WASHINGTON — Warfare will continue to get more technical, more intelligence-based yet remain the bounty of those who strike first and who can best remain standing at the end, analysts suggested Monday.
“We would want our competitors to respond to our moves instead of us responding to them,” Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said. “We would want to be making a lot of first moves, to have the competitors respond.”
Richardson was one of the first speakers during a day-long Future Security Forum sponsored by New America think tank and Arizona State University, and held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington. The forum was framed with the goal of examining how warfare will be fought in 2030 and the subsidiary ramifications of conflict — such as how to rebuild cities, report from war zones and deal with terrorist groups such as ISIS.
“If it is only a debate about how much is invested, we are making something that approaches a fatal error,” Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, said in regard to planning for future warfare. “It is, in fact, about the design of our institutions and the evolution of our institutions.”
The vulnerabilities in the next war will extend far into space and deep under the sea, Richardson said.
“That [Space] network is going to be the first end of attack when that conflict moves to a higher end of the spectrum,” Richardson said. “We can expect our [system] to degrade. We do not expect our system to degrade more than their system. At the last point, we will be better than our adversaries and heal quicker.”
Meanwhile, Richardson noted that some of the highest vulnerabilities the U.S. now faces are deep in the oceans, in the cables that carry data and other vital communications.
“Cables [are] just one part of the infrastructure that is very, very vulnerable,” he said. “It is not just undersea cables. Technology has given us the ability to get to resources deeper and deeper into the water. How do you protect all that? Sort of a sea-bed approach, remotely operated vehicles that will be effective at securing that (area).”
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, whose service branch will oversee an enlarged Space Corps, was more dark in regards to warfare in the galaxy.
“If warfare extends into space, everybody loses,” Wilson said.
On another new front, the Arctic, forum speakers suggested submarines and then air power may be the most critical armed tools as opposed to ice breakers — saying thoughts of ground wars are in contrast to the reality of the environment.
“The ultimate power in the region is not military but nature,” said Louie Palu, a photojournalist for National Geographic. “If there is ever a battle space, the idea of a shooting war in the Arctic is almost preposterous to me. it would end up being the biggest search-and-rescue operation in history.”
Wilson noted that the U.S. has been in “continuous warfare for 28 years.” That left many cities and parts of countrysides destroyed with no plan on how to rebuild and resurrect, speakers said.
John Spencer, a retired major who chairs Urban Warfare Studies at the Modern War Institute, said there are no urban operations study centers in the military or at major academic institutions. That needs to change, he said.
Kelly Uribe of the Defense Department’s Office of the Undersecretary of Defense and Policy, said the experience and organization structures that had existed for urban restoration have disappeared.
She added: “The seeds of the next conflict are planted in the rubble of the last one.”