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June Chief's Perspective

Portrait of Chief Master Sgt. Matthew Morehouse

Portrait of Chief Master Sgt. Matthew Morehouse, Headquarters South Carolina Air National Guard at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., April 8, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

The 2018 National Defense Strategy unclassified summary explains how the Department of Defense will carry out the perpetual mission of protecting America and deterring war. Should deterrence fail, we are expected to win. The National Defense Strategy is derived from the National Security Strategy. While the National Security Strategy may be published annually, the National Defense Strategy is published every four years. Taking into account the current world security situation, the 2018 NDS outlines DoD strategy to 2023.

Our military advantage has eroded over the past 20 years due to our focus on defeating terror groups and insurgencies. China and Russia capitalized on this and used political, economic and military methods to expand their sphere of control; China in the South China Sea and Russia in Eastern Europe and Ukraine. Additionally, Iran creates strife in the Middle-East in their quest to become a regional power and North Korea is still a rogue regime continuing to pursue a nuclear arsenal. While terror groups still threaten peace, strategic competition with other nations has again become our primary national security concern.

Since Operation DESERT STORM in 1991 the United States enjoyed unmatched military superiority in every operating domain -- air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace. Today, China, Russia, Iran and North Korea contest us in each one of those domains. Those countries don’t just contest us abroad, however. Advancements in weapons and cyber technology and the advent of hybrid war means that America is a target. We need only to consider our 'no-fail' alert mission to comprehend this reality. As a result, the 2018 NDS prioritizes building more lethal forces, strengthening alliances, and reforming the DoD for greater performance and cost-effectiveness in order to achieve our defense objectives. Chief among those objectives are defending the homeland, sustaining our Joint Force military advantages and deterring adversary aggression against our key interests.

As former Secretary of Defense Mattis said, ‘America’s military has no preordained right to victory on the battle-field.’ Read the quote again. We will need to alter our operations and procure equipment to stay ahead of adversary capabilities. The strategy outlines the Dynamic Force Employment concept for this reason; fielding more flexible equipment and personnel packages to maintain combat capability while increasing survivability. Known within the Air Force as Adaptive Basing or Agile Combat Employment, several units already perform these exercises. The NDS also directs modernizing cyber, command and control, logistics, and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance systems in order to field more capable and responsive forces. There is less focus on 'support to the warfighter' because everyone 'is' a warfighter.

So what does this mean to us? We need to understand that our purpose is to provide a lethal force able to decisively win against an adversary nation. As individuals, we must become, and remain, as competent as possible in our wartime tasks and the ability to problem-solve as they relate to the Air Force Core Missions; we owe that to our fellow Swamp Foxes. Gaining this knowledge goes far beyond attending any formal professional military education. Luckily much of the information is as close as your smart phone. We also cannot rest on our past achievements - improvement does not come from accepting comfort or doing things as we always have.  

We also need to identify our critical tasks and develop the most efficient ways to perform them. While we’ve fought extremely agile adversaries for the last two decades, we’ve done so from a Cold War, large-base approach. We may not need that, and the adversary will try to prevent us from operating that way, so we need to adapt in order to mitigate the adversary’s efforts. Finally, realize that whenever we fight, and many times when we train, it is with other services or other nations. We need to continue to seek out and take advantage of these opportunities. Remember the saying about going to a fight, ‘bring a friend, bring their friends, and the friends of their friends.’

The 2018 National Defense Strategy illustrates DoD priorities and lines of effort for the next three years. Understanding the NDS is key to our comprehending the national security situation and adapting our force development and operations to field Swamp Foxes capable of decisively winning.