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Rapporteur: Nicholas J. Bradford
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This event continued a conversation begun at CNA’s September 16, 2021, National Security Seminar, titled “Planning for Tomorrow’s Threats: Overcoming Obstacles to Organize, Adapt, and Innovate.” In this event, we heard insights on defense strategy from Christian Brose, Chief Strategy Officer of Anduril Industries, a defense technology company. Mr. Brose shared his perspective as a former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee under Chairman John McCain. He is also the author of The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare. Dr. Carter Malkasian, from CNA, moderated the discussion. Dr. Malkasian previously served as Special Assistant for Strategy to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The event was recorded and is available online.

Central arguments of The Kill Chain

Dr. Malkasian and Mr. Brose started off with a discussion about the title of The Kill Chain and its central arguments. In Brose’s view, the logic of a kill chain demonstrates the actual purpose of military power and the ability to generate deterrence: that is, convincing an opponent of their inability to secure objectives by disrupting their capacity to sense, decide, and act. In the book, Brose argues that the US defense enterprise model needs to overcome its preoccupation with legacy platforms and start worrying about command and control (C2); intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); enabling technologies such as autonomy; and the ability to strike the opponent over a long range. The term kill chain is not new; in fact, kill chains and OODA (observe-orient-decide-act) loops have long-standing currency among defense practitioners.

Mr. Brose argued that “this is fundamentally not how the US defense enterprise conceives of, builds, buys, evaluates, assesses military power.” He likened this dysfunction to a similar phenomenon in baseball exposed in Michael Lewis’ Moneyball (2004): “For over a century baseball was asking the wrong questions: it measured value in terms of buying players, and looked for value in measures like batting average and number of homeruns.” However, “the goal isn’t to buy players,” Brose noted, “It’s to buy wins, and to buy wins, you have to buy runs, and to buy runs, you need to get on base, and you can get on base a lot of ways.” In his mind, Moneyball is really about an old paradigm that asked the wrong questions and led to a fundamental misallocation of resources, and the creation of a new paradigm that looked at players in the context of their contribution to the actual desired outcome—winning games.

Brose thinks the defense enterprise needs a similar paradigm shift, such that it begins thinking about “winning” the kill chain rather than accumulating platforms. The enterprise should therefore place a premium on integrating military systems that improve human understanding, decision-making, and action to enable more efficient, autonomous, and larger scale operations. This new paradigm should constitute the criteria for evaluating emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and autonomy. Although those technologies will be important for the “right” side of the kill chain (i.e., the so-called lethality and kinetic effects from fires), their potential implications for everything to the “left” of those effects (i.e., the sensing and decision-making prior to fire) will be more crucial in outcompeting an adversary.

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  • Pages: 3
  • Document Number: CCP-2021-U-030947-Final
  • Publication Date: 10/1/2021