendous effect on warfighting. Advances in information processing and command and control are cited most frequently, with increasing availability of real·time information at the command level expected. Some proponents claim that new Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) technology and battle management systems can dispel the fog of war that has previously prevented commanders from having a thoroughly accurate picture of the battlefield.
Critics concede that the advances in military technology have greatly increased the striking power of modem militaries. However, they argue that such advances have not changed the fundamental concept of warfare, and that victory ultimately requires closing with the enemy, and occupying territories or destroying centers of gravity.
Potential opponents may pursue an RMA through the development of advanced weaponry, but-barring a catastrophic economic disaster in the West-they cannot surpass the overall U.S. lead in advanced military technologies in the 2001-2025 timeframe. Certain niche technologies, such as advances in chemical and biological warfare, or the development of miniaturized nano-weapons that would be easier to transport and deploy in space or on earth, could provide a temporary technological lead in specific areas. Developing such a niche could give a state with limited resources more bang for its buck, but such a development would be unlikely to make the entire U.S. arsenal obsolete, or completely paralyze U.S. decision-making.
At the same time, the overall U.S. technological lead would facilitate the development of defenses against these advantages, or at least methods of mitigating the threat.
While conceding America’s current overall lead in military technology, several sources point to alarming trends. Ocher sources argue that the United States is not taking the RMA seriously enough, and is squandering our technological lead. In this view, the U.S. Department of Defense continues to spend money on legacy systems, while underfunding both basic and advanced R&D and experimentation. This combination could give opponents an opportunity to leapfrog over the capabilities of our formidable arsenal and make our overall technological superiority moot.
11. If there is a technological surprise innovation, it is likely to be developed by United States or an ally. A consensus of the sources examined views a truly unanticipated development in military technology as unlikely in the 2001-2025 period. But if one were to occur, the consensus view holds that it would most likely be the product of a Western or developed nation, not a nation hostile to the United States. If a technological surprise were to occur in a hostile state, it is likely that it could be quickly replicated somewhere in the West. Infrastructure, knowledge base, and commercial incentive appear to be the drivers of new, surprising technologies, these are centered in the democratic capitalist states.
Among those assessments of the future security environment that identify potential wildcards, a major technological surprise was listed as an occurrence of potential concern.
12. U.S. control of the seas and air will remain. The consensus is that the size and level of operational experience of the U.S. Navy and Air Force make it nearly impossible for potential opponents to mount a serious challenge in the waters and air space over the worlds oceans. This is likely to continue until 2025. Even if potential opponents are not deterred from direct competition against these American strengths, it would take at least 20 years for any competitor to build to the numbers and sophistication of the U.S. naval and air fleets. That is not to say that an opponent would not seek to contest U.S. sea and air control in its own region, or even individual force-on-force engagements outside its region. However, the investment needed to challenge the United States on a global basis in areas that the United States has long maintained operational advantages is staggering.
No source suggests that the U.S. naval and air fleets could be decisively defeated, and particularly not within the global commons in the 2001-2025 period. However, concerns are frequently expressed that the United States could become complacent with its current margin of superiority and elect not to replace aging systems with more technologically advanced first-line platforms. Over a long term, the cumulative effect of a procurement holiday might make the bulk of U.S. naval and air forces obsolete. The concept of block obsolescence for legacy systems also appears in the arguments of proponents of transformation.
Critics of American complacency also point to the continuing development of high-technology weaponry for export by technologically-advanced nations.
Others argue that general American dominance of sea and air is largely irrelevant in dealing with the more likely future threats of terrorism, chemical, biological and information warfare, and failing states, as well as against the prepared anti-access or area denial strategies of regional opponents.
13. Regional powers will use anti-access and area denial strategies. The potential use of anti-access or area denial strategies against American power-projection capabilities has been a focal point of research in the OSD Office for Net Assessment since at least the mid-1990s. Originally these studies had a maritime focus. In the logic of the anti-access approach, a potential opponent would not seek to engage the U.S. Navy at sea, where the United States holds absolute dominance. Rather, it would seek to prevent U.S. maritime forces from entering its littoral waters by massive attrition attacks using asymmetric weapons such as WMD. However, these studies were soon expanded to include examination if all U.S. overseas presence and power projection forces.
The obvious first step in such an area denial effort would be to neutralize any existing lodgment that U.S. forces already have within the region by destroying U.S. forward-presence forces while simultaneously attacking the regional infrastructure for follow-on power projection forces. With regional land bases destroyed and maritime access denied, the potential regional opponent would have effectively extended its defenses out to the entry points of its region. The United States will find itself in the position of having to undertake potentially costly forcible entry operations. Even in this war of attrition, it is likely that the United States would eventually breach the anti-access defenses, particularly through the use of stand-off weapons stationed outside the region or in CO NUS. However, the real goal of an anti-access strategy is to convince the United States or its allies and coalition partners that the cost of penetration is simply too high. Perceptions differ concerning the actual ability of regional aggressors to carry out regional closure in the 2001-2025 time frame. Several sources suggest that, before 2025, most potential opponents will be unable to use ballistic missiles effectively against moving targets, leaving U.S. air and naval forces free to attack the weak points of an anti-access campaign. Other sources suggest that the ability of rogue states to coerce potential American allies into denying U.S. access to their territory has been overstated.
14.Large-scale combat involving U.S. forces is likely to include the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The desires of certain states for WMD arsenals, the rate of actual proliferation, a seemingly growing disregard of the laws of armed conflict, and the lessons of the Gulf War suggest a potential for integration of WMD into military operations. Most sources assume that proliferation will continue in the 2001-2025, and that many of the international control regimes seeking to prevent the spread of WMD will break down, or be ignored. Terrorist groups also appear interested in purchasing or developing WMD. Underlying technologies, particularly from dual-use systems, are becoming available to potential aggressors and provide cover for weapons development. Humanitarian NGOs report that the law of war appears to be increasingly disregarded, with less and less discrimination between attacking military forces and civilian non-combatants. Tyrannical regimes facing potential removal by outside forces-such as those of the United States or a U.S.-led coalition-appear increasingly tempted to use WMD in combat.
The majority of the sources surveyed view the likelihood of use of WMD during large-scale conflict in the 2001-2025 period as quite high. The consensus is that chemical or biological weapons use would be more likely than nuclear war. Many sources view WMD use as the primary future threat to American security. There seems to be agreement that, if certain rogue states have weapons of mass destruction, they would be used for survival of tyrannical regimes.
The potential of WMD in the hands of terrorist groups is considered a more frightening situation by many sources. Terrorist attacks could be directed against vulnerable civilian populations as well as military forces.
There is also a perception, however, that use of WMD against the United States in conflict can be deterred. The rate of increase in nuclear arsenals during 2001-2025 does not suggest that more than perhaps two or three states, if any, could threaten the United States with mutual destruction. Because chemical and biological weapons are routinely categorized along with nuclear weapons as WMD, there is, by definition, ambiguity as to whether use of chemical or biological weapons would provoke a U.S. nuclear retaliation. Thus, the use of WMD against forces in large-scale armed conflict with the United States might be deterred by the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
15. The U.S. homeland will become increasingly vulnerable to asymmetric attacks. The perception that the U.S. homeland will become increasingly vulnerable in the 2001-2025 period can be traced to the National Defense Panel report of 1997. It has subsequently become an almost universal forecast. In 1999, the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century echoed the prevailing perception that “America will become increasingly vulnerable to hostile attack on our homeland, and our military superiority will not entirely protect us.”
With the end of the Cold War and the agreed de-alerting of nuclear forces, along with reductions in overall U.S. and Russia nuclear arsenals, it would actually appear that the American populace is much less directly vulnerable than they have been in at least thirty years. However, others point to the balance of terror that made a nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union irrational. Rogue states, they argue, are less likely to be deterred from making asymmetric attacks on the U.S. homeland in the event of a conflict. Indeed, asymmetric attacks may be the most useful-perhaps only-military tool in the hands of potential opponents.
The consensus is that the U.S. homeland will in the future become more vulnerable to new threats, particularly chemical and biological weapons in the hands of rogue states and terrorist groups. The ability to transport such weapons in small packages that can be easily smuggled is often cited as a contributing factor. In addition, rogue regimes such as in North Korea are attempting to develop ballistic missiles capable of reaching the continental United States. States that do not possess fissile material could opt for chemical or biological warheads.
The consensus position differs from more alarming forecasts on questions of the degree of future vulnerability. The majority view is that such threats are evolutionary, rather than exponential. As use of the Internet continues to penetrate society, the vulnerability to disruption increases, but so will redundant and protected systems. As globalization causes a rise in transnational or non·state threats, such as massive migrations, its economic benefits may mitigate such threats.
But several sources suggest that the rate of development of future threats-fueled primarily by the malicious use of new technologies-is indeed increasing dramatically. From this perspective, increasing homeland vulnerability is inevitable, particularly if active defenses, interagency cooperation efforts, redundancy, and reconstitution do not receive substantial funding increases within the U.S. defense budget.
16. Information warfare will become increasingly important. Information warfare refers both to the use of various measures to attack the information technology (IT) systems on which a military opponent may depend, and to the control and manipulation of the information available to the civilian populace of an opposing state. Computer network attack (CNA) might be aimed at systems providing ISR or command and control capabilities, functions necessary for modem, high·technology warfare, or it might be an asymmetric strike on the civilian infrastructure of the opponent’s homeland. Additionally, an information technology·based public relations war would have a less lethal and more indirect effect on the populace than computer infrastructure attack, but as seen in the Vietnam War experience, it could have a more direct effect on the government’s willingness to prosecute a war. The U.S. government has recently addressed computer network defense (CND) and critical infrastructure protection, but in the face of an emerging and somewhat indistinct threat, defense necessarily lags offense.
An aspect of concern to some is the potential anonymity of attack and the possible use of information warfare by non-state actors, particularly terrorist groups. Hackers and terrorists could use multiple paths of entry to disguise their identities and intentions. Although it is possible to trace these paths to a source, such efforts take time and resources. The question remains whether a hostile state could mask an information attack to such an extent that the United States would be unable to determine the source and take timely defensive or retaliatory actions.
In classical military terms, the use of information is an attempt to lift the “fog of war” that envelops the battlefield. Commanders have always tried to acquire accurate information; what is different is that modern IT appears to provide a greater opportunity to clear away the fog than ever before. Thus, it is natural for U.S. forces to strive for “information dominance” or “knowledge superiority” in any conflict. The fact that there are more tools to make more information available suggests that information has become more important to victory. This also implies that deception, disinformation, and the use of media are also of increasing value as military tools.
While there is no overt disagreement with the proposition that information will be a critical element in future warfare, there is disagreement over the extent to which information-and, by extension, information warfare-will be the dominant element.
The sixteen points of consensus form a generally acceptable baseline from which an effective debate on defense planning priorities, during QDR 2001 or any other defense review, could proceed. Likely issues of such a debate can be identified from the diverging views and contradictions among the thirty-six surveyed sources.
Part II will examine diverging points of debate and wildcards.