Dec 18, 2023Liked by Madeline Zimmerman

Madeleine - I agree with you completely!! Enjoyed the article!!

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Madeline. While reading your article, I was reminded of touring through a B29 with my father at an air show about 25 years ago. While working through the aircraft, my father was pointing out the manufactures of different motors, switches, etc. In each case, he told me about what that company had been producing before the war. In support of WWII, the United States had the ability to repurpose commercial manufacturing to support the war, much of that manufacturing capability does not exist today.

Taking this a bit further, I believe SpaceX and Starlink represent the foundation of innovation you are looking for. SpaceX is not only innovating in support of commercial markets, but it has backed this innovation with in-house manufacturing. There is no secret here, it is just hard. Establishing the proper incentives to encourage more companies to embrace this model will be even more challenging.

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I think the challenge we face is the likely temporal pace of modern combat operations versus a near peer. We know what we will fight the first several weeks with - our existing weapons and supplies on hand at t=0. What is hard to work through from a policy perspective is will we have enough of the right force structure and logistics to either end the conflict very quickly without nuclear weapons, or can we face extended combat beyond the first few weeks to compel a favorable conclusion - especially if our adversary throws a few unanticipated wrinkles into the mix. My personal concern is that we will run short of people and supplies very quickly and will also not have enough resiliency to flex to new combat technologies (if required) in a timely manner.

The 1973 Yom Kippur war was in many ways a wakeup call for the US Army as we all watched Israel fight and win. We had not envisioned the rate of loss observed on the various battlefields. Nor had we counted on the lethality of that era's anti-armor missiles, coupled with the capability of next generation Soviet air defense systems to attrit a modern air force. I fear that any near peer conflict will make those loss rates look small in comparison and that we may not be adequately prepared to deter, pre-empt, or win decisively.

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Interesting article, but I wonder if there is a realistic alternative. I am also not quite clear what your counter-proposal is.

Unlike most industries military contractors do not have customers giving them immediate feedback on their needs. This allows civilian companies to gradually shift their technology and business models.

In defense the government is the customer, and it is not clear that they can clearly anticipate what will be needed in the next conflict. The military is notorious for fighting the last war.

With so many potential threats with differing military capabilities and fighting styles plus constantly evolving technologies, I wonder if it is realistic for the military to know with any degree of accuracy what will be needed.

To give one example which is currently a hot topic: scaling up munitions manufacturing in a full-scale war with a near peer. Which munitions are most necessary? What is necessary in a war with China may be vastly different than for a war with North Korea. And my guess is that we cannot afford to constantly have the munitions manufacturing facilities always waiting on standby for a conflict. The labor costs alone would be huge.

I wonder if the best strategy might be flexibility and ability to react quickly.

I honestly do know how we could get there, but it is not necessarily a bad idea to focus on civilian economic growth during peace time and then reacting quickly when a big war seems imminent. The key would be doing so while maintaining a robust deterrence, so our enemies have no incentive to test us.

That in general has been the American grand strategy for centuries, and I see no reason why it cannot work in the future.

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Not an expert talking here, but I think part of the reason the urgency around innovation is missing is because the "enemy" is no longer easy to identify. Post, the fall of the USSR and the end of the Cold War era, the US has been struggling to define who their enemy, many a times magically, comically or tragically creating one to stay pumped up. This has led to lesser enthusiasm in the political, beurocratic and military decision making institutions, almost giving it away to the private sector to create innovation assets. What the US needs is a reset. It will never be able to zoom in on Russia or China as America's enemy. The "saving democracy " ploy is failing in the age of the internet. The US needs new trust partners like India, to create a new world order that is not enamored with only saving the West, but create a more human-centric paradigm, which is more inclusive in its good vs bad framework.

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