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Surprise!

Once again, the call goes out to help keep track of the leading edge of the curve:

Defense Department leaders should create a new kind of organization tasked with monitoring nascent foreign capabilities in an attempt to minimize the chances of an unexpected and potentially devastating attack against the United States, according to a panel of Pentagon advisers.

Establishing a Capability Assessment, Warning and Response (CAWRO) office is one of several recommendations made by the Defense Science Board in a new report. Their goal is to introduce a "surprise management mechanism" at the highest levels of the Pentagon, according to a briefing the DSB panelists compiled last month.

The new office's mission should be to provide defense leaders with timely assessments of "high-risk potential red capabilities" and propose options for addressing them, DSB members wrote. In Pentagon jargon, officials often use the term "red" in conjunction with enemy formations or capabilities.

The new office's "diverse and creative staff that challenges the mainstream" should craft "decision packages" along with supporting threat analyses directly for the defense secretary, panelists wrote.

Not a bad idea, except for the whole "new" aspect of it. There is nothing new about strategic warning, unless you want to consider the near sheer ignorance about warning methodology and the universal disregard strategic warning has in the community.

See, everyone has a warning office of one kind or another. As the article points out, DIA is the home warning in the DOD (and much of the IC by default) and has had an office of this nature for years (I actually helped run one aspect of it for a time). You don't need a new organization on top of the current warning system we have today; if you want to refocus a bit, then adjust what you've got and enhance it a bit with some additional personnel and technical capabilities (colab tools, etc.).

The real problem here is that in the crying-wolf business, nearly everyone skips the part where they actually run to the shepherd boy's aid and they jump right to the dismissive hand-wave. Call it ignorance, poor training, a lack of imagination or whatever you want: even ostensibly smart people prefer what they can see in front of them over what someone tells them is around the corner. In all the time I spent in the warning business, I never met a decision-maker who didn't think I was talking out of my fourth-point-of-contact when I said "this is coming soon, you need to prepare." Those were usually the same people who came back a little while later - after what had been forecast came to fruition - asking for study groups and tiger teams and solutions to this "wake-up call."

And to a certain extent I can see things from their point of view. If I'm going into a dangerous part of the world I am going to focus on the things I know can cause problems: deployed weapons systems, state of the road infrastructure, training and skill of the opposing force, is there water/power/comms, etc., etc. That the adversary has been working on a "wonder weapon" for the past ten years sounds just too far fetched to worry about . . . until it is employed of course.

Had someone bothered to ask, I would have included on the list of to-dos (in addition to beefing up existing warning units); mandatory course work on strategic warning, mandatory reading of Grabo and Wohlstetter and Hughes-Wilson, and a formal written response to any substantial warning product by all entities impacted by said warning. The best way to get people to take warning seriously is to make them think about it and to voice their concerns/issues/responses. "No one told me..." isn't an acceptable response and neither is "I didn't think that...".

Sometimes the wolf doesn't show up, or he does but he's short on teeth, but that's small comfort when you wake up one morning and all the sheep are gone.

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