Lessons for the New Administration – Technology, Innovation, and Modern War

Our recent national security class at Stanford, Technology, Innovation, and Modern War was designed to give students insights on how the onslaught of new technologies like AI, machine learning, autonomy, cyber, access to space, biotech, hypersonics, and others have the potential to radically change how countries fight and deter threats.

With 20+ guest speakers, including two Secretaries of Defense, Generals, Admirals and Policy makers, the class emphasized that winning future conflicts requires more than just adopting new technology and developing new weapon systems. It calls for a revolution in thinking about how these technologies can be adopted and integrated into weapons and other defense platforms, and more importantly, how they can create new operational and organizational concepts that will change the way we fight.

By the end of the class there were five surprises.

  1. One was a continuous refrain from senior DoD leadership that new tech, weapons, and operational concepts are insufficient to guarantee the U.S. will prevail in a great power conflict. In fact, these new technologies/weapons change the odds against us.
  2. Secondly, our senior military leadership recognizes that now more than ever we can’t go it alone. We need allies – existing and new ones. And that depends on a reinvigorated State Department and renewed emphasis on diplomacy in general.

Unstated by any of our speakers but painfully clear by class end were three other surprises:

  1. Our national security is now inexorably intertwined with commercial technology and is hindered by our lack of an integrated strategy at the highest level.
  2. Our adversaries have exploited the boundaries and borders between our defense, commercial and economic interests.
  3. Our current approaches – both in the past and current administration – to innovation across the government are piecemeal, incremental, increasingly less relevant and insufficient.

Lessons Learned
A few takeaways from our speakers. If you’re in the DoD and conversant with the National Defense and Military strategies and have read Chris Brose’s book The Kill Chain, none of this will come as a surprise. But for the rest of you, here they are:

  • The 2018 National Defense Strategy focused the DoD on Great Power competition. It called out China as a peer competitor to America, pursuing its goal of global dominance. At the same time, Russia has reemerged as a regional power.
  • For the last two decades, while we were focused on combating terrorism, China has explicitly developed weapons and operational concepts to target every one of our advantages- in weapon systems and operational concepts, but also in alliances, economic and diplomatic power.
  • Unfortunately, China has succeeded – many of our most exquisite systems on sea, in space or in other places are at risk. A majority of these weapons have now become legacy systems eating up future budget and resources.
  • Rapid innovation in new technologies – cyber, AI, autonomy, access to space, drones, 5G, biotech, quantum, microelectronics, etc. – are no longer being led by military/government labs, but instead come from commercial vendors – many of them Chinese. The result is that unlike the last 75 years, the DOD can no longer predict or control future technologies and threats.
  • A surprise for many of us was the tacit acknowledgment from our military and defense leaders that we cannot win a war alone, without allies. These senior leaders emphasized the importance of a more collaborative embrace of existing allies and creation of new ones. They put a premium on diplomacy, and the need for a better funded and robust State Department.
  • The result is that for the first time in almost a century, the U.S. is no longer guaranteed to win the next war.

The good news is every one of our military and civilian speakers conceptually understands all of this. And even better, all want to change the status quo. However …

Most are coming to the conclusion that the DoD is at a crossroads: Substantive and sustained changes in the DoD size, structure, policies, processes, practices, technologies, and culture are needed.

  • For example, our requirements and acquisition systems are driven by a 70-year-old model predicated on predicting the future (both threats and technology) and delivering solutions decades out; and optimized for lifecycle costs, not rapid innovation or disposable systems.
  • In the last four years we modernized the acquisition process, but it remains hindered by the requirements processes from the services, which still result in 88 Major Defense Acquisition Programs – where we spend our acquisition dollars – to buy legacy systems mostly built for past threats.
  • Some hints of the future force came from multiple speakers. Admiral Lorin Selby, the Chief of Naval Research, for example, had a compelling vision of the future fleet and an expanded industrial base.
  • The DoD has over 75 incubators and accelerators. We lead the world in demos of new technology but not in deployed systems. Few of these innovation activities have resulted in a major program of record. The DoD is making the right baby steps but needs to quickly focus on scaling innovation. This, of course, will require the difficult conversation of what legacy systems will be retired.
  • DoD’s relationship with startups and commercial companies driving these new technologies is hindered by a lack of understanding of their own and their investors’ interests. Venture capital and startups have institutionalized disruptive innovation. In the U.S. they spend $150 billion a year to fund new ventures that can move with the speed and urgency that the DoD now requires. While we’ve made progress, a radical reinvention of our civil/military innovation relationship is necessary if we want to keep abreast of our adversaries. This should include:
    • A Civil-Military Alliance driven by incentives not coercion. By public-private partnerships not government control. Private industry – from Primes to startups – incentivized at scale will ensure our leadership in science, in industry and in new technologies.
    • Reduce the dependence on bespoke and exquisite systems. Rapidly bring commercial technology into the DoD while adding proprietary defense components
    • Create new technology ecosystems around DoD technology needs by encouraging commercial interoperability around DoD standards. Awards and contracts to each new ecosystem.
    • Encourage and incentivize dual-use startups, scale-ups, and companies
    • Overhaul Federal Labs and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) to promote collaboration at scale with startups and venture investors
    • Each service should pick 1-2 startup/scale-up winners and buy heavily
  • Pentagon leadership will need to be selected on the ability to innovate – empower the innovation insurgents and elevate risk takers that understand technology.
  • We’ve failed to engage the rest of the populace in our mission. Americans – including extraordinarily talented students from our top universities — are ready and willing to serve in some capacity. We’ve shown little interest in providing the incentives and expanding the opportunities required to make that happen.

However, these observations about changes needed in the DoD surfaced a much bigger problem, one that civilian leadership has not yet acknowledged: National security is now inexorably intertwined with commercial technology and is hindered by our lack of a national industrial and economic policy. There is an urgent need for an integrated strategy and policies.

These are not problems of technology. They’re problems of organizational design, incentives, out of the box thinking and national will.

The American people will need to demand more of their government and elected officials. The status quo will need to be broken. Substantive change will require new ideas, not better versions of the ones we have. For example:

  • The new Biden senior White House organizational structure still treats technology as a standalone issue. That’s a status quo position and a losing hand. We need to recognize that the boundaries between our defense, commercial and economic interests are interrelated.
  • We need to build the innovation capacity across the interagency- coordinated and synchronized by senior executive branch leadership. One way of implementing this would be creating a political appointee in key government agencies that acts as the interagency single point of innovation leadership cutting across organizations including but not limited to the DoD, National Security Council, Council of Economic Advisors, OMB, FCC, and OSTP.
  • Create a new Deputy National Security Advisor to coordinate and synchronize innovation and industrial policies across these multiple agencies
    • With real influence and responsibility on budget, trade policy, and alliance strategy
    • Specifically coordinate national policies of 5G, AI, machine learning, autonomy, cyber, access to space, biotech, hypersonics, microelectronics, etc.
    • Owns Civil/Military alliance for engaging and incentivizing new entrants and incumbents and protecting civil assets
    • Sits on the National Security Council and National Economic Council

These changes will require Congress, defense contractors and the executive branch to pull in the same direction to change that equation.

The good news is that we have all the tools needed to succeed, we just need the willpower.  And we must not forget what’s at stake. Democracies, while messy, are a force for good.  Self-determination with codified freedoms is the most moral system of organization mankind has developed.  Getting the reforms we examined in this class is essential to the preservation of democracy and maximization of peace.  It is most certainly a noble endeavor.

In future articles we’re going to offer specific solutions to transform the DoD to face the challenges ahead, not behind.

Steve, Joe, and Raj

Technology, Innovation, and Modern War  – Wrap Up

This class, Technology, Innovation, and Modern War was designed to give our students insights on how the onslaught of new technologies like AI, machine learning, autonomy, cyber, access to space, biotech, hypersonics, and others has the potential to radically change how countries fight and deter threats.

Our 20+ guest speakers were an extraordinary collection of military and policy leaders including two Secretaries of Defense, Generals, Admirals and Policy makers.

The class emphasized that winning future conflicts requires more than just adopting new technology and developing new weapon systems. It calls for a revolution in thinking about how these technologies can be adopted and integrated into weapons and other defense platforms, and more importantly, how they can create new operational and organizational concepts that will change the way we fight.

By the time we got to the end of the class we had a firehose of perspectives on technology, weapons, and policy. It took us awhile to process it all, but out of that mass of data five surprises emerged – insights about what’s happened to the DOD and the country and how we should organize to meet these challenges. We’ve summarized them in part 2 that follows this post. But first here’s a summary of what we covered in this class.

An overview of the history of military innovation
In the first part of this course, we reminded the students that the national power of a country – its influence and footprint on the world stage – is more than just its military strength. It’s the combination of a country’s diplomacy (soft power and alliances), information/intelligence, and its innovation / economic strength as well as military prowess.

Nations decline when they lose allies, decline in economic power, lose interest in global affairs, experience internal/civil conflicts, or the  nation’s military misses disruptive technology transitions and new operational concepts.

In our opening lesson, Ex-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter shared insights and experiences from his extensive and impactful career in DoD that included tours as Undersecretary for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics, Deputy Secretary, and Defense Secretary. Subsequent teaching team lectures provided students an overview of the history of military innovation, all the way from long bows to nuclear weapons and offset strategies with the observation that innovations and adoption in military systems follow a repeatable pattern. Max Boot, the author of “War Made New helped us understand that pattern. Next, we described the US strategies developed since World War Two to gain and maintain our technological and competitive edge during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Finally, we discussed the challenges raised in the 2018 National Defense Strategy. In addition to  the non-nation states (Al-Qaeda and ISIS) we’ve fought for the last two decades, our military now faces “Great Power” competition from China and Russia. Today the U.S. faces “two plus three” threats –  the two peer adversaries China and Russia, plus the three – regional threats from Iran, North Korea as well as the non-nation state actors. The strategy called for a pivot of our defense from fighting terrorists to preparing for confrontations with the “two plus three.”

To help us understand how and why the “two plus three” strategy was created, we had Bridge Colby, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and one of the strategy’s authors lead this discussion.

Next, Christian Brose, the former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the author of The Kill Chain, (one of our required readings for the class) helped us understand what our adversaries have done to put our military and country at risk over the last two decades and the consequences for the country.

Military Applications and Operational Concepts in Space, Cyber, AI, and Autonomy
Once we laid out the new 2+3 threats to the nation, we segued into the second part of the class where we examined how emerging technologies in AI, cyber, space, and autonomy would create new weapons systems and operational concepts.

We heard from the DOD officials who are acquiring these technologies including Ellen Lord, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, and Will Roper, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Technology and Logistics.

We got a deep understanding of the impact and deployment of AI in the DOD from recently retired Lieutenant General Jack Shanahan, the founding director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (the JAIC) and Nand Mulchandani the JAIC CTO. Chris Lynch, the ex-head of the Defense Digital Service and now CEO of Rebellion Defense described his company’s experience as a new defense contractor trying to build and deliver these AI-systems for the department defense.

For autonomy, Maynard Holiday, former senior advisor in the Pentagon who helped the Defense Science Board define autonomy, gave us a tutorial on the technology. And for cyber, we had Sumit Agarwal, a former DOD cyber policymaker, do the same.  For understanding space as a new contested domain, and the role of the new Space Force, we had General John Raymond, Chief of Space Operations and Commander of the Space Force. And for the impact new technologies will have on the Navy, the best person to hear from was Admiral Lorin Selby, the Chief of Naval Research, which includes ONR, and the Naval Research Lab.

Major General Mike Fenzel, Vice Director for Strategy, Plans and Policy, J5 for the Joint Chiefs, educated us on how the DOD develops operational plans and courses of action. And finally, Michele Flournoy former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy offered what a new Secretary of Defense might do to organize to match those 2+3 threats and new technologies.

Midterms and Finals
For their midterm we asked students to describe how they would reallocate the defense budget to better serve US national security interests and to make their case to Congress on why and how our defense priorities should change. They had to determine and argue how much budget should shift from legacy systems to new systems and why.  We selected the author of one of the top student submissions to present her argument and recommendations to Congressman Mike Gallagher of the House Armed Services Committee.

For their Final, students teamed up in groups of 4 to tackle thorny challenges that may face the US and its Allies in the coming decades, including misinformation, cyber, logistics, networks, and new military platforms.  The students, with the help of a military member, developed broad proposals and wrote a policy paper for the President of the United States.  In the next to last class, as prep for the students final presentations, Safi Bahcall observed that one of the most significant barriers to innovation and adoption is how organizations are designed. And he offered that the DOD needs a different organization to facilitate rapid adoption

Finally, in our last class one of our student teams presented their final project – how they would address real threats, with new operational concepts, policies, and strategies – to former Secretary of Defense General (ret) James Mattis.

To Our Students
This class has given us a lot of hope that our nation and free nations around the world will be in good hands if the students in this class-and the best and brightest of their generation beyond Stanford – make the decision to serve and to use their amazing skills for the betterment of the world. We hope you take on the challenge that General Mattis posed to “Be the change in the world that you want.” All of us are cheerleaders to all of you and in that journey. So thank you for letting us be part of this.  We are excited to see how much positive change you will make happen in the coming years.

Lessons Learned

In our next post we’re going to describe the five surprises, the insights we’ve derived and offer specific solutions to transform the DOD and country to face the challenges ahead, not behind.

Steve, Joe, and Raj

A Quick Course on Lean

Over the weekend I got asked the best way to teach students the principles of Lean via Zoom.

One of the key lessons from our Educators Conference is that when teaching online complex information needs to be delivered to students in small, easily processed parts.

I realized that pre-pandemic I had put together a series of two-minute videos called “See Why.”  They’re not only helpful for a formal class but for anyone who wants to review the basics. Here’s what I suggested they offer their students:

Lean in Context

No Business Plan Survives First Contact With Customers

How did we build startups in the past?

The Business Model

An introduction to The Business Model Canvas

The Minimal Viable Product

How to Get, Keep and Grow Customers?

How to Get Out of the Building and Test the Business Model

What is Customer Development

What is Customer Discovery and Why Do it?

Why Get Out of the Building?

A short article on how to do Customer Discovery via Zoom

Jobs to be done

Customer Validation

The Pivot

The Harvard Business Review Article “Why the Lean Startup Changes Everything” ties the pieces together here

The Mission Model Canvas

What is the Mission Model Canvas

The Mission Model Canvas Videos

Extra’s

Why Customer Development is done by founders

What Do Customers Get from You?

What are Customer Problems/Pains?

Users, Payers and Multi-sided markets

How do I Know I Have the Right Customers – Testing

How big is it?

How to Avoid Pricing Mistakes

More two-minute lectures here

Tools for educators here

Tools for students here

Lessons Learned

  • Break up online lessons into small parts

 

 

 

What I Learned from 500 Educators – Build Back Better Summit – Results

With the theme “Build Back Better” Jerry Engel, Pete Newell, Steve Weinstein and I co-hosted nearly 500 Lean Educators from 63 countries and 235 universities online for a three-hour session to share what we’ve learned about educators on how we can help our communities rebound, adjust, and recover.

We got insights from each other about tools, tips, techniques and best practices.

Here’s what we learned.

Background
When we last ran this virtual summit in July, our 400 educators were just coming to grips with teaching remotely. The two questions on the table were, 1) Could the lean methodology work remotely? 2) And what kind of pedagogy would support a class that depended on “getting out of the building” to work virtually? Tactically, how effective would customer discovery be for the students? Would customers sit for virtual interviews? How would you show them minimal viable products if not in person? How do you keep students engaged?

This Summit
This summit discussed how the pandemic has shifted the way we teach, but also what we learned teaching and how we can use the Lean methodology to make an impact on our communities.

COVID-19 has dramatically altered the business landscape. Main Street businesses are severely affected. While many parts of the high-tech sector are growing, others are either contracting or shutting down. Amid these uncertain times we believe that Lean educators can prepare students for this new investing climate and help communities recover.

The summit opened with a panel of Investors sharing their insights of what the funding environment for entrepreneurs, non-profits and small businesses will look like as the economy recovers. See here for a video of the investor panel.

Next, Lee Bollinger President of Columbia University in conversation electrified the audience with description of the fourth purpose of a university. (I’ve summarized our conversation with the video and transcript of the entire talk following the summary.)

The core of the summit was gathering the collective wisdom and experience of the 500 attendees as we split into 20 breakout rooms. Besides sharing tips for teaching traditional entrepreneurs the discussion also included how we could help Main Street businesses. The output of the breakout sessions provided a firehose of data, a ton of useful suggestions, teaching tips and tools. Following Lee’s talk I’ve summarized the collective notes from the breakout session.

Lee Bollinger – Columbia
The three purposes of a university are research, education, and public service. But universities should take on an additional role. To try to impact and affect the world in good ways, it’s what I call the fourth purpose of a university. No university has said, “We should design the institution to have a bigger impact using academic work and join up with outside entities and organizations and partners to do that.” And that’s what the fourth purpose is all about.

If one looks around in the world, you see these huge problems, massive inequality, hunger, poverty, climate change, issues of how to set up a global trading system. You have national problems. So, there’s no shortage of major issues.

NGOs play a very important role, but they tend to be very focused on some particular issue. If you look at think tanks, again, many of them are captured by particular interests. And universities have this incredible sort of filled-with-public purpose people who want to have an effect on the world.

One of the things that’s been striking to me over the course of my career is that those people probably will not get credit for that work in the promotion and tenure process. And that strikes me as crazy. We should embrace in the appointment process people who have incredible talents of that kind. People who are extremely gifted and talented at making things happen in the world. I think all of us have known people like that.

[If we do this] we would have a cohort of people within our institution who are of equal standing, with the greatest scholars and the greatest teachers. But they are the greatest at having impact on the world. We do this to some extent. That’s why it’s interesting in a way. It’s not even like it’s completely novel. I mean, the great surgeon, the great lawyer will be an adjunct in the law school, or the great business person will be an adjunct in the business school. But we don’t embrace it in the way that I’m thinking about. So there’s who do you embrace within the university and what do you value?

I think it’s a very pragmatic and practical –  where do you situate in your mind universities in the context of the world? Should they be highly removed and only focused on teaching and scholarship with some public service on the side? Or should they be actively engaged with problems, ready to work with outside people and organizations?

See Columbia World Projects.

If you can’t see the video of Lee Bollinger’s talk click here. The transcript of his talk is here.

Breakout Sessions
The core of the summit was gathering the collective wisdom and experience of the 500 attendees as we split into 20 breakout rooms.(There were also a special breakout room for those interested in the new Hacking for Environment/Oceans course that started at UCSC and UCSD this year.)

The output of the breakout sessions provided a firehose of data, a ton of useful suggestions, teaching tips and tools. I’ve summarized the collective notes from the breakout session. 

The consensus in our July summit and reinforced again in this summit was, yes you can teach via Zoom and “get out of the building” when you physically can’t. And it’s almost good enough. Further, our 3-hour long classes which were challenging in person required a redesign to be taught online. Zoom fatigue was real.

General Observations

  • Crisis accelerates certain trends. COVID broke the myth that distant learning was problematic and isn’t as effective.
  • It forced everybody into remote learning, and a lot of people came away with the feeling of, hey, for a lot of things, this works much better than we thought it was going to work.
  • Now everybody has lived through a pivot. Everybody has experienced disruption and perhaps is now more open to looking at new ideas.
  • That’s going to be a carryover into when we can go back. How do you use that as a technique and not be afraid of it?
  • We need to remember in these difficult times that many of the skills we’re teaching – problem solving and running around the brick wall or through it – are life skills that we’re teaching. They’re not restricted just to entrepreneurs.
  • Not pretending it’s business as usual was a great lesson

Pedagogy – How We Teach Remotely

  • On-line has made it easier for teams to meet, mentors to meet, easier access to world-class speakers.
  • The importance of actually doing good instructional design, was pointed out as is time consuming and significant work to do up front. But it pays off in enabling much better engagement and retention.
  • it’s forced educators to become much more coherent and clearer about what they want to achieve with their teams and their students.
  • Understand that that it takes longer for people to absorb information when delivered online.
  • The flipped classroom approach – lectures as prerecorded homework – reduces remote class load. It can make your synchronous time more focused on collaboration, both with you and the students as an instructor, but also among the students themselves.
  • Make each lecture available in advance of the class.
  • Reinforce the lectures with examples during the zoom session
  • We’re doing better online than ever. In classes it’s easier to get people to participate but it’s difficult to keep momentum, especially when you get into the hard part of customer discovery
  • Overall, there’s a higher pressure to be more entertaining
  • Some institutions have asked the students to design the class. They choose a topic, then the students design the class or help design the class
  • It’s really difficult to maintain that one-on-one intimacy, but zoom has been a passable kind of safe option.\
  • We’ve had faculty say that hybrid classes – teaching both in person and virtually, simultaneously – are probably the most detrimental learning environment
  • Hybrid teaching – some students physically in classroom wearing along with others online was pretty detrimental to the quality of instruction
  • One way of ensuring that students go through the advanced materials, is to have the students come up with a question about the material in advance
  • When it all changes, we’ll go back in person. But zoom is simply a classroom which just happens to be electronic. And the breakout rooms are simply a breakout, a study session, it just happens to be electronic. I think you can build an argument that there are more innovative and more interesting ways to do this. I just don’t know what they are yet.

In-Class Timing

  • Shorten the time that you’re going to do things. You can no longer do a full day, you can perhaps do three hours max virtually
  • Break things into very, very small chunks, bite sized chunks, one-minute, not 20-minute presentations for teams. And micro videos so people can watch to learn things
  • You got to break everything up – 10/15 minutes, it can’t be anything longer than that
  • Keep everything very, very short
  • Make things very bite sized, even when you’re all together online
  • The chunking concepts worked really well for students, and array those chunks of information in a buffet rather than a monolith – to make it easier for students to access
  • Make certain you boil your class down and reiterate, “these are the five things you needed to take away from this discussion.” Because at the end of the day, there are a little bit overwhelmed
  • Students being overwhelmed was a running narrative

Reach of the Classroom

  • Educators can reach a much larger audience, even a worldwide audience. And that really opened up the educators minds that they can teach not just to a single group, but to a much larger group
  • Having a worldwide audience is now possible. Which is a huge strength and has network benefits that people couldn’t anticipate
  • Teaching remote enabled being able to increase access. There were some great examples of enabling students in Africa to participate in programs from Australia, which had never happened before
  • It made me think of us as teachers without borders. That access is really pushed out to everybody now, to a much, much increased attendance
  • We can bring more people in from outside the classroom. Not only the theorists but constituents for customer development, or with Main Street businesses and local constituents
  • We’re no longer restricted by the size of the classroom. This year we’ve gone from 8 teams and 32 students to 16 teams and 80 students

Guest Speakers

  • A year ago students would have looked down on not having in-person guests. Today they’re blown away by who we can get
  • Remote teaching offers a broader access to more guest lecturers. It’s a lot easier for guests to say yes in because they don’t have to drive in, they can do it from their offices
  • Pre-recording some guests enables access to guests who normally would say no because of their schedule

Customer Discovery

  • Getting out of the classroom in some ways can be a lot easier when you’re never actually in a classroom. There aren’t the same travel and logistical challenges.
  • Getting zoom interviews is actually easier. So some of the discovery process has been easier online
  • Mixed results, we were able to get more people engaged to get more people do more interviews, and because people are more available online. But we couldn’t go as deep and couldn’t do more of the informal observation, that part of really getting to some insight
  • We need to know what sweet spots for customer development work best with zoom and that don’t work best with zoom. We need to give our students greater guidance around that point.

Minimal Viable Products

  • The very important role the MVP plays today, especially when you’re working in zoom. If you can get the product quickly, cheaply, and without using a lot of funding, you need to do that, because that’s going to get you a lot further along in terms of what you can learn from a customer development perspective.

Breakout Sessions

  • Organize to have more class time in the breakout rooms in smaller groups, because this is where engagement really happens
  • As soon as you jump into a breakout session as a professor, you’re going to kill the discussion. Be sensitive, don’t jump in, let them finish the discussion on their own
  • Breakout sessions held via zoom help maintain team chemistry
  • Keeping the same team composition in the breakout sessions make those sessions work really well, compared to when they had split teams

Student Engagement

  • The wallflowers within the class get to use chat, versus in person where they’re not going to participate at all.
  • How do you create energy during zoom sessions, especially during international calls?
  • There’s a drop off in engagement after one hour. Basically, they just disappear from the zoom
  • Some of the good things was being able to institute virtual pitching, virtual customer discovery, and in some cases a hosted special session to motivate faculty and students
  • Encourage students to learn the skill to consult with each other. This is a crucial skill. To be able to guide each other and say, “Well what did you learn about your customer discovery. And what did you learn about the value proposition.” Have them take the role of the educator a little bit

Collaboration

  • We need to find ways to allow students/teams do distance socialization. Find those kinds of activities in a way that gels the team and make that work out
  • Socializing happens naturally in person. You go out to dinner after things, you go get pizza, you hang out. That’s much harder to do virtually
  • Finding collaboration tools which can be used both during the zoom sessions but also outside of class. So students and the overall class can interact, both during the official hours, as well as during the unofficial hours
  • We’re no longer having these bigger networked conversations where you can have the serendipitous meet at the watercooler or the trade show, and kind of increase the creativity. But because of that some of these interactions have become more meaningful and purposeful because they’re very focused
  • Providing those tools is really important because they can’t just go have a cup of coffee after class, they can’t all get together at seven o’clock
  • Eventually bonding does happen if the teams meet on a regular basis and really connect over time
  • Community building is very challenging in remote context. Even though you’re able to get across a lot of the learning objectives, you’re missing a lot of these intangibles
  • Using tools like Mural, Discord, Slack and ClassEdu creates a sense of community and ongoing collaboration
  • Get the input from the students about what collaboration tools they’re most fluent in 

Team Formation

  • Teams have more trouble forming and norming under the current circumstances
  • There’s the forming, storming, norming, performing kind of thing about teams that happens through working together over time, and socializing
  • Team formations to really gel as a team can happen in this kind of remote environment – but it takes longer

Students/Teams

  • Continually push more for diversity in students/founders; older people, Hispanics, women, brown and black – people of all of all flavors
  • Having someone who looks like them lead the class info/recruiting sessions for diverse students. This dramatically changes the class makeup
  • Be sensitive to students’ personal situations
  • Students will turn off their videos, not because they’re checking out, but because of their location (bedroom, basement, sitting in their underwear, etc.)
  • Suggest a class rule that participation is part of the grade. When they do talk, they have to put the camera on. That’s a compromise on the sensitivity
  • In the online environment, it is a little bit more difficult to gauge feedback from teams
  • You need to work hard helping build highly engaged and motivated teams
  • You want to push them to take advantage of being virtual and conducting extreme customer discovery
  • On the other side, teams who might have started out strong at the beginning of COVID, and found it easier to do things virtually, have now hit a serious virtual fatigue, and are kind of disengaged and not excited about it. And just really exhausted, too exhausted to take anything more on

Mentorship

  • Mentorship becomes a lot easier. Rather than having to get people face to face meeting, we are now able to connect people. we are being able to bring the right mentors from around the country or even around the world to help our students with mentoring
  • There are three kinds of mentors; process mentors – those that know what’s coming up. Technology mentors, and then market mentors. Zoom makes it easier to have more people involved
  • Reach out to older/retired entrepreneurs, find them and put them into the mix as mentors, sometimes as founders and coaches and so forth. They’ve got time they’re willing to help
  • Keeping mentors and investors engaged over the video was a bit of a problem. They managed to shorten and simplify the process that tended to help. But q&a engagement is still a little bit of a struggle.

Exams

  • Exams need to be testing more of the understanding in the application of the concept
  • You can have an exam that is open for six or 24 hours. And then you’re able to actually ask the students to demonstrate more of the understanding of the concepts

Post-Covid Teaching

  • How do we make sure that our students who may be falling behind and may not have been able to keep up because of the COVID pandemic?
  • How do we make sure that they’re on track after we get back?
  • How do we make sure that we are adjusting for their return and the return to normalcy after we get back?

Main Street

  • We as educators need to not treat solopreneurs or Main Street businesses as second-class citizens in our classrooms or incubators, or our meetups. They’re embracing the risks and challenges that big tech startups are embracing
  • Main Street customers had product market fit, and now they’re experiencing for the first time falling out of product market fit
  • Business owners are distracted, focused on day-to-day issues. And they’re impacted personally
  • Looking at all aspects of the entrepreneur has been a real focus on prioritizing the human element, when folks are dealing with layoffs, or cash flow issues, or potential eviction
  • How do we work with companies/startups that are maybe not so much innovation driven, but necessity driven? Because of the dislocations being created by COVID-19, and economic dislocation
  • How do we provide services at scale to help coaching? We had some people who had sent their students to help those local businesses in this time of need and pivoted their classes from doing the next step to helping mainstream businesses do it
  • And we had people doing that, both in Africa and in San Jose. And with Hacking for the community in Hawaii and going out to rural areas. But we still struggle with how to engage, especially with rural communities to help them do that
  • When you go out to rural areas, that younger people who are already fluent in the tools are more are more likely to engage
  • Similarly, the idea that empathy and engagement is extremely scalable. So some of the core principles here have really scaled a lot
  • One of the things that was really interesting was connecting entrepreneurial students with waitresses and bartenders to help them figure out how to get additional funding to compensate for the lack of subsidies they might not have been able to receive
  • It’s not always a sexy company that the student gets to work with. But they get to see real impact. And it’s something that they can use in their skill sets as project managers as they continue forward
  • SBDC (Small Business Development Centers) have a very strong demand for a modified lean Launchpad curriculum program for Main Street businesses. The individual Small Business Development Centers are doing the best they can to come up with a “just getting started” program. They’re all unique. They could benefit from what universities learned from the Lean Launchpad/Lean Startup approach
  • Getting businesses online, giving them social media skills, coaching on the canvas, as a critical thing they were doing for Main Street businesses
  • The teams aren’t done when they’re done with the class. In fact, they’re actually starting a real business during the class.

University Experiments

  • At Ryerson the University incubators are open to entrepreneurs throughout the community, not just enrolled students.
  • UT Rio Grande, where many students did not have access to good internet connections, improved their WiFi to extend it to their parking lots
  • To graduate from the University of Buckingham, you must found a startup before you get your diploma. The startup doesn’t have to succeed. And if it fails early enough, you get to do another one
  • We talked about a need to extend beyond the canonical I-Corps to post class curriculum to understand how the larger ecosystem can be part of that. We also talked about the need to track more than team activity more than just interviews. But to measure engagement with mentors and instructors. And the insights that come from those engagements

Hacking for the Environment and Oceans

  • Real benefit in teaching smaller niche cohorts more focused on a specific problem area
  • All of the coastal universities are finding that this methodology should have impact in these spaces
  • These courses are more complex to put on than even Hacking for Defense type classes, because you’re trying to bring a diverse community together
  • The types of sponsors are 1) nonprofits and from foundations, 2) Coastal Conservancy organizations 2) CEOs who hoping people will help them solve problems. 34) venture funds that are starting to be impact funds, particularly. It’s kind of a very diverse group.
  • For anyone interested in offering this class see –https://www.commonmission.us/sustainability-and-prosperityhacking-for-environment-oceans

The video of the entire breakout session reports is below.

If you can’t see the video click here.

Summary
When the National Science Foundation stopped holding their annual conference of I-Corps instructors, it offered us the opportunity to embrace a larger community beyond the NSF – now to include the Hacking for Defense, NSIN, and Lean LaunchPad educators.

When we decided to hold the online summit, we had three hypotheses:

  1. Educators would not only want to attend, but to volunteer and help and learn from each other – validated
  2. Instructors would care most about effective communication with students (not tools, or frameworks but quality of the engagement with students) – validated
  3. Our educator community valued ongoing, recurring opportunities to collaborate and open source ideas and tools – validated

A big thanks to Jerry Engel of U.C. Berkeley, the dean of this program. And thanks to our organizers The Common Mission Project which provided all the seamless logistical support, and sponsors VentureWell and GCEC and every one of the breakout room leaders:

Ali Hawks – Common Mission Project UK, Chris Taylor – Georgetown, Philip Bouchard – TrustedPeer, Jim Hornthal- UC Berkeley, Michael Marasco- Northwestern, Bob Dorf – Columbia, Tom Bedecarré – Stanford, Dave Chapman – University College London, Paul Fox – LaSalle Univ Barcelona, Phil Weilerstein – VentureWell, Stephanie Marrus – University of California, San Francisco, Jim Chung – George Washington University, Babu DasGupta -University of Wisconsin, Todd Warren – Northwestern, Jeff Reid – Georgetown, Micah Kotch – Urban-X, Radhika Malpani – Google, Todd Basche- BMNT, Todd Morrill – VMG

Join our educators slack channel here

Save the date for our next Educator Summit – June 3, 2021 online.

Technology, Innovation, and Modern War – Class 18 – General James Mattis

We just held our eighteenth and final session of our new national security class Technology, Innovation and Modern WarJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed a class to examine the new military systems, operational concepts and doctrines that will emerge from 21st century technologies – Space, Cyber, AI & Machine Learning and Autonomy.

Today General James Mattis addressed the class.

Catch up with the class by reading our summaries of the previous seventeen classes here.


Our speaker for our final last class was former Secretary of Defense General Jim Mattis who gave an inspiring talk about service to the nation. General Mattis joined the Marine Corps back in 1969, and he has led Marines and then later Joint forces from every level from platoon commander as a Lieutenant all the way up to combatant commander of US Central Command as a four-star general. He recently led our entire US Defense Department as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense. We’re fortunate to have him back here at Stanford at the Hoover Institution.

Below are select excerpts from a riveting Q&A session with the teaching team and our students. General Mattis shared a range of compelling experiences and insights that underscored many of the themes of the course.

How do we as a nation, compete against China?
The reality is that Republican and Democratic administrations have tried over 20 some years, to help China. (It was assumed) if we enable them, if we work with them, if they liberalize their economy, political liberalization will follow. It was an untested thesis. And there were a lot of people if they’d read history that might have said, I’m not so sure about that. Because as many of you are aware, the Chinese Communist Party sits on a shaky throne. They cannot liberalize politically, or they will lose power. It’s that simple. They’re not going to liberalize. They’ve made the choice. It’s loud and clear, it goes on over decades.

From Brussels to Washington, DC, certainly from Tokyo, to Canberra to New Delhi, there’s an appreciation that China wants to rewrite the rules. And there’s no reason to think an authoritarian country at home, would somehow write liberal rules abroad. That’s not what history teaches you. Countries don’t treat foreigners better than their own people. So you have to recognize the CCP is becoming more authoritarian- for example over Hong Kong, over their Uighurs, over their own people with social grades now being assigned social responsibility, job, grades, and that sort of thing.

When the National Defense Strategy came out, stating that China is our number one competitor, it was done with the idea that if we can buy the peace, keep the peace, one more year, one more month, one more week, one more day, this gives our diplomats the time to work. And try keeping our values foremost, to show the world we mean to make this work. We are not out to keep China down.

What do you think is the opportunity for Silicon Valley and the students in our class here at Stanford, to play a role in national security?
Well, the first point I would make is, we need every one of your good ideas. This is not a government that’s run in Washington and does its own thing like Beijing does, or Moscow does in their country. This is a government of the people, by the people for the people. We have no ordained right to victory on the battlefield. If we want to keep these freedoms we have – the freedoms that bring so many people from around the world to Silicon Valley – those freedoms are going to have to be defended, because there’s always people who think the way to run things is to beat heads, not to count heads.

For those countries that don’t operate off that, you cannot wish them away, you cannot make them into something you want them to be because you think the people there are like you. They are like you. A taxi driver in Leningrad, for example is much like a taxi driver in San Francisco. The problem is not with the people in those countries, it’s with a system. So we’re going to have to deal with that system, and make sure that we draw the very best of our young people.

And you don’t have to stay for 40 some years like me, but you should come in and do it for a few years. Maybe what you want to do is really emphasize education in your local community. And be on the local school board when you’re 26 years old- do your homework and go for it. Maybe you want to be on the city council and help adjust housing policies so that normal people with normal paychecks can actually afford to buy a house in this town.

We need others of you to move into these very technical issues and help us find our way forward. But the bottom line is you really need to consider that this freedom, just because the draft went away, it doesn’t mean you get to live here scot free. Some people say, a country’s like a bank, you can only take out of it what you’re willing to put in. We got a lot of people nowadays who think they can take out. But they don’t have to put anything in. Number one, that’s a good way to end up on a psychiatrist’s couch when you’re about 45 saying that in my selfish life, I didn’t do a whole lot of good to other human beings. So I don’t recommend that. But number two, it’s just a heck of a lot of fun to roll up your sleeves, and work alongside others in a great cause. You’ll never regret it, you’ll have the best days of your life, you’ll have the worst days of your life there. By golly, you’re really living when you’re doing this. And for those of you who want to go into military, I recommend it.

Are we correct to emphasize that it’s less about the technology, and more about how we use it?
Well, we’re fortunate, I think that we are at the leading edge – at the  cutting edge – on technology. It’s why so many young people who are bright come to Palo Alto and the area, or to Boston, to Seattle, Texas, all these places where we have this going on. I don’t think it’s either or, but If I was to concentrate on the area most important, it would be on the integration. I study a lot of history, not because it gives me all the answers, but it tells me how other people dealt successfully or unsuccessfully with similar situations. Not every situation is unique. And so it teaches you what questions to ask.  And I’ll give you an example of a military technology where some people didn’t develop it -didn’t develop the 2.0 version -but used it better than anyone else.

World War One, the British are sick and tired of their boys going against barbed wire and machine guns. And they say if we could cross that ground in an armored vehicle, and then fight, or fight from the armored vehicle, we’d save a lot of lives. And so they developed the tank, right in the middle of the war. They weren’t thinking ahead. They got caught flat footed. Tanks are big, they didn’t work well and everything else. But they had the tank. British had the tank. They even had some pretty good tactics to tell the truth, developed over the next few years after the war. Well, everybody else said, Oh, I want one of those too. Mankind being what they are, they’re always looking for a different way to whack each other. And so everybody starts making tanks. Guess who had the best tank by 1939? People think the Germans. Aha, not by a longshot. The French had better tanks. Tank for tank, French had the better tank by 1938/39. But the Germans integrated the tank better. So the British had tank 1.0. Let’s just say the French had 2.0. And the Germans were about 1.5. But the Germans put a radio in their tank to talk to a dive bomber overhead. And they trained their people- educated them to use initiative. And now they unleash what you and I call lightning war -blitzkrieg- across Europe in 1940. They didn’t invent the tank -they didn’t develop the tank very well. They didn’t even have the most modern tank, but they integrated that technology better than anyone else did. And they unleashed hell across Europe. So that just shows the priority of integrating capabilities better, more effectively, more broadly, in a more focused way than someone else. That’s where you get your advantage.

What new technology threats do you see?
The new threats that are coming, we can see them mostly in the cyber, and the space domains. Those are two new domains. We fought on this planet for about 10,000 years on the land and sea, then in the last hundred years, the air. In the last 15 years, we’ve added cyber and space.  I would tell you that in these areas, we are integrating them now.

But there’s also fundamental changes coming in the way we deal with one another as human beings. Talking about artificial intelligence here, how we deal with life. And all of these are double edged swords. Every one of them, I can tell you has a double edge. So we better figure out how we’re going to deal with these emerging technologies, hypersonics this sort of thing. And try to keep the peace for one more year, one more month, one more week.

What do you think the future of warfare looks like?
I got a phone call one day. I was a marine three-star in Afghanistan. The Secretary General of NATO called me. He said, I’ve been approved by your president to call you. You’re going to be put in charge of the Supreme Allied Commander for NATO transformation. And in the US, you’re going to command U.S. Joint Forces Command. Your job is to feel out future warfare. And I thought, I better start reading about this, because I’ve been an infantry guy fighting all this time. So I read 20 some books. And every military book started with Alexander the Great. There’s a reason he’s called the great by the way.

Every military that successfully transformed, successfully modernized, did one thing in particular, the ones that succeeded. They defined the specific problem they were trying to solve.  And what they did was they defined the problem so well, that the solution became more apparent to them. Go to Einstein, if he had 60 minutes to save the world, he was asked how he would compose his thoughts. He said, I’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem, then we’d save the world in five minutes. So how does that impact here? I would tell you that in this case, it is going to be a combination of the legacy systems and the breakthrough technologies that are coming right now. But remember this, I was thinking, as you all were briefing your strategies earlier, for 2022 and up to 2030. There’s a boxer who said everyone’s always got a plan until they get slugged in the face.

I remember when we were explaining to some Russian officers after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and we were meeting and actually getting along with each other in those days. It went bad under Putin, but for a little while, in this window, I remember one of our officers saying, you know, with our air forces, you weren’t going to move across Europe. He said, Oh, we weren’t worried about that.  I was kind of curious, I said, why not? He said, because you weren’t going to be flying many of your air forces when my T-72‘s. were parked on your runway.

In other words, there’s the give and take of war. Where you see an advantage that we held, and we did hold a great advantage in the air. And they didn’t have the air defenses that would have been sufficient to stop us in all most cases. But what they were going to do is using a past technology. They were going to deny us the use of ours. So what does this look like? We’ll see all these new weapons being fielded. And some will work some will not work as well, some will be destabilizing, some will actually not be used at all. Just the threat will be sufficient.

For example, right now, if you walk into a geographic combatant command, there’s a whole bunch of men and women sitting there in the senior operations shop, and they’re watching the intel on the board. And there’s a guy sitting there talking to the aircraft carriers, another one talking to the Air Force fighter, the CAOC, the fighter guys, bombers, that sort of thing. There’s the army missile people in the room. There’s your maneuver brigades in the room, this sort of thing. Well, there’s also sitting there some different  looking guys and gals, mostly civilians. And they’re sitting there and they’re on keyboards, and they’re going very quickly back and forth to some other places. And they are fighting it out in cyber warfare right then. And satellites are being turned to look at certain things. And it’s going on.

And so you’re going to see the integration from the very top, all the way down to an army battalion that’s got an Air Force officer in it. That’s bringing in certain targeting data through an integrated command and control system. In other words, it’s not like it’s all going to be fought by robot, but there’ll be a lot of robots on the field and in the air overhead. It’s not all going to be high tech. In fact, some of the units will be messaging to one another, using motorcycle riders more than likely, because they can’t be cut off by cyber. You’re going to see this mix up and down the scale of technology. And certain breaking technologies are going to then dominate in certain areas. And now it’s up to you to mix and integrate that together in a way. That’s what you do.

Let me tell you what you want to do to the enemy commander. That guy who’s going to make the decision to fall back to fight harder, to do this, do that. You want him facing so many cascading dilemmas that he cannot keep up with them. As he solves this one, three more dilemmas pop up. And you want him on the “horns of a dilemma” constantly. If he moves, he’s going to get hit. If he stays put, he’s going to get hit. If he moves over here, he’s going to get hit. But if he hits you, he’s going to get hit even harder, because he’s now had to fire and now we have more intel on where he’s firing from. It’s a great, great, tragic chess game. And it will be characterized by all the things you’re studying now and surprises the enemy has up their sleeve.

A Principled Strategy- First
When I walked into the Pentagon-my first day there-it’s noon on a Saturday. And there is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, four Star Marine General, I knew well. A four star Air Force general I knew well as the vice chairman. And one holdover from the Obama administration required by law, who’s the Deputy Secretary of Defense under President Obama. And that’s the four of us, we’re going to be for six months, the people that make all the decisions there. I said, you know, guys, I’ve been asking for a strategy for a month in case the Senate asked me about it in my hearing, they didn’t, but you didn’t give it to me. I know I couldn’t give you an order beforehand, because the Senate would take umbrage. I didn’t have their consent yet. But I said, I want the strategy. And I need it right now, because I’m going to be signing next of kin letters, moms and dads. And, the Chairman, looked me right in the eye and said, we don’t have one. We hadn’t had one for 10 years.

This is not a partisan slam on the Obama administration. It’s two different parties, two different administrations. So I went home that night and I started writing it. I carried it with me in every meeting in NATO so I can talk to our allies. My first trip was just Tokyo and Seoul. I took my starting writing with them. I talked to every democrat and republican on Capitol Hill that was willing to talk with me about it. A year later, we rolled it out. And for two years in a row, I was getting record breaking budgets for the Department of Defense, with 87% of the House and Senate Democrats and Republicans voting for it.

So the answer is- do not give up on your principles, your values, your way of life, your constitutional form of government. Create a strategy, and say this is what we stand for, this is what we will not stand for. Put everything in your budget into it.

Move Past America First
I’d recommend the new administration take out of the national security strategy at the White House anything about “America First”. I don’t care how well it was intended. It did not work well. I didn’t like it in the beginning. I like it less now. We didn’t put any of that into the defense strategy. So it could probably pretty much stand. They may need to play with it a little bit and put their thumbprint on it.

But when you get strategies that are built with bipartisan support, as Senator Vandenberg, a right-wing conservative Republican was asked in Michigan 1949, how could you work with that terrible left wing, President Truman, he answered very bluntly, “politics stops at the water’s edge.” Right now we have so few people who’ve seen nonpartisan, bipartisan work. They don’t even recognize that when it happens. But that’s the solution. Real strategic thinking based on traditional strategies and traditional views of America’s role in the world, with less militarism in its foreign policy.

How can we (students) help advance national security and serving our country?
You should, number one, keep learning. Make this your first step of graduate level learning, and keep it going now. In the Marines, every time you get promoted, you get a new reading list, you have to read. Even generals get a new reading list to read. You have to read all these books. But never stop learning because this is a very dynamic world. It’s just awash in change and you have to keep learning.

How do you bring that to bear in your question? And remember, we’ve got a couple of branches of the government that would probably appeal to you. The House and the Senate Armed Services committees, intelligence committees, and foreign relations committees, love to get you bright young folks in there. Oftentimes you don’t stay but four or five years, which seems like a long time to you right now. It’s not, trust me. But it gives you an understanding of how the government works and steeps you in the issues de jour. Another way to do it would be to go into State Department, the CIA, or the Department of Defense, or the Department of Navy, Air Force, Army.

If a little more technically oriented, for example, that might be worth it. If you go to the Secretary of Defense’s office, and just say you’ve lived for a year in Jordan, or you lived for a year in China, we often times try to bring people like you in to be the deputy desk officer. So you can actually bring your knowledge right in. We think if we can snag you young, and show you what we’re doing, we’ll keep you. Years later, you’ll come back. The point I would make is, that even if you don’t stay there for a career, whether it be the Peace Corps, the Marine Corps, whether it be the military or State Department, try to find a way that you can go in and find that you get passionate about something. Because I would just tell you that once you get to that point, it never seems like a job. And you’ll really dig into it because you have the initiative to go deeper because you like what you’re doing.

Keep the Faith – America’s Power of Attraction
And now let me close with something.  I’m a two-star general I’m out in western Iraq. It’s 2004. It’s been 120 degrees, 127 degrees every day. At night, it cools down to 105. We’re outnumbered. We’ve been fighting and fighting and fighting and I pull in at midnight to a Lieutenant probably no more than 18 months out of his undergraduate days in college, and his Sailors and Marines. And when the sun comes up, I’m inside his perimeter out in the middle of nowhere in the desert. And he comes over and he’s telling me Okay, here’s where I’ve been fighting general. And here’s where I’ve lost men. Here’s how many enemy we’ve taken out. And by the way, General we picked up a guy last night he was putting an IED on the road you drove in on. I said, Really? That’s kind of personal. He said, Well, guess what? He lived two years in London. He speaks perfect English. You want to talk to him? I said, Sure.

Because it turns out he’s an engineer. He’s been trained in England. And so he sits down. A marine cuts off a little plastic handcuffs, the guard who’s walking around with him. And obviously, it wasn’t a good night for the man. He’s out there digging his hole. He’s got his artillery round, he’s going to put his car battery in. He’s whistling. He looks up and there’s five guys with automatic rifles pointed at him in camouflage uniforms. It is well, I think my retirement program is not in good shape right now. And I said, What are you doing this for? You’re a Sunni, I can tell that. We’re the Marines. We’re the only friend you’ve gotten this country. Why are you trying to kill us?

And he starts off well, “You’re American. You’re here to steal the oil” and all this. And I said, no, actually, we’re not. I said I pull my wallet out every time pump gas in my doggone car. “But you’re an educated man. You get to talk like that. Just go away. I don’t want to waste my time.” And the Marines stepped forward to take him away and I said, can I sit here for a minute. He said, okay. We’re sitting in the dirt right there by my vehicle. And he said, “I just don’t like foreign forces, foreign soldiers in my country.” Okay, I respect that. I wouldn’t want them in my country. I understand that. We started talking a little bit and getting a cup of coffee and he spilled it all over his hand, he’s so nervous. And I asked him about his family. He’s got a wife and two daughters. They live over on the river about 10 kilometers away. And these Marines are on ratline out in the middle of nowhere, where if they don’t stop the Syrian foreign fighters coming in they’re going to get to Baghdad they’re going to kill a lot of innocent people. So the Marines are getting antsy to get back on the road, get back on patrol and everything. And so at the time I got to get going, and he said, Can I ask you a question? I said, Sure. He said, “I guess I’m going to jail.” You sure are. You’re going to be in Abu Ghraib wearing an orange jumpsuit for a good long time for this little stunt. You’re doggone lucky you’re not dead. And he said, “Do you think general? You think if I’m a model prisoner, do you think my family and I could immigrate to America?”

Think about that my fine young friends. On your worst day. I want you to remember that story. Think about that. That he would give anything right now to be sitting where I’m sitting and his daughter sitting where you’re sitting, right now. As imperfect as we are, as angry as we are at each other in this country right now but seems angrier than I was even at terrorists when I’m shooting them. Think of how great this country is on its worst day, and then roll your sleeves up and make it better. It’s that simple- make it stronger. Keep faith with each other, help each other. And remember three words, “put others first.” And you won’t be going to some shrink when you’re 45 years old wondering what you did with your life. Have a good night, young folks. And thanks for having me here.

A transcript of General Mattis’s talk is here and the video is below.

If you can’t see the video click here.

Lessons Learned

  • What a fitting end to the class
  • Class summary and lessons learned in our next and final post

Build Back Better – The Educators Summit

SAVE THE DATE for the 3rd edition of Lean Innovation Educators Summit
December 16th, 10 – 1pm PST, 1 – 4pm EST6 – 9pm UTC

In July 2020, 400+ educators gathered online to discuss and share best practices for Lean education in the virtual environment. We learned a ton.  And we’re going to do it again.

Join me, Jerry Engel, Pete Newell, and Steve Weinstein and over 1,000 educators from 65 countries and 220 universities for our next Lean Innovation Educators Summit.

Why?
COVID-19 has dramatically altered the business landscape. Main Street businesses are severely affected. While many parts of the high-tech sector are growing, others are either contracting or shutting down. Amid these uncertain times we believe that Lean educators can prepare students for this new investing climate and help communities recover.We’ll discuss how the pandemic has shifted not just the way we teach, but also what we teach about today’s investing climate and how we can use the Lean methodology to make an impact on our communities.

What
While we’ll hear from investors and Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, the heart of the summit are the breakout sessions. In these sessions you and your peers can discuss and share best practices with Lean educators from around the world.  We’ll then share the results of the breakout sessions with everyone.

Our breakout session leaders include:
Tom Bedecarré -Stanford University, Chris Taylor- Georgetown University, Philip Bouchard- TrustedPeer, Jim Hornthal – UC Berkeley, Michael Marasco – Northwestern University, Bob Dorf – SOM, Dave Chapman – University College London, Paul Fox – LaSalle Univ Barcelona, Phil Weilerstein – VentureWell, Jim Chung – GWU, Todd Warren, Jeff Reid – Georgetown University, Ali Hawks – CMP, Radhika Malpani – Google, Stephanie Marrus – UCSF – Jessica Fields – CUNY, Todd Morrill – VMG, Rathindra [Babu] DasGupta – University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Micah Kotch – Urban-X and Logan Petkosek, Nicole Liddle, Emily McMahan.

Thanks to the Common Mission Project team and organizers – Logan Petkosek, Nicole Liddle, Emily McMahan.

How
This session is free to all but limited to Innovation educators. You can register for the event here and/or learn more on our website. We look forward to gathering as a community of educators to shape the future of Lean Innovation Education.

When
See you on December 16th 10 – 1pm PST1pm – 4pm EST, 6pm-9pm UTC.
Register here
Live captioning for the hearing impaired.

Technology, Innovation, and Modern War – Class 17 – Organizational Design – Safi Bahcall

We just held our seventeenth session of our new national security class Technology, Innovation and Modern WarJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed a class to examine the new military systems, operational concepts and doctrines that will emerge from 21st century technologies – Space, Cyber, AI & Machine Learning and Autonomy.

Today’s topic was Organizational Design and Modern War. And Finals Prep.

Catch up with the class by reading our summaries of the previous sixteen classes here.


This was our next -to-last class. While this class focused on the impact new technology and operational concepts and modern war, we thought it was important to have our students understand the organizational and cognitive barriers that make adopting new technologies difficult. Our guest speaker was Safi Bahcall,author of Loonshots.

The pre-class assignment was to watch Safi’s video about Loonshots.

In addition to our speaker, today was presentation prep day for our students’ final papers. We met with all the teams and reviewed their final summaries. (A description of their final assignment follows the summary of Safi’s presentation.)

I’ve extracted and paraphrased a few of Safi’s key insights and urge you to read the entire transcript here and watch his video.

Invention versus Innovation
As I’ve been sitting in the back of the class for the last couple of months, I’ve seen great speakers on strategy, on technology, on invention. I’m using the word invention deliberately — not innovation — because invention and innovation are different things. That point is at the heart of the problem with innovation inside so many organizations.

Invention is having an idea. For example, in the 1920s, when Robert Goddard showed that we could propel metal tubes by exploding liquid fuel inside them, he invented jet propulsion. That was a great invention. It didn’t become an innovation until it was developed and deployed at scale. In the case of jet propulsion, it wasn’t the U.S. that innovated. It was Nazi Germany with the V1 and the V2 missiles, and the Messerschmitt 262, the first jet aircraft.

So what’s at the core of the problem for national security organizations? What’s stopping them from innovating faster and better? It’s not strategy. The 2018 National Defense Strategy explained very clearly and effectively what needs to get done. It’s not technology. The military has 76 innovation labs. It’s not leadership. Leaders across every service are pounding the table about innovation.

Organization Design
The military has three of the four pieces of the puzzle you need: strategy, access to technology, leadership. The fourth, however, is missing. And that’s organization design. Good teams will kill great ideas, no matter how smart the strategy, how enticing the technology, or how much leaders insist on innovation. Why that’s the case is a longer story, which I’ve written about, but the bottom line is that we need to design our organizations to solve that problem — the adoption problem. If we don’t do that, we will lose.

I’ll give you an example. For close to 60 years, IBM dominated the IT industry. The industry was known as IBM and the Seven Dwarfs because IBM’s competitors were so far behind. If there was a superpower in any industry, it was IBM in IT. There were a couple of little competitors in the 80s, who didn’t seem like much. A little company in Seattle called Microsoft. When they did their first partnership with IBM, they had just 32 employees. There was another little company in Santa Clara called Intel. They were running out of cash. Little competitors that IBM disregarded.

Does the story of a superpower ignoring distant threats from seemingly weak competitors sound familiar from the class discussions on China? For IBM, strategy was not the problem. Invention was not the problem. Just like the DOD, IBM has tons of innovation labs. Many widely used technologies originated at IBM. Leadership was not the problem. IBM has been pounding the table about innovation for years. But if you look at IBM today, it’s 1/10th the value of Microsoft, it’s half the value of Intel. Strategy, technology, leadership – those were fine. But good teams kept killing great ideas. That’s the adoption problem.

So what can we do? There are some ways. They’re not obvious. They’re not what you read about in glossy magazines. They have nothing to do with fuzzy words like culture.

It’s About Creating The Structure for Adoption
It’s about structure. How do you create the right structure that helps with adoption? One of the things I found very encouraging over the last couple years in speaking with leadership in military or intelligence is their curiosity about what’s happening in the private sector, outside their usual sandbox.

When I sat down with Admiral Selby, we talked about Google. Google, at the time, was overhauling the back end of their search engine. They built their search engine 20 years ago. And they needed to fix the guts of it because it was out of date. Not unlike big legacy systems in the military. Google was getting that job done in blocks of six months. Selby pointed out that nothing like that could get done in the military in six months. It might take six years, if not 60 years. So how does Google get it done in six months? And what can the military learn from that?

We don’t have time to get into all the details we discussed, but I’ll give you a flavor.

Five Patterns that Impede Adoption
I’ll start with five patterns I’ve observed across the service branches, and what we might do about them.

  1. The first is a preference for big versus small. Many of your previous speakers have talked about that. Bigger jets, bigger engines, bigger ships, as opposed to the small changes that can make an enormous difference.
  2. The second is a preference for product over strategy. A preference for things that you can touch – ships, guns, planes. As opposed to new strategies that are less obvious, less glamorous, but can make an enormous difference. For example, the tank was invented in the mid-1910s. And it was used in World War I. But it wasn’t the tank as a technology, by itself, that allowed Nazi Germany to take over Western Europe in a matter of weeks. It was their strategy, the Blitz. Focusing on technology alone, getting caught up in the shiny glamour of it and neglecting the less glamorous strategies on how to deploy those technologies creatively, is a common trap. Not just in the military, but also in Silicon Valley, where it dooms otherwise successful companies.
  3. The third is a focus on technology as opposed to transfer. In other words, a large investment in acquiring sexy new technology. With much less energy and attention on identifying and navigating the internal barriers to adoption. Assuming that good ideas and technologies will win the day, by themselves, and neglecting the often-hidden sources of internal resistance, agendas, misaligned incentives, legacy stakes. You can spend billions on great technology, on dozens of innovation labs, but if you don’t put energy and creativity into winning those internal battles, the technologies will die.
  4. The fourth is a focus on prototyping as opposed to pretotyping. Pretotyping is about what to do beforethe minimum viable product. How to test hypotheses incredibly fast. In one day for $100. Doing it well bakes into the system a preference for hypotheses rather than opinions; fast experiments rather than big plans; and testing ideas and strategies, not just products and technologies.
  5. And the fifth pattern is a focus on minimizing as opposed to maximizing risks. By which I mean maximizing the intelligent risk-taking you need to discover important breakthroughs. I see this all the time in mission-driven, as opposed to profit-driven, organizations. When lives are at stake, there’s an enormous focus on reducing risk. In the military, you don’t want a lot of risk in your parachutes, or in your nuclear silos. But if you want to discover a new technology before your competitor, you want risk. You want to fail. A lot. If you only try things that don’t fail then you won’t discover the truly important breakthroughs, the ones where everyone gave up because they didn’t think it could be done. And who will discover them? Your adversary, who is taking those risks, who is working through the nine failures to get to then 10th iteration, the one that works. And you’ll see that 10th iteration when it’s too late, when it’s a bullet coming at your head.

Three Solutions
I’m not going to talk about reforming the acquisition process, which many of your class speakers have mentioned and does need to get done. Doing that is like turning an aircraft carrier. It’s incredibly slow, because of all the stakeholders. I’m going to talk about some things that are easier to do. More like a surgical strike.

  1. 1 is measurement. If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. Conversely, the things you measure well, with easily understood and visible metrics, tend to improve without much extra push. So how you do that with innovation? Follow the money is the bottom line. But the fact that we aren’t doing that at all is a real problem. I remember speaking with someone senior at the Joint Chiefs of Staff who said, “We have no tangible way of knowing how we’re doing on innovation across the service branches. Absolutely no idea.” If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
  2. 2, rewards. A quote from a major in the Air Force, “You get promoted in the Air Force by not screwing up. Trying something new means risking failure, scaring people around you, and therefore risking advancement. Do what the guy did before you and train those below you to do what you do.” A widespread mindset in the DoD is that the No. 1 priority is don’t get fired. What are the implications of that mindset? How much risk will people take? I mean among the people that you want to be taking intelligent risks, the ones that you want to discover new technologies and strategies before your adversaries do? Do you want the No. 1 priority in the minds of those people to be how do I play it safe?
  3. The need for a “special forces” for innovation. Not another innovation lab but standing up a new functional combatant command of program champions who can identify the internal barriers to adopting new technologies, come up with solutions, and get the job done. With representatives from each of the service branches. A joint surgical strike on innovation, rather than a disconnected massive attack.

There’s a widespread failure to understand that being a good inventor and a good champion are vastly different skill sets. The idea of radar was discovered by a pair of scientists in the Naval Research Labs 18 years before World War II started. They were great inventors, but lousy champions. The idea sat there for a decade until a naval officer named Deak Parsons discovered it, went around to every bureau chief, pounded the table on why it mattered, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, until he got them to cough up a check for $5,000 to fund the project. Robert Goddard was another great inventor, lousy champion. It’s because there was no good champion for that idea here in the U.S. that the Nazis – who got the idea from Goddard’s papers – developed missiles and jet aircraft first.

You heard in an earlier class from General Shanahan about a bullheaded Colonel named Drew Cukor who pounded the table to stand up Project Maven and JAIC to  bring AI to the military. Cukor is the most recent in a long line of internal champions, like Deak Parsons or Vannevar Bush, or Schreiver with ICBMs, or Moffett with aircraft carriers, or Rickover with the nuclear Navy. They were all great champions. Not inventors.

What we need is a new functional combatant command to attract, train, and deploy great champions. To develop the next generation of Drew Cukors or Deak Parsons or Bernard Schrievers, rather than hoping and praying that maybe we’ll get lucky and another disrupter will come along in time and modernize the military. We no longer have that luxury. We cannot afford to start our conflicts with yesterday’s technology and hope that we will catch up. Not in the era of data and algorithms. Chris Brose was quoting was John McCain when he said, “Hope is not a strategy.”

We need a separate command for the same reason that we need cyber or special operations as a separate command. The problem is endemic to all the service branches, not specific to just one. And there’s a unique skill set that needs to be developed. Good champions need to be mediators, buffers between technologists and soldiers. They need to be bilingual, to speak the language of each side fluently. They need to understand product market fit: why some ideas will get traction, others won’t. They need to identify hidden organizational barriers and come up with solutions. They need to understand horizontal influence: how to influence people over whom they have no direct authority. All of those are special skills, with best practices and useful lessons to be learned from years of examples across the different branches. Yet no such training exists today.

Google does it. Microsoft does it. They’ve understood the importance of having a special forces unit for innovation champions and have done it well. They create a career ladder to retain people in the role, to build experience and skill, to convey prestige and respect. They keep the role neutral, like Switzerland, neither on the research side, nor on the operation side, but in between, like a mediator needs to be.

If you create a joint special forces for innovation Sherpas, for program champions, you not only gain the ability to innovate faster and better as an organization. You improve your ability to attract, retain, and motivate talent. When I put out that War on the Rocks article, I got emails from very impressive people, with an entrepreneurial bent, who had left the military, but clearly wanted to contribute. They said, “If that division was there, sign me up.”  You put a purple rope around it, you make that command hard to get into, you make it as cool as SOCOM.

Read the transcript of Safi’s entire talk and watch the video below.

If you can’t see the video click here.


Final Assignment– Technology Innovation and Modern War

Over this course you’ve heard from the leading voices across the military, government, and industry issue a call to action. If we are to prevail in the challenges posed by renewed great power competition it will require leveraging new technologies, new strategies, and most importantly- new approaches to problem solving.

In your final project you will address the operational challenges and strategic dilemmas created by the changing nature of warfare. This assignment will draw on your creativity, critical thinking skills, and individual experiences to present actionable recommendations to real decision-makers.

Your Final Assignment
In groups of 3-4, develop plans to address national security challenges grounded in real-world trends.

Groups will deliver a 15-minute presentation as well as a 10-page written report (<2500 words excluding appendices).

Step 1: Read the scenario and prompts that follow. The scenario depicts escalating confrontations between the U.S. and China in the near, mid, and long-term time frames.

The prompts present discrete operational or strategic problems faced by the U.S. military we’ve encountered in class readings and lectures. The prompts ask you to consider the implications of these in each of the situations presented in the scenario.

Step 2:  Develop a proposal to address your  problem. Assume your findings will be briefed to the U.S. President during a cabinet meeting called specifically to address these topics.

Shape your approach as you see fit, but your plan should address:

  • Specific actions to be taken including investment or divestment in specific technologies/capabilities, shifts in operations/doctrine, budget/acquisition implications, and other policy changes
  • The timeframe for taking these actions: how these actions might differ in the near-term, mid-term, and long-term situations described in the scenarios
  • Tradeoffs of your proposed solutions. For example, how do you address a capability shortfall if you eliminate a weapon system in the near term?
  • Key obstacles to adopting your proposed solution
  • An assessment of relative impact. Which of these actions would impose the greatest cost on China if implemented? Which could sway China’s decision calculus the most?

For Example: An answer to the C4ISR prompt could define key vulnerabilities in U.S. communication networks, then identify how China might exploit these weaknesses differently during the political coercion of Taiwan in the near-term vs open conflict in the long-term. Students would then present potential solutions and discuss how they might differ in each case.

Groups will also be assigned military mentors, who can serve as a resource in developing realistic, actionable recommendations.

SCENARIO
Background: China advocates for peaceful reunification with Taiwan but has yet to officially renounce the use of military force as a means to resolve the issue. Moreover, the PRC has developed a range of options to coerce Taipei based on increasing capabilities in multiple domains. The three scenarios below depict a gradual escalation of Chinese actions towards Taiwan in the near-, mid-, and long-term timeframes.

Near-term, Coercion: The year is 2022 and the U.S. has passed a law that pressures Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and other Taiwanese companies that manufacture advanced microchips to no longer sell their products to any Chinese entities. This move effectively limits China’s access to a critical resource- the custom chips that are vital to products that fuel China’s domestic and export growth. Taiwan announces its intention to comply with the U.S. law, prompting China to retaliate by trying to coerce Taiwan into restoring access to chips. China launches intense influence operations and targeted non-kinetic attacks (i.e. cyber and disinformation) to sway popular opinion and reduce support for the Taiwanese government’s decision. 

Mid-term, Limited Use of Force: The year is 2025, Taiwan has yet to budge on the sale of microchips. Moreover, China’s coercive tactics have generated a backlash in Taiwan and have only served to intensify anti-Chinese sentiment. In order to demonstrate military capability and deter any thoughts of Taiwanese independence, China invades the Taiping Island (Itu Aba) and Zhongzhou Reef, small Taiwanese-occupied islands in the South China Sea. Unmanned, autonomous planes and ships play a significant role in this operation.

Long-term, High Intensity Conflict: The year is 2030. Five years of simmering resentment over Chinese actions lead to the election of a number of independence-minded politicians, some who openly voice plans for formally declaring of Taiwanese independence in the next 12 months. China launches an outright invasion of Taiwan accompanied by a blockade, and moves to secure the first island chain. The United States seeks to intervene in order to deter Chinese advances and restore the status quo. Both sides appear headed towards open hostilities and high-intensity conflict.  Simultaneously, China commences heavy cyber and disinformation attacks on the United States in order to sway American sentiment by causing pain through disruption of utility, travel, and banking infrastructure.

PROMPTS

Misinformation Warfare: Disinformation campaigns designed to influence large numbers of people in subtle ways will likely be a mainstay of future conflict. States can utilize subversive and disruptive messaging on social media and other platforms to sow discord and confusion within an adversary’s borders.

  • How might China utilize influence campaigns to support their objectives in each of the scenarios described above?
  • How could the U.S. help defend Taiwan and the American populace against these threats?

Your answer could address

  • Key risks and vulnerabilities China would seek to exploit
  • Required tools/technologies/capabilities to counter these tactics, and how to extend these capabilities to U.S. allies
  • The policies and strategies required to coordinate responses between public and private entities

C4ISR: The DoD relies on command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) networks to form the U.S. military’s central nervous system. However, these centralized networks are slow to move information and risk being disabled outright in the opening days of a conflict with a technologically advanced competitor.

  • How might China exploit weaknesses in the C4ISR networks fielded by Taiwan or the U.S. to facilitate the actions described in the scenarios above?
  • How could the U.S. ensure that C4ISR capabilities are resilient enough to survive the full spectrum of potential confrontations with China?

Your Answer Could Address

  • Key vulnerabilities (e.g. overreliance on communication satellites or centralized nodes)
  • The architecture/capabilities needed to build out a more resilient communication network
  • Current obstacles to building out more survivable networks

Forward-Deployed Forces: The U.S. has long relied on military assets pre-positioned in the Asia Pacific to serve as a deterrent and first line of response. Over the last twenty years, however, China has developed the ability to precisely target fixed infrastructure in Japan, Guam and elsewhere with thousands of ballistic and cruise missiles. The U.S. forces closest to a conflict in INDOPACOM could be destroyed before they ever leave base.

  • How might China view the willingness and ability of forward deployed U.S. forces to respond to each of the scenarios described above?
  • In each scenario, how can the U.S. ensure that forward-deployed forces present a more credible, survivable threat?

Your Answer Could Address

  • The right types of capabilities/platforms to pre-position in the Asia-Pacific
  • Defensive capabilities needed to protect forward deployed assets
  • How to delineate when/how these forces would respond to events in the region

Logistics: Over the last 30 years, the U.S. has enjoyed the luxury of taking months to gather and transport personnel, platforms and supplies to various parts of the globe in order to execute combat operations with overwhelming force. In the future, these critical resources could immediately come under attack as they begin to mobilize and may never make it into theater.

  • In each scenario above, how might the perceived ability of the U.S. to gather a critical mass of combat power in the INDOPACOM AOR influence China’s decision-making?
  • What could the U.S. do in the near, mid, and long term to better utilize out of area assets to provide a timely response?

Your answer could address:

  • The best way to position resources across the globe
  • Key limiting logistical vulnerabilities (fuel, repair parts etc.)
  • The impact of advances in manufacturing/production (e.g. localized 3D printing)
  • Technologies/capabilities that could “hide” the movement of ships, aircraft and ground forces

Non-Kinetic Attacks: Cyber and electronic warfare attacks directed against military and civilian entities may prove just as damaging in the future as missile salvos. States may be able to open a second front in conflicts by targeting physical and electronic infrastructure, commercial businesses, individuals and their personal networks.

  • How might the PRC use cyber and electronic attacks against the U.S. and Taiwan in each of the scenarios described above?
  • What near, mid, and long term steps could the U.S. take to better defend against these threats?

Your Answer Could Address

  • The most critical risks and vulnerabilities in each scenario
  • Foundational tools, capabilities, processes needed to counter these risks
  • How to coordinate a flexible response across military and civilian sectors 

Operating in Contested Spaces: Between missile forces and more conventional platforms, China is actively building up the capability to target and strike U.S. military units operating nearly anywhere within the Asia-Pacific. In a future conflict, the nation’s primary expeditionary force, the U.S. Marine Corps, will need to operate across the AOR while remaining well within range of Chinese weapons.

  • What near, mid, and long-term steps could the USMC take to successfully deter lower-level aggression or engage Chinese forces in open conflict?

Your Answer Could Address

  • Offensive capabilities needed to effectively skirmish with Chinese forces
  • Defensive capabilities needed to avoid detection or defend against precision missile strikes
  • Required shifts to USMC, Navy, and Joint Force doctrines

The Role of High-End Platforms: The U.S. military has invested billions of dollars towards a small number of high-end weapon systems designed to turn the tide of future conflicts. As we have heard repeatedly during this course, however, the Chinese military has purposefully acquired capabilities to target and defeat these platforms well before they come within range of engaging Chinese forces.

  • What value would the current U.S. inventory of high-end ships, aircraft and other platforms add in each scenario described above?
  • In the long term, how could the U.S. ensure it can project the type of offensive power needed to push back Chinese forces?

Your Answer Could Address

  • New platforms/offensive capabilities that might be required
  • Changes to operating doctrines or tactics
  • Ways to utilize existing platforms differently, or make them more survivable

Alliances: Any conflict with China would also impact long-standing U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific and elsewhere. Partner nations could see their own militaries and homelands subjected to the same threats and challenges that the United States would face.

  • How might the U.S. leverage regional alliances and partnerships in each scenario above?
  • How could the U.S. ensure that allies and partners in INDOPACOM and elsewhere are able to better balance Chinese power and ambitions?

Your Answer Could Address

  • The different offensive or defensive capabilities key allies and partners would need to acquire to effectively counter Chinese military power
  • The operational role key allies and partners should be willing to play in future conflicts
  • How to convince allies and partners of the urgent need to adapt to the current strategic environment

Soft Power PRC initiatives such as One Belt One Road leverage diplomatic and economic influence around the world to further military and security interests. Any dispute with the United States in the Asia-Pacific would likely spill over to other realms of competition.

  • How might the PRC leverage access to global infrastructure, commercial markets, and financial resources in each scenario above?
  • How could the U.S. counter these tactics?

Your Answer Could Address

  • How China could exploit key economic, financial and diplomatic vulnerabilities the U.S. faces in a global, interconnected system
  • How technology might be used in diplomatic, information and economic realms to counter Chinese efforts
  • Required partnerships with the private sector or between the DoD and other government agencies

Deterrence: A key theme of this course has been the need to invest in the right capabilities in order to deter and prevent future conflicts. Given that future warfare may involve activities that span from cyber-attacks to conventional strikes against the U.S. homeland, preventing conflict may require a fundamentally new understanding of deterrence.

  • Could the U.S. have fundamentally changed China’s decision calculus in each of the three scenarios above?
  • What could the U.S. do in the near, mid and long-term to effectively voice an understanding of deterrence?

Your answer could address

  • The specific capabilities and employment strategies needed to create reciprocal predicaments for Chinese forces
  • How to clearly voice the manner and conditions under which the U.S. would be willing to respond (i.e. how would the U.S. respond to a state-sponsored cyber attack?)
  • Policies clarifying the of capabilities with ethical implications, such as artificial intelligence or autonomous systems

Lessons Learned

  •  Invention and innovation are different things
    •  Invention is having an idea
    • It doesn’t become an innovation until it’s developed and deployed at scale
  • The barrier to innovation and adoption is how organizations are designed
    • We need different organization to facilitate rapid adoption
  • This new organization needs to:
    • Measure innovation
    • Reward innovation
    • Create a special innovation force to champion and facilitate adoption

Technology, Innovation, and Modern War – Class 16 – Acquisition & Sustainment – Ellen Lord

We just held our sixteenth session of our new national security class Technology, Innovation and Modern WarJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed a class to examine the new military systems, operational concepts and doctrines that will emerge from 21st century technologies – Space, Cyber, AI & Machine Learning and Autonomy.

Today’s topic was Acquisition and Sustainment and Modern War.

Catch up with the class by reading our summaries of the previous fifteen classes here.


Some of the readings for this week included How the DOD Acquires Weapons Systems, The Planning, Programming and Budgeting Process, Acquisition Reform in the NDAA, Defense Primer on DOD Contractors, and on the Defense Industrial Base

Our guest speaker was the Honorable Ellen Lord the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. She is responsible to the Secretary of Defense for acquisition; developmental testing; contract administration; logistics and materiel readiness; installations and environment; operational energy; chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons; the acquisition workforce; and the defense industrial base.

Prior to this appointment, Ms. Lord served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Textron Systems Corporation, a subsidiary of Textron Inc. leading a multi-billion dollar business with a broad range of products and services supporting defense, homeland security, aerospace, infrastructure protection, and customers around the world.

I’ve extracted and paraphrased a few of Ellen Lords key insights and urge you to read the entire transcript here and watch her video.

Progress in Modernizing the Defense Acquisition System.
Everything we do here at the Department is under the framework of our National Defense Strategy, or NDS. Acquisition and sustainment is focused on supporting all three lines of the national defense strategy. So they are:

  1. restoring military readiness as we build a more lethal force
  2. expanding and strengthening alliances and partnerships.
  3. bringing business reform to the Department of Defense.

Strengthening Our Supply Chain
So under the first line of effort, lethality, we’re focused on addressing supply chain fragility. The nature of today’s near peer or peer to peer threat is not always kinetic. One of the ways our adversaries try to gain the advantage is by attacking our supply chain through methods like fraud, introduction of counterfeit materials, control of raw materials, cyber and intellectual property attacks, denying access to strategic materials and rare earth minerals. And finding ways basically to undermine our free market system.

The United States is reliant on a global supply chain for our goods, systems and services. In most instances, this is really very positive. We’re enriched by investments from other countries, which often helped to build infrastructure that supports a variety of industries. However, we really need to remain vigilant about reliance on adversarial countries, when it becomes to our defense industrial base, and our national security systems. Should our adversaries choose to restrict supplies, It’s really possible that the department would struggle to find, test, and qualify replacement sources if they even exist. So, the DODs report that we wrote in response to executive order 13806. The report came out in 2018, highlighted reliance on foreign suppliers, including China for critical materials such as rare earth elements and microelectronics.

For example, China has an 80% market share in rare earth elements, as well. As well as a significant market share in manufacturing value added rare earth containing goods, such as electric motors and consumer electronics. Rare earth elements are integral to the US military and to the national infrastructure and economy. They’re used in a wide variety of applications, ranging from guidance systems for missiles and space, space launch vehicles, to electric vehicles and sophisticated medical instrumentation.

Expanding and strengthening alliances and partnerships
In accordance with the second line of effort in the NDS, strengthening alliances, we’re actively working to better harness defense trade as a strategic tool to advance national security interests. We are tracking 37 initiatives across DOD focused on four main areas. Designing in exploitability early in programs. Facilitating technical release ability. Capturing market space versus Russia, for instance. And increasing industrial capacity.

And in addition to strengthening our interoperability with allies and partners. Reforms in each of these areas will strengthen the foreign military sales process. It will enhance the defense industrial bases global competitiveness, and it will increase our supply chain export capability. As we move into fiscal year 2021, an effort we call defense trade modernization will help implement both DOD as well as interagency process to streamline and allow the US to more rapidly export technology in order to drive this interoperability because we don’t fight alone when we fight. As well as to sustain our domestic industrial base.

Business Reform – The 5000 Series
In support of the NDS’s third line of effort, reform. Our organization is committed to enabling an acquisition environment designed to deliver warfighting capability at the speed of relevance, versus one that’s defined by bureaucracy. One of my team’s most significant accomplishments has been rewriting what we call the 5000 series.– the overarching policy on DOD acquisition that focuses on what I call creative compliance. So that acquisition professionals can design acquisition strategies that minimize risk.

The 5000 rewrite achieves that objective by decomposing a large policy document into six clear and separate pathways that we call the adaptive acquisition framework or AAD. Each pathway is tailored to the unique characteristics of the capability being acquired. The six pathways include urgent capability acquisition, middle tier of acquisition, major capability acquisition, software acquisition, defense business systems, and acquisition of services.

The software acquisition pathway is the newest pathway in the adaptive acquisition framework. Given that software is central to every major DOD mission and system, we need to acquire and deliver software with much greater speed, agility, and cyber security. The software pathways built on commercial principles that really enable innovation and rapid delivery in response to conditions of uncertainty. We have rapidly changing user needs; we’ve got disruptive technologies and threats on the battlefield. The policy tailors, as well as streamlines acquisition and requirements, processes, reviews and documents- to adopt a modern development practice, like agile and DevOps, or DevSecOps.

It’s a substantial departure from the department’s usual way of doing business, by removing procedural bottlenecks and regulatory bureaucracy. Programs are really pushed to embrace the goal of delivering capabilities on a much faster cycle time in one year or less, while emphasizing and ensuring cyber security.

Cybersecurity is Integral
One of the subordinate functional areas is cybersecurity, which is a foundational aspect of any acquisition that cannot be traded for cost, schedule or performance. To ensure cyber security is also foundational for our partners in industry, the department created the Cybersecurity Maturity Model certification, which we call CMMC. It’s scalable, auditable and repeatable. A cybersecurity standard that industry partners will be required to obtain, depending on the level of cybersecurity required in a specific contract.

This morning, the cyber security model certification DFARS rule, and we live by the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation standards was posted on the US Federal registry as an interim rule. The public’s going to be able to comment on the rule for 60 days. And then at the end of the 60-day period, the rule will go into effect. Therefore, it will require all DOD contracts by October 21, 2025, a five year span, to have some level of CMMC. Now, I think of this as we think of ISO quality. The same kind of idea.

Risk Management Tools
The department launched a pilot program with commercial risk management tools. The one we use is called Exigers DDIQ. To really assist with rapidly identifying reputable vendors and vetting the sources of their supplies. We need to know who is in our supply chain, who the beneficial owner is. Not just that we’re dealing with a shell company. So this tool is fed in to our department’s ADVANA analytics platform. And we’re able to provide supply chain illumination that is now essential to the department’s execution of all US Defense production act authorities. To be able to make sure we increase capacity and throughput in our supply chain. To make sure that we not only help the Department of Defense, but we work with all of our partners to acquire vital personal protective equipment and medical supplies in response to COVID-19.

Our enhanced understanding and rapid vetting of the supply chain has helped mitigate the award of fraudulent contracts to opportunists. And there are many, many out there. Ensuring the effective use of the CARES Act funding we’ve received from Congress.

What do you consider your most important reforms initiated under your leadership today?
One is the fact that we have made acquisition much simpler to understand and use. In terms of instead of having this big book that you read through and use it like a pilot’s checklist. We now have the acquisition process, broken into different pieces that can be adapted.

Out of all of those pieces, I think the most significant accomplishment is the software pathway. We’ve basically said, our major weapon systems are hardware enabled, but they’re software defined. And we need to make sure we continually evolve that software, from development, to production to sustainment. it’s all a continuum. And we actually are really excited to have been able to work with the hill with Congress to define some pathfinder projects for a software Color of Money. Because previously, we spent so much time on administrivia. But very important administrivia, to make sure we were legally compliant with colors of money. This is going to be able to unleash our business processes to keep up with technical innovation.

What do you what are the biggest challenges and opportunities going forward for further reform?
I think it’s really communicating both with industry, to understand middle-tier acquisition, how we no longer need clearly defined requirements. We can basically try to define a capability and see the art of the possible. To make sure that industry understands how they can work with contracting professionals to get on contract. And then also to teach our contracting workforce, what we have for capability and really unleash them to innovate.

I always think that technical innovation is way sexier and easier to do for all the obvious reasons than business Innovation. Because people are afraid, they’re going to break the law and go to jail or be hauled up in front of the news. Or get pulled up onto the hill for a hearing which can be lots of fun. What we have to do is show that our acquisition professionals, our business professionals, can make a huge difference to the warfighter. No kidding, they can get capability in warfighters hands much more quickly.

Many argue that maintaining our technology edge, it’s less about technology and more about the speed in which it can be identified and deployed. Would you agree with this assessment?
How do you quickly apply it to the warfighting gaps we have? My whole team works very closely with the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hyten. His responsibility through the JROC is to define requirements for the warfighter.

My responsibility through our acquisition process is to get it there quickly. And the challenges is the valley of death we have between development of cool technical things and applying them in a way that the warfighter can use them. So we like to work on the art of the possible. How do we get going? How do we enable that technical collaboration to meet the needs of the warfighter?

How would your organization increase collaboration between industry and government, especially at the startup and small company level?
Most of our innovation comes from small businesses. It’s absolutely vital to us at Department of Defense. So I believe regardless of where you work, and what your mission is, everything comes down to communication. So early on, I knew that my team could only communicate and meet with so many people. So I decided we would use the industry associations as our force multiplier. To echo and amplify what messages we have. But just as importantly, if not more importantly, for us to listen to what industry needs.

So what we do is, I bring about 15 people, and we’re doing this virtually now, just as well as we did it in person, quarterly, working with three industry associations. They pulled together about 15 or so CEOs. They develop the agenda. I bring our service acquisition leads, I bring a number of A&S individuals, and we talk with industry about what their challenges are. What they’re doing. I also bring the big primes in one company, once a month. With their senior leadership team, my senior leadership team, again, service acquisition representatives, and we talk about the issues.

What’s changed in how you’re preparing our acquisition professionals for these new ways of doing business?
We used to lock them down at the Defense Acquisition University for two or three weeks and put our finger on the transmit button and lecture in what I’d call like a 30, 40-year-old way. We’ve changed that. We’ve been totally virtual since March. But more importantly, we do lots of podcasts, we are instead of taking the very what I consider dry policy, we do interviews with the program executive officers with program managers and get them to tell stories about the acquisition problems they’ve had. And how they’ve used some of the authorities we have. Because again, I want that creative compliance. People are so worried about doing something wrong, that they rather do nothing at all. Which isn’t helping us.

So it’s very different in terms of a lot of real time presentations. A lot of podcasts, a lot of self-service type of work. We also actually licensed from TED Talks, what we call TEDx DAU. And so we just finished with our second round of TED talks on Defense Acquisition. And it’s kind of acquisition at the edge.

How is the purchase of new weapon systems technologies is coordinated with the development of new doctrine or new operational concepts?
The NDS tells us that we are pivoting from violent extremist organizations, to peer-to-peer threats, that we see around the second island chain with China. So what we have to do is change our warfighting capability. We are working very closely with the Joint Staff and the services as we develop that new doctrine. It’s something we do on weekly meetings with the SecDef. Dynamic force employment for instance. We are deploying ships, aircraft, that just show up different places a little bit more surprisingly.

What we’re doing is listening to that voice of the customer, the Warfighter about what are the electronic warfare capabilities they need. What are the all-domain command and control that they need, now that we are truly an interoperable force?. And we’re working closely with the Joint Staff through the JROC with General Hyten. I So it’s taking that technology and applying it where needed with lots of cycles, lots of iterations, back and forth.

Do you think Anduril’s model where a company develops a product on their own dime and then sells it to the DOD versus DOD funds the development is the future of defense tech procurement?
I think there is very much a place for the Anduril type model, as well as the traditional companies, I think we need a whole spectrum. Because a company is not going to build an aircraft carrier or a fighter jet or a large satellite on their own. It’s just too complex, too cumbersome. But smaller options, I think are very much what we want to see. We want to see those developments. We want to get them in the hands of the warfighter as soon as possible.

That’s where we’re using Other Transaction Authorities to get going on that. That’s what DIU does. We’re using middle tier of acquisition to rapidly field prototypes and new production..

How does the DOD ensure operational security and its acquisitions when there’s such a vast range in diversity of corporate contributors to the national security ecosystem?
OPSWC, as we call it is incredibly important. On one hand, one of my prime focus areas has been cybersecurity of the defense industrial base. That’s why we rolled out CMMC, it’s like ISO is to quality, it will be for cyber security.

So that was huge, making sure that the infrastructure of companies are adequately protected. And again, scaling. it’s different, if we buy combat gear, you know, boots, or clothing, versus if we’re buying a fighter jet. You need a different level of security. But also, what we’re doing with our new 5000 rewrite, one of the functional areas was cybersecurity. We are writing in cyber security standards to how you design new systems.

We also spend an enormous amount of time with NSA and Cybercom. With exquisite intelligence we get on what adversaries are trying to do to our weapon systems. And we are going back and continuing to harden the already fielded systems. We are we have new KPPS, if you will, for designing in the cybersecurity of the new systems. And then of course, we are looking at mergers and acquisitions.

I spend quite a bit of my time on with the Committee on Foreign investment in the US, CFIUS, which was firmed up by FIRRMA. But bottom line, we when there is a national security threat can block transactions acquisitions, and now with FIRRMA we can block acquisition of real estate adjacent to critical national security spots, and we can also intervene in JV’s.

Some students in our class that that aspire to public service.  Any thoughts on advice and recommendations how they might approach this?
I was 33 years in industry, before coming into government. And this government job is by far the most fascinating job I’ve had. I was very fortunate to do some things in industry that I’m proud of, and I think were significant, but there is just so much you can do in government.

So on a fundamental level, I would say connect with people. We have rather Byzantine hiring processes. I didn’t even know that USA Jobs existed before I came on to the federal government. But that’s where we advertise all of our jobs. But you have to connect with people. And you need to talk about what you’re interested in doing. Reach out to someone currently in government and talk a little bit about what generally they’re interested in what they would like to do. Because you don’t know what you don’t know. But you’ve got to start a conversation.

I will tell you, you’re never going to make a lot of money working in government, however, you particularly at junior levels will be exposed to so, so, so much more than you could be in the same amount of time in industry. And I’d say a one-to-three-year stint would be incredibly enriching for your background, regardless of what you do with the balance of your career. I fantasize about getting people back in for one to two years that perhaps served for seven to 10 years, then went out to industry. I would just love to get some logisticians from Southwest or a trucking company or Amazon to come and work with us. Because what we do at the Defense Logistics Agency, it’s eye watering. It’s just unbelievable. So I’d say communication, communication, communication.

I grew up my father was a lawyer, he served in the army in World War Two. But we never talked about what it was to serve. And not only is it really incredible to be part of something much bigger than just you, it’s amazing how much impact you can have, and how much you can see and learn.

Read the transcript of Ellen Lord’s talk and watch the video below.

If you can’t see the video click here.

Lessons Learned

  • The 5000 series is the DODs the policy on acquisition – how they buy things
    • We’ve strengthened our supply chain, expanded our alliances and partnerships and we reformed the 5000 series
    • Added a path to acquire software
    • Built cybersecurity compliance into acquisition
  • These reforms have made working with the government much simpler to understand

The Rapture Happened but I Wasn’t Called

Last Friday the Secretary of Defense abruptly fired half of the Defense Business Board.
For some reason, he forgot me.

He appointed former Trump campaign officials Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie as chair and vice chair and nine other new members. (Update: the new chair is Chris Burnham and the new vice chair is Kiron Skinner. Both are current board members.)

The Defense Business Board is one of several advisory boards that serve as the pleasure of the Secretary of Defense. The business board is just what it sounds like – leaders from business who could offer best business practices to the department and nation.

Other defense advisory committees include Policy, Innovation, Science, Military Personnel Testing, Women in the Services, and on Sexual Assault. Each of these boards/committees is supposed to provide the Defense Department with the best nonpartisan information and advice available.

The reason I joined was to offer the Secretary of Defense insights that could transform and leapfrog the status quo, not just make us incrementally better. Not just 10% better advice but 10x advice.

After multiple board meetings I still couldn’t tell you what political party any of the board members were in, nor did any of them let their party affiliations color any of their advice. We were all volunteering our time to serving our county.

Over the last year the administration began replacing members of every defense advisory board with party loyalists.

Below is my resignation letter to the Secretary of Defense.


K&S Ranch
Pescadero, California
December 7, 2020

Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller

I volunteered to serve on the Defense Business Board because our nation faces an unprecedented set of challenges. For the first time in a century, the United States is no longer guaranteed to win the next war. We face authoritarian governments in China, in Russia, in Iran and North Korea, governments that not only oppress their own people, Tibetans, Uighurs, those in Hong Kong, but that offer the world a dystopian vision of control.

The national power of a country – its influence and footprint on the world stage – is more than just its military strength. It’s the combination of a country’s diplomacy (soft power and alliances,) information/intelligence and its military and economic strength.

Nations decline when they lose allies, decline in economic power, they lose interest in global affairs, have internal/civil conflicts, or a nation’s military misses disruptive technology transitions and new operational concepts.

For the last century the U.S. was a global power that represented much more than just a strong nation. It stood for a set of values that set us apart. Freedom of speech and worship. Freedom from fear and the collective belief that we are one people with a continual aspiration to a more perfect union. To the rest of the world, we were the shining city on the hill, a beacon of justice and opportunity to emulate and aspire to.

When other nations required loyalty pledges to a party and launched ideological purges of their best and brightest, we recognized that they did so because they were weak. Their ideas and values could not withstand dissent or discussion. We celebrated what made the United States strong was that we embraced diversity of thought and acted collectively in the nation’s interest.

In exchange for ideological purity, the abrupt termination of more than half of the Defense Business Board and their replacement with political partisans has now put the nation’s safety and security at risk.

My service to the Department of Defense was a service to the country not to a party.

I hereby tender my resignation.

Steve Blank

Technology, Innovation, and Modern War – Class 15 – Mid Term– Congressman Mike Gallagher

We just held our fifteenth session of our new national security class Technology, Innovation and Modern WarJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed a class to examine the new military systems, operational concepts and doctrines that will emerge from 21st century technologies – Space, Cyber, AI & Machine Learning and Autonomy.

Today’s topic was Midterms with Congressman Mike Gallagher.

Catch up with the class by reading our summaries of the previous fourteen classes here.


Our guest speaker Congressman Mike Gallagher, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Congressman Mike Gallagher is one of the leading thinkers in defense in Congress. He’s a Princeton and Georgetown graduate; served in the Marine Corps, with deployments in Anbar province; got his Ph.D; joined a startup; has been reelected to his third term, representing the 8th district of Wisconsin; and is on the House Armed Services Committee.

The Congressman was gracious enough to take on two roles in this class session: First he shared his views on the future of defense, and second, he received a formal policy recommendation – our midterm assignment – as a briefing from one of our students.

I’ve extracted and paraphrased a few of key insights and urge you to watch the video of his talk.

What’s life like as a Congressman?
If you watch the news, you’d think that all of us are consumed with whatever the Twitter controversy of the day is. But there is a ton of good work going on beneath the surface, beyond what you see on TV, particularly in national security. That doesn’t get headlines, it doesn’t get a lot of attention, but is incredibly important. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, we pass an annual National Defense Authorization Act. It is the culmination of a year’s worth of work. And at a time when it seems like everything is divided, it represents an area of significant bipartisanship. When it comes to the big questions of the day, from a national security perspective I sense an emerging opportunity to rebuild something resembling that consensus.

The biggest misconception I had coming into this job four years ago was I thought that the dysfunction in Congress was purely a function of the people that were in Congress. That Congress was filled with charlatans, or people that were incompetent. Now certainly, there are examples of that. And certainly, there’s a lot of careerism that goes on. But Congress is also filled with a lot of incredibly smart, patriotic, well intentioned people with unique backgrounds that just want to serve the country. And I’ve been blown away by the quality of a lot of my peers on both sides of the aisle.

That’s an opportunity for more bipartisanship. If you look at a lot of the work of the Future of Defense Task Force, some of those issues are going to be debated right now by the Biden transition team and incoming Biden foreign policy team. And I think it would be a mistake for us to go back, given how much progress we’ve made on China in general and technological competition.

What do you expect from the new administration on National Security?
I think there’s a serious debate going on within the Biden national security camp about what direction to go.

There are two camps within the Biden advisory team. The first I associate with the return to the Obama era approach, which would focus on cooperation with China. And if you want to cooperate with China, that leads you down a path where you put Taiwan relations on the back burner. You’re less likely to press hard against Chinese tech giants like Huawei. And you kind of go out of your way to be on extensively good terms with Beijing, because you want their cooperation on transnational issues, particularly environmental issues.

But if the second, more realistic camp wins out – one that looks at malign activities of competitor states, like China and Russia, and focuses on defending American influence and liberal values internationally – I think there will be a striking amount of continuity. I think the Biden administration’s spin on great power competition will be different from the Trump administration’s. That’s okay, if the point of departure is about defending our values internationally, as opposed to better competing internationally, which was the Trump administration’s core focus in the national security strategy. Ultimately, both approaches lead you in a similar direction. I think it would be a mistake for them to view everything that the Trump administration did as tainted, and we throw the baby out with the bathwater. Because the fact is, there has been remarkable progress made on U.S./China competition the last three years.

You’re still likely to come down in a similar place in terms of how you approach adversaries like the CCP and Vladimir Putin. And I think the Biden administration will have an opportunity when it comes to placing values at the at the center of American foreign policy. I have Democratic colleagues who are influential in the Biden camp like Tom Malinowski, who would argue for doing just that. And we’ve worked very closely on things like calling out what’s happening in Xinjiang. Similarly calling out human rights abuses at the hands of Vladimir Putin. So I think you’ll see a movement just on sort of the overall position that values-based arguments play in the national security strategy. If you talk to H.R. McMaster, he’d say that values were an integral part of the national security strategy.

Should the New Administration Focus on Europe or IndoPacom?
I think Biden said that the top threat to America was Russia. I disagree with that. His team advocates for a Europe-centric approach to US foreign policy. To the extent they change the overall regional prioritization for our national security strategy and say that European command is the primary theater and IndoPacom is secondary, I think that would be a huge mistake because there’s absolutely no comparison.

The Biden Administration and the Defense budget
I think the new administration is going to face some very difficult budgetary choices. We just spent over $3 trillion on Coronavirus response; we’re not going to be able to continue a 3% increase in the defense baseline over the next two years. So there’s going to have to be hard choices. And the biggest and hardest choice they need to make right away is the prioritization among the services. If you look at our national defense strategy, all the things that Bridge Colby talked to you about, you’d probably conclude that if you just look at our priority theater, IndoPacom, you might notice some interesting things about that theater, notably that there’s a lot of water. Therefore, it would make sense to prioritize the Navy and the Air Force and not prioritize growing the Army. That’s a huge choice they’re going to have to make right away.

Trading Climate Issues for Security Issues
The Biden administration wants to prioritize environmental issues in the way that the Trump administration didn’t. I think Biden already announced his intent to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. I think it would be a mistake to subordinate our security issues, particularly those with China to the demands of cooperating with him on environmental issues. However, I think there’s room to make a smart investment in carbon capture technology and nuclear micro reactor technology. I have a bill with Chuck Schumer and Ro Khanna, a progressive Democrat. It would be the biggest investment from the federal government in research and development since the end of the Cold War, and a lot of that would be in clean energy technology.

Opportunities on Trade, Section 232 Tariffs and Allies
You can’t pick a trade fight with our friends at the same time you’re trying to pick a trade fight with China. You could immediately bring some of our disaffected friends into the fold, particularly if they continue to move in our direction when it comes to 5G, which is probably the most important disagreement we’ve had with some of our European allies.

There’s an opportunity to clean up any lingering disputes with allied countries when it comes to Section 232 Tariffs – the tariffs we placed on steel and aluminum. There’s a dissertation waiting to be written about the nature of 232 tariffs and the constitutional problems with Congress giving up its ability to regulate commerce with foreign nations to the executive branch. It created a situation in which the President was able to claim that we face a national security threat from Canadian steel and aluminum and effectively impose a tax on the American people. So let’s resolve the Section 232 disputes, I’ve opposed them from the start, at the same time you maintain pressure on the Section 301 investigations, which are the investigations into unfair Chinese trade practices.

There are economic opportunities for the incoming Biden team. I think there’s just an obvious slam dunk with the UK, now that they’ve navigated their withdrawal from the European Union, in the form of a free trade agreement with them. As well as a bilateral trade agreement with Taiwan. The reason that the US Trade Representative didn’t want to pursue a trade agreement with Taiwan was because they didn’t want to screw up the phase one trade deal with China.

The Future of 5G
For all the criticism of the Trump administration’s neglect of allies, the fact is, we’ve recently had some incredibly important diplomatic wins. When it comes to convincing the UK for example, to get on the same page with us with respect to Huawei. Shifting the Huawei/ZTE 5G debate in certain European countries like Germany. We have a long way to go. But it does seem like the concerted effort from the executive branch and the legislative branch to send a signal, at least to our closest allies, our Five Eyes allies, that we need to have the same basic principles when it comes to future control of the internet and 5G internet technologies.

I think it’s critical, at least on 5G, to be in the same position with our allies. But I would say for the last four years we’ve purely been playing defense. In other words, we’ve been going around the world saying Huawei is bad, Huawei is bad. ZTE is bad, ZTE is bad. See, look at all this stuff. We’re declassifying all this evidence. And that’s good, we had to do that. And it requires some tough conversations.

The next phase of this involves some sort of offensive-minded effort in concert with our allies to cooperate better on these technologies. To form a digital development fund to coordinate the R&D and the distribution pathways with our like-minded partners. Without reinventing the wheel of existing international efforts, America can take the lead by launching a coalition of countries dedicated to finding a coordinated solution, particularly when it comes to 5G, that cannot only compete on quality with Chinese state-owned or sufficiently state backed enterprises, but also compete on price.

Reshoring Manufacturing and Economic Decoupling From China
I think that some form of selective economic decoupling from China is inevitable and necessary. And you’re going to see efforts to selectively decouple when it comes to our capital markets. To make sure that if Chinese companies list in U.S. markets, they have to follow the same reporting and transparency requirements as U.S. companies. They’re going to see it in key technology areas, not just 5G, but AI, rare earths, medical devices, pharmaceuticals. I think there’s going to be a serious effort to reshore manufacturing, or perhaps revitalize Puerto Rico as a hub for manufacturing of advanced pharmaceutical ingredients. You’re going to see it reflected in a lot of different areas.

Congress and Long-Term Planning
It’s very hard for Congress to do long-term strategic planning. We’re not optimized as an organization to look beyond two years. And sometimes it feels like we’re just looking two weeks at a time or two days.

I pay attention to this stuff. I work hard to understand it. I have an academic and a professional background in it, which I think gives me a little bit of advantage. But I feel like I’m just scratching the surface because there’s no time to really dig into the bureaucratic labyrinth that is the Pentagon.

Why the status quo wins out, why the primes are so good at defending their territory, it’s not member of Congress laziness. It’s just you have so many demands on your time and the demands of reelection. It’s hard to carve out a half-hour of my day to devote to serious defense work just because of the nature of being a member of Congress. And that’s a problem because it’s really Congress’s role. If you look at the history of some of our autonomous drone systems, it was Congress poking the Pentagon to get over their intransigence at the early stages. It requires the legislative branch to get in the game to force the Pentagon to do some things it often doesn’t want to do.

While it’s impossible to predict all the technologies that will dominate the future, if you talk to younger members of the armed services committee, some things are obvious. I think everyone agrees that we have to make an increased investment in AI, and the future will inevitably involve a lot more unmanned systems.

For example, I work a lot on naval issues. If you think about how we’re going to grow the future of the Navy, it’s obvious that we’re not going to be increasing the number of carriers we have from 11 to 15. In fact, it’ll probably be a glide path, down to 9 at some point. And then we’ll grow the fleet with smaller ships, i.e., small surface combatants, and then unmanned systems, both large, unmanned surface combatants as well as unmanned underwater vessels.

And if you look at the Marine Corps Commandant’s planning guidance, which I think is the most innovative thing that’s been written by any military service in the last decade, that’s exactly what he’s recognizing. He’s the only one I’ve seen so far that’s been willing to say, we are not going to invest in certain legacy systems like big amphibious ships that are optimized for doing a joint forced entry operation like Marines did back in World War II in the Pacific. Instead, we’re going to focus on fielding small teams of Marines, who can operate unmanned systems throughout the first and second island chain. Having the logistical infrastructure to constantly move them around to complicate our enemy’s decision-making cycle. Figuring out the basing agreements with our allied countries, so we can host missile systems there. I think he gets the mix right.

Personnel Costs and the DoD Budget
All of this is bound up in a bigger budget discussion. You can scrape together an extra $50 million or $100 million to invest in robotics, AI and hypersonics but If you look at the overall budget, what’s costing us more and more money, it’s human beings. In other words, if you compare the Reagan buildup in the 1980s, in the heady days of the 600 ship Navy real dollars adjusted for inflation, we spent more money during the Obama eight years then we did during the Reagan years.

And it’s not because our ships got more exquisite and fancier, though they did. It’s primarily because human beings got more expensive. The military has the same problem that the rest of society – funding health care and retirement costs. And that’s a very difficult problem to solve. Theoretically, unmanned allows you to have a similar impact with less human beings. But you’re still going to have a lot of human beings involved in the business of defending the country. I just bring that up to say the biggest and hardest choices that DoD needs to make have nothing to do with cutting-edge technology. They have everything to do with healthcare costs, and retirement costs and the cost of training human beings and making sure they’re ready to fight.

The Military Personnel System
The biggest problem I saw when I was in the military is really the best and brightest officers of my generation, (myself excluded) left – usually at the O-3 level. In part it wasn’t a pay thing. It wasn’t that they wanted to go to GSB and then make a bunch of money doing venture capital in Silicon Valley. It was more about flexibility. They wanted the Marine Corps to meet them halfway in terms of, “Hey, can I pursue civilian graduate school and I’ll pay the Marine Corps back on the back end? I don’t want to have to spend a year at Expeditionary Warfare School because it doesn’t make any sense to me.” And it was just more of a career flexibility and management thing. I think this is something we grappled with extensively on the Future Defense Task Force: How do you retain the best and the brightest? How do you attract the best and the brightest?

I think if you retain qualified officers and enlisted military service members throughout their career, you’ll start to get more innovative thinking at the top ranks when they become field grade officers, and when they become general rate officers. And you’ll have less of status quo military industrial complex.

Another area where we’ve given the Pentagon enormous latitude is to reach into private industry and make somebody a colonel or a lieutenant colonel if they have the appropriate skill set, and they really have been loath to use that authority.

Acquisition, Primes, Requirements and the DoD
We have a very brittle defense industrial base. It’s highly concentrated among five or six companies. I think there’s only been two defense related startups that have had a valuation north of a billion dollars in the last couple decades: SpaceX and Palantir. That’s because we build moats around these industries. And there’s a bunch of special interests that advocate for the status quo, and it becomes very hard for Congress to change anything.

Now we’ve tried. We’ve tried in the form of giving special acquisition authority to the services. Honestly, if you look at the U.S. Code when it relates to defense provisions, we don’t really need to give new authority to the services to allow them to experiment and invest in certain technologies and make bets on small and medium sized companies. We’ve given them a ton of authority. But there’s a general risk aversion among the services and almost an unholy alliance between the general officer and flag officer class and the primes. Because general and flag officers when they retire, go and work for the primes and get paid a million dollars a year as a consultant for Boeing or Lockheed. So there’s a “swampy” aspect to all of this that precludes innovation or a risk-taking mindset.

The Goldwater/Nichols Act governs the requirements processes for the services. Today, the Navy says, we need to do X. And here’s our strategy for doing X and all these documents go bounce around the Department of the Navy. We need to change that entire process. Because the result is the services generate requirements that do not align with the national security strategy. Or they’re just published prior to those documents, or without taking into account changes those documents make. It’s a totally incoherent strategy process that doesn’t drive our budget choices and allows the status quo to win out and legacy systems to dominate.

As an example, we have a shipyard in Northeast Wisconsin, Fincantieri Marinette Marine, where we built the Littoral Combat ship. The Littoral Combat ship was supposed to be the ship of the future for the Navy. You can Google “Bob Work LCS“, he wrote a great white paper on how the Littoral Combat ship went awry. And it was really a story of the Navy just getting too ambitious with its requirements and trying to do too much with one ship. They constantly changed requirements, which then screwed up the manufacturing, making it extremely complicated.

I worry that we get too enamored with the new technology and the next big thing and create these hyper exquisite platforms that are extraordinarily difficult to build, let alone operate and maintain. When sometimes a simpler, less technologically advanced approach might do just as good.

There are also some huge opportunities they have now that we’re no longer bound by the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. Because we can field missile systems that we already have, that have ranges between 500 and 550 kilometers that can do things that otherwise require a destroyer or a big, fancy expensive ship to do.

How do we stop special interest groups in the military industrial complex from influencing Congress to make decisions that are perhaps better for business but maintain the status quo?
It comes down to the way in which the Pentagon awards money. The Pentagon needs to stop making very small and insignificant bets on a variety of small or midsize companies that can never make that next step to becoming a prime. They need to start making bigger bets on a smaller subset of non-prime companies. That’s one way you could start to get less of a military industrial complex culture.

I wonder if there’s not some sort of ethics reform or drain the swamp proposal that could be applied to the Pentagon without unleashing some unintended consequences. I’ve long thought it’s a good idea for members of Congress to be prohibited from lobbying for the industries that they oversee, in Congress, I prefer for a lifetime. But I’d take five years. That that seems like a sensible, drain-the-swamp proposal that myself, Ro Khanna and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez could get behind.

And I wonder if you couldn’t have a similar prohibition when it comes to general officers and flag officers. Or at least extend the cooling off period, so they can’t immediately go and collect a paycheck from some of these companies. Now that may sound naive and populist to some of your more cultured teachers, but you’ve got to do something about it at the end of the day. Otherwise, you won’t get any change.

Advice to Our Students
I profited from the advice and mentorship of a lot of people, including your professor Raj Shah. So I’m happy to pay that forward. I was where you guys are a few years ago, just slugging it out in grad school. And you never know when you’re going to be the person making big decisions. Whether it’s a legislator, or member of the executive branch.

And so, I would encourage you guys to keep pursuing your current policy studies. You’ll find yourself in a position where you can make a real impact very quickly. And if you can write well, and if you can work well with others, you’ll you have limitless potential.

Watch the video of Congressman Gallagher’s talk below.

If you can’t see the video click here.

Our Midterm
Our students completed their midterm assignment–- described below – months ago. In this class session, we competitively selected one student to present their proposal to Congressman Gallagher and get his feedback. The midterm assignment is below and Janani Mohan’s presentation to the Congressman follows.

Midterm – Technology Innovation and Modern War

Background for the Students
In the past sessions, Chris Brose and Will Roper presented very different views of the same status quo. In one telling, America is woefully unprepared to harness innovative technologies, with the Defense industry unwelcoming to private sector innovators; in another view, the Air Force is leading the way through disruptive new methods of harnessing commercial innovation and equipping the warfighter with next-generation tools.

Are both narratives correct? How does the Air Force and Department of Defense really spend its money? Are they prioritizing the right programs, or does more fundamental change need to happen?

We want to give you a chance to investigate these questions further and formulate your own plan for the future. We challenge you to reflect on what you have learned, synthesize your key insights, and apply your creativity to make policy recommendations to key decision makers.

Your Midterm Assignment
The documents below are a glimpse into the reality of what the world looks like today. They lay out how spending is allocated between major appropriation categories (i.e., procuring new equipment vs. sustaining existing equipment) as well as major capability investments.

Your assignment is:

  1. Decide whether the current DoD allocation between broad spending categories sufficiently addresses the future strategic and operational challenges we have outlined in class.
  2. Decide whether the DoD is investing in the right capabilities.
  3. Write a 4-page or less advocacy paper describing whether resources are being allocated correctly, and if not- how you would reallocate money in a way that best serves national security objectives. You should make an argument to the House Armed Services Committee analyzing why and how the DoD budget priorities should change in light of your views on the preparedness of US and allied forces to deter and win future conflicts.

The factors in your reallocation proposal could include

  • The need to invest in research and development vs procurement vs sustainment vs salaries, etc.
  • Specific legacy programs vs new technology areas
  • The role of traditional defense contractors vs new companies
  • Human capital (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines) vs technology
  • Hardware vs software
  • Allocation across the services (i.e. Navy vs Air Force vs Army)

Review these exhibits pulled from the FY2021 DoD budget request and external analysis.

Read the entire transcript of Janani Mohan’s midterm presentation to Congressman Gallagher and watch her video below.

If you can’t see the video click here.

Lessons Learned

  • The new administration will have a series of decisions:
    • Whether to cooperate with China or continue to counter their activities
    • With a limited defense budget, to decide on the prioritization among the services
    • Whether to subordinate our security issues, to the demands of cooperating with China on environmental issues
    • Whether to remove the tariffs we placed on steel and aluminum on our allies
    • Whether to selectively decouple our economy from China and reshore manufacturing
  • The U.S. has a highly concentrated defense industrial base – five or six companies
    • General/flag officers have a risk aversion and prefer the primes rather than new entrants
    • We’re enamored with new tech and the next big thing and create these hyper-exquisite platforms that are extraordinarily difficult to build, let alone operate and maintain
    • The Pentagon needs to stop making very small bets on lots of new entrants
      • They need to start making bigger bets on a smaller subset of non-prime companies.
  • Ethics reform for members of Congress to be prohibited from lobbying for the industries that they oversee
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