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Implementing Hybrid Warfare

The Army's new Capstone Concept draft represents an fundamental acceptance of many issues raised by critics of post-9/11 doctrine and strategy.

The document's conceptualization of the future operating environment is compelling and persuasive. There is a recognition, largely missing from documents even five years ago, that C4ISR platforms are not going to be decisive in terms of information superiority. Adversaries are going to use a range of means, conventional or otherwise, to try to target US vulnerabilities. Advanced airlift and sealift capabilities for strategic maneuver will remain crucial to US power projection abroad. If we take "hybrid warfare" not as an academic description of present and future conflict but as an organizing term for a variety of different threats, the ACC draft is an admirable attempt to grapple with some of the strategic and operational implications.

There is also a heavy emphasis on terms such as "complexity" and "persistent conflict." In section 2-2, the ACC suggests that a variety of factors contributes to a "complex, uncertain operating environment." The answer broadly lies within the institutionalization of adaptability and diverse competencies. There are several problems with this focus. For one, "conditions of uncertainty and complexity" is ill-defined and seems to suggest that the uncertainty and complexity of present-day conflict is unique. The other issue is that adaptability, like the corporate term "synergy" is extremely vague--a kind of thing that all stakeholders can favor in principle. Perhaps the most important addition to the final version of the ACC would be more of an explanation of what adaptability means in the context of Army policy.

The document, as a whole, reflects a larger lack of strategic guidance at the executive policymaking level. However, this is not necessarily unique to our time. It is a longstanding condition of American strategy. "Adaptability" within this context is not necessarily adaptation to a broadening range of threats but institutional adaptation to uncertain strategic guidance. Unfortunately, such larger uncertainty can have direct strategic and operational costs. Because the Army must implement policies, however ill-defined, focusing in a concrete manner on improvisation should rightly be a pre-eminent concern.

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