By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service
LOS ANGELES —
Warfare has changed, and the U.S. military must shift to meet the new
threats, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said to the World
Affairs Council here April 27.
Lynn said he and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have tried to shift
military strategy “to move the tectonic plates of our national security
The Defense Department is doing more to fight the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan while still preparing for future conflicts, Lynn said. The
biggest change in war is that rogue nations, terror groups and even
criminal gangs can field increasingly lethal technologies, the deputy
secretary told the audience.
“Terrorist organizations and rogue states seek weapons of mass
destruction, insurgents are armed with (improvised explosive devices)
that can penetrate even our most sophisticated armored vehicles,” he
said. “We even see criminals who have world-class cyber capabilities.”
The military must be ready to face these challenges, he said, and still
maintain the capabilities to take on peer competitors.
Another change is that wars, conflicts, emergencies are longer than they
used to be, Lynn said. The old strategy was based on fighting two major,
nearly simultaneous conflicts. But planners thought the wars would be
like Operation Desert Storm in 1991 — a powerful, quick war.
“But the concept no longer fits our current reality,” Lynn said. “We are
already fighting two wars, and it wasn’t the intensity of the initial
combat phase that proved the most challenging in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rather, after eight years in those two conflicts, we are finding the
duration of those conflicts is what places the most stress on America’s
military. These wars have now lasted longer than the United States’
participation in World War I and World War II combined.”
War has moved more toward asymmetric threats. No nation or group can
match the U.S. military’s conventional strength, Lynn said, so they
“Rather than fighting us head-to-head, they use IEDs to counter our
mechanized advantage or guerilla tactics to avoid direct combat,” he
explained. Some countries also are investing in weapons such as
surface-to-surface missiles, cyber capabilities and anti-satellite
technologies to deny U.S. access to battlefields.
The cyber threat is another profound change in warfare, Lynn told the
“There is no exaggerating our nation’s dependence on information
networks,” he said. The Defense Department alone has thousands of
networks, millions of computers and more millions of computer users. All
major weapons systems, the intelligence and logistics efforts and
personnel programs rely on information technology.
“The Internet is magical in its ability to connect us to others,” Lynn
said, “but it is a two-way street. Over the past 10 years, the frequency
and sophistication of cyber intrusions has increased exponentially.”
More than 100 foreign intelligence services are trying to hack into U.S.
systems, he said, and foreign militaries are developing offensive cyber
President Barack Obama has called the cyber threat one of the most
serious challenges America faces, Lynn said. Cyber attacks threaten not
only the U.S. military, but also the American infrastructure and
economy, he added.
Lynn said the department is addressing all of these threats. The U.S.
military is developing the capabilities to handle the range of conflict
from low-end insurgencies to high-end near peer wars. The military
services are adjusting the way they recruit, train and retain
servicemembers in the face of long wars. And the United States is
working to counter asymmetric attacks and to continue to enhance
asymmetric advantages of its own.
The way the Defense Department buys equipment, programs and services
also has to change, Lynn said, acknowledging that the department has not
been a good buyer. Changing the way the acquisition process works is an
important part of funding the capabilities to handle future threats, he
To illustrate his point, Lynn noted that Apple developed the iPhone in
24 months. “That’s less time than it would take for us to budget for an
IT program,” he said. “I’m serious. Just to prepare, defend and receive
congressional approval for our budget takes about 24 months.”
Overall, he added, it takes 81 months — nearly seven years — from an IT
program first being funded until it becomes operational. This means the
equipment already is four generations old by the time it gets in the
hands of servicemembers.
Cancelling programs that don’t work, are redundant or are too
specialized is another way to shape the budget, Lynn said. Gates has
made the hard decisions, he told the group, and the programs he has
cancelled or recommended for cancellation would have cost $330 billion
if they continued.
“By exercising program discipline, we are able to direct resources to
the highest priority programs,” Lynn said. “These tough decisions
enhance our ability to protect the American people.”
The changing environment places great stress on the military and the
department, the deputy secretary said. “Succeeding in these tumultuous
times, while prevailing in Afghanistan and Iraq, will not be easy,” he
added. “But I’m confident that we have charted a path that will keep our