tv Rep. Seth Moulton and Michele Flournoy Discuss U.S. Defense CSPAN July 23, 2021 8:30pm-9:20pm EDT
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command at the defense department. this is about 45 minutes. >> thank you all for being here. i am in adjunct fellow from the hudson institute. i am joined today by a distinguished panel and let me start introducing them. she doesn't really need an introduction but nevertheless, i will offer one up. she is the co-founder of west exec founders. sheet previously, of course was the secretary defensive policy. likewise, if you follow national security on the hill, you know congressman seth moulton. representative from massachusetts sixth district. he is a former marine. he now sits on the house armed services committee among other committees and is very active on defense matters. finally, we have the privilege of being joined, -- joined by
the director of the strategic capabilities office. they report to the deputy secretary of defense. they have eight technical background. the previous he helped readership position at nasa and the aeronautics development. the topic is called transform and defense for a competitive era. that is what i hope to talk about. we will dive right in and talk about what our defense challenges are. each of our current competition. i cannot wait to dive right in with our panelist here. michelle, i would like to start with you. you wrote a piece in the june issue of foreign affairs as those -- if those in our audience who have not read it, i cannot recommend it highly enough your article talked about
the challenges of the department of defense and offered up ideas for change. can you give us an overview of the situation the deity is in, how we got here and what we hope to do about it? >> thank you for convening us. i am looking forward to the conversation. we are in an era of profound geopolitical changes and technological disruptions. we have a rise in china. increasing competition with china. as economic, technological, military law -- military, and even ideological competitions. in this context, the name of the game between these two nuclear powers is during conflict. -- deterring.
if you see what is required for deterrence, we cannot rest on our laurels because we believe we are the best military in the world. we will really be challenged to think a new about the challenges of what charter will post to us. the concepts of operations we will need to be successful in deterring their aggression or rolling it back. the types of capabilities we need to invest in and the technologies we need to invest in and the changes to our acquisition approach that will be necessary to do that. even down to our personal management systems of how we rank technical talent into the force. how we manage it and allow it to lead. and to help innovate in the department. there is a very rich agenda. i guess i would conclude by saying that what we do in the next four years will have a huge
impact on our position in the world for the next 40. time is of the essence. there is a sense of urgency and consequence i think we need to be operating with. >> over to you seth, last year, you cochaired the task force and you put out your report. there few things in your report that lined up with michelle just laid out including, the need for operational concept development. i want to return to in this discussion. tell us a little bit about the task force and highlight the initiatives you are supporting or driving this year that might address those matters. >> first of all, let me tell you how great it is to be back at the hudson's to what in honor it is to be here with michelle. michelle, great to see you. it is always a privilege to be
on a panel like this with you. the point of the task force was to find a consensus, a long-term strategy to confront the threats that we base around the world. there is no question that the number one threat is china. there is also no question that we are currently losing the race to china. if we stay on our current path, we will lose. michelle set herself in an article china is not on our side. we are losing ground every day that we don't change the way we do business. based on that assessment, the task force made some key recommendations. before we can invest as much as we need to in the future, we need to free up the horses to do so. for that reason, the deity has to retire systems and platforms that do not meet current threat environment.
we can't keep running our resources on planes that were built for uncontested airspace. or ships built without a mission like the lts. i am working right now to help the department push back on the interests of colleagues of mine in congress to get those out of the way. second, once we free up resources, we can push them to emerging technologies like ai, and i have tax. that means we have to fix the way we buy those technologies. right now, we still buy things for the military the same way we did in the vietnam war. systems put in place from literally the industrial age. we used to bite hardware like ships and airplanes to win wars. in the future, we will win wars with software. you don't buy it the same way. hardware, you bite once. software is constantly evolving. gotta make sure it is ready to get upgraded.
going back to my initial point, we are losing to china because they buy software and we are still buying hardware. it is not enough to change what we buy. also have to change how we buy it. to do all the things i just described, we have to rely on our friends and partners in the private sector and in the international community. this year, as i push forward on these priorities, chairman smith has given his full support to the task force and is now working with us to make sure that these recommendations are actually put into practice. i've also worked with many of the people on this panel so i'm looking forward to continuing the conversation. >> absolutely. jay, let's turn inside the department. let's turn to your agency. i know you won't be able to talk a lot about what you do because of qualifications. give us a sense of where it fits
in the ecosystem of innovation? either on technology or concepts and what are you doing to address these bigger picture challenges that they introduce? >> first of all, i would like to say what an honor it is to participate in a panel such as this. truly is an honor and looking forward to the discussion today. i will also say that the views expressed from meat don't necessarily represent the department of defense. that being said, within the strategic capabilities office, our mission is to show off prototypes that give game changing strategic effects that will deter and necessary, defeat a adversary in all forms of conflict. the better way i would describe you what we -- what we do is where we derive our priorities?
what drives what we do is understanding the war fight needs and our partners. we have a close relationship in particular with pay, and you, to the point where we have cells within the organization that fit in both of those units. that helps us better understand that problem. you might ask what are our priorities and drives what we do? it is trying to find work and we make a difference. where can we have impact? within our charter, we lay out areas such as deterrence, costing positions, and power projection surprise. elements like this. this is what we need to measure against in order to exactly what was said by the other guests. we have got in adversary that at times, is not on our side -- and time is not on our side. this is an office where how do
we move things rapidly and how do we get to that problem-solving approach and what we do? one thing that makes it unique in being able to take a look from our perspective is we are not coming in with a lens of a particular service and we are all domain. we do work across air, land, sea, space, and sievert to apply that effect of how we will solve those particular problems. i think that ability to integrate across domains and services is a powerful component to bringing this fight to the adversary going forward. even though i've been on board just a year and a half and what a bit of that was under covid, it really has been impressive to see how the organization has grown and can we evolve. you alluded to it. secretary hicks has been a strong supporter so i'm excited to see what we can do.
out also at the said the thing i noticed the most about within this organization is the team of highly motivated and mission focused on what we do. that is key in being able to move forward. >> one of the things you've written about is the platform centric tendency of the department. it often costs modernization of buying better systems of what we have today as opposed to what jay talked about, just problem-solving or inking creatively on how to conduct a mission or solve an operational challenge. i am interested in your perspective in this. one idea you introduced his product managers. will that help? how do you resolve this with the problems of those of operational problems and missions? those who have operational
stakeholders like the combatant commands and acquisition community which seem to be aligned around services. how do you bring those together and what comes to mind about that? >> one of the most important sorts of activities that the department should be undertaken right now and it is, is really in concept development, focused on specific problem sets in specific mission areas. really completing different solutions. conceptually. and taking those ideas into experimentation and then working with an organization like sco to figure out if this is something we can address by combining what is already in hand or mature in new ways to get new solutions? that is really the area that they specialize in. or, is this an area where we
need to make a transformational long-term investment in any technology and capabilities and we will have to wait a decade before we really have new answers to these problems? more often than not, it will be both. you'll try to cobble together a near term solutions that enhances your terms and inhibit progression in new and crated ways. you also make investments that will improve your advantage in the future. at the heart of this is this concept of experimentation. we have to remember that there are historical precedents for this. if you look at the germans in the interwar periods, the technologies for tanks, air power, for a variety of things, communications, existed but it wasn't until they did concept development work to put it all together that you got with
craig. another example is even in that same time periods, we had a navy that was dominated by the battleship. that was the prevailing view of what would win wars in the future but the navy consciously allowed and even encouraged in some ways, an insurgency within that went into aviation and figured out how aviation would change the game. thank god they did. it was out of that work that those concepts came into really sort of saying hey, and saved us in world war ii. creating an environment where checking rains at the door, allowing the smartest and most smartest people be at the table and develop new concepts to address the heart problems and completing those, having that feedback into your current acquisition process, to mean, that is the name of the game.
i see some signs we are moving in that direction but we are not cycling fast enough and were not resourcing at the scale we need. >> my colleague at this center recently did some work on the concept of mission and its meant. recognizing that these organizations -- might be a navy service action group. once to do that, you don't have other organizations down the range to four operational needs that can -- nobody is response will for that. there is in a great tool set for it. that need for -- we know how to do deprogram management. we talk about acquisition rings of programs. in addition to developing
operational concepts, thinking about the mechanisms that we pull things together to support those concepts, thinking about how would you oversight around mission outcomes and not just program outcomes is an area that is also right for experimentation and creativity. congressman, i understand you are supporting a legislative concept the cycle that drives towards similar issues. what can you share about that? >> we have to change not just what would buy but how we buy. we need to change our buying habits awakened by software. you just don't bite the same way you buy hardware. we need to have more flexible, quick funding that directly addresses the operational challenges our troops are facing. or meets the needs of these new concepts that michelle is talking about developing.
that is why i am working to establish what is called a mission based pilot which will experiment with a new way of budgeting to fix these issues. this would restructure funding so it is tied to specific missions instead of specific hardware. picture this: set up by a single piece of hardware and forcing it to address multiple missions over the years, spending williams of dollars fixing it only deploying it decades after we wrote requirements for. we are talking about the f-35 here, folks. we can define an operational challenge that our troops are facing right now, assign funding to it and quickly by a flexible range of solutions that might help address it. i think that is really the approach that china is taking here. they have an operational goal. don't have a lot of rules and restrictions on how they will reach that goal. or as always just by gadgets. the f-35, meaning, is one of the
best examples here. we spent years and decades really, lien's of dollars developing the most expensive aircraft in world history to fight china and it cannot reach china. we are wasting a lot of money. what is the point of buying one super expensive piece of hardware to address a problem if it takes years to get it out to the field? the troops are saying hey, our house is on fire and we have a system that we wires state two-year system of approval at a minimum to allow them to purchase a host. that is why it is so important. we need to buy for the needs of today and not 10 years ago. we believe that the sco can be
important here. we look forward to working with them as we develop this pilot and hopefully get to test it by getting it approved. >> can i jump in on this one point? i think along with what he is talking about in terms of a pilot, having greater flexibility from congress to allow the department to manage portfolios of capabilities according to mission area would be huge. i don't know a single ceo running a major business that doesn't do a portfolio review and says what is not working? should i do some divestment? what is working and is better than i thought would be and i want to accelerate the progress. the fact that the department is so hamstrung in its ability to an edge across its investment
portfolio for a given mission is really challenging. i know congress doesn't want to lose the power of the purse. and don't want to lose their oversight. i think there are ways to do this that would keep congress informed, ensure their oversight but give the department more flexibility to manage money across mission portfolios. that would be hugely helpful in accelerating the progress we need to make to deal with china. >> you are absolutely right. what china should be doing is asking the question of are we meeting the mission requirements here? are we making progress towards that goal as opposed to hey, are we checking the box next to this milestone in a program that we should've been buying a decade ago. >> this notion of shifting the lens of oversight from hitting program requirements and milestones to shifting the lens
to mission outcomes in the portfolio of progress against admission. i want to return to that in just a moment and maybe ask about the role of the resource allocation process. before we lose that thread on operational challenges, how does sco play in operational challenges? especially given that it is the service that has the weapon systems, maintains them and operates them? how do you balance that relationship with program acquisition and those responsible for operations? >> that is an excellent point. it starts with what i described in the earlier question with understanding the problems that we have from our partners. at the same time, we realize that often the solution to these operational challenges already seems between domains and
services and it goes back to what i said by being service agnostic. two look at it in a more holistic way. that puts us in a good position to address these challenges, these opportunities if you will to really ring a solution. and not become enamored with a particular system right off the bat that, i think is too often what we have within our system today. we have become very platform focused instead of looking at systems of operability working across things in order to accomplish a mission so to speak. i think that is a key thing is being that joint element that brings it together. that extends to our partners and allies as well. it is not just within the department. nothing i would like to highlight on in this discussion is we tend to focus often on the technology itself.
yes, obviously, we are a technical organization and we work to advance these technical capabilities. i think just as important is what we do to advance or experiment within the tactics, techniques, and procedures and how we use it is more important than the equipment itself when we think about it. also, what is the role in this experimentation, this learning, not to just understand technical capabilities or how use it, but how does it inform policy moving forward? do that as part of the experimentation and look at things more illicitly that way. in this case, i think it is key to what we do. do it as a learning opportunity across technical and tradecraft if you will and the policy side. the other element i think is essential here is being informed in what we do. bite forming the relationship that we have with the intelligence community within
the organization is an important aspect for us to accomplish our mission. i talked a bit about of our relationship with the cocom's and you asked how do services fit in? how do we make this work, transition eight capability into the war fighters hands? first key to that is working with the services at the beginning of the problem. we don't wait until we develop a capability and push it. it's from day one, even then, we are engaging across the services to understand the potential for us and a new capability and how we do this, it really takes several forms on how we might work through this. in some cases, it might just be modifying an existing system in many cases, that is an easy transition. they will almost always include this new capability. we serve a role in integrating
these systems. putting them together to provide an interaction in the sense that was never originally designed to do that creates new capabilities within the services. we have a good track record of doing that. and of course, developing new capabilities as well. that is something that is brand-new. we work across that entire spectrum but at the end of the day, it comes back to being operationally focused on what we are trying to do. integration and how we work on the services, i will touch on that a little bit more. it is more than engaging in working with them from the beginning. it is all throughout the process. i'll use one example. this is the work we did on enabling or pioneering for greater use of autonomous surface vessels within the navy. this has been a case where we develop a concept and turns it over to the navy at some point.
we've worked hand-in-hand with the service throughout this process and ensuring that learning. this is what comes forward in the experimentation we talked about. this is a case where that happens almost naturally when you have an organization that is used to working with others within the services. we needed the ships from the gulf of mexico over to the west coast, the navy was involved every step of the way. this is what we talked about, some of those concepts early in the process and they've been great earners in this. >> that is really useful perspective. the effort it takes to do that kind of integration and outreach is important. it takes a lot of energy. it is really hard to get the joint outcomes without that kind of background work. >> absolutely. one of the things i set was how you think about joint transition
is a hard problem for us and something that we need to grapple and move forward. it is easy to think about design service lenses. when we think about mission-based capabilities, howdy translate that? of good examples with that is happened but it is not always easy. >> michelle, you brought up this sense of when we have challenges in the near-term, we are left with cobbling things together and thinking about creative employment. in the longer-term, we might create new technologies and systems that help change the game for those missions. earlier this year, phil davidson suggested that china might seek to take taiwan life force in six years. this is a major focus of dod scenario-based planning.
it is no secret that our acquisitions don't respond very quickly. it takes a year or more to do requirements, budgeted, the develop field systems. given that pacing, if that is the case, if the dod needs to transform on the timeline of six years, how do we do that? how do we fight better? we have talked about experimentation. you introduce if you ingredients. possibly some different oversight mechanisms. how do we move that to action? how do we pull this off to really make these new operational concepts real. ? >> the only way they move on taiwan and the next 5-7 years is if there is a massive miscalculation. the first element of that would be underestimating our resolve.
first thing we have to do is we have to show up consistently, diplomatic leak, militarily. bilateral basis, multilateral basis, we gotta show up and be clear that we are there then we need to use our deployments and exercises to demonstrate our capabilities, that we do have the ability to deny chinese aggression or impose very high costs, along with allies in the region, so allies and partners become important demonstrating unity on this issue. then we need to make sure that organizations are doing the work that needs to be done to make sure we have better options and
that near timid term timeframe, by combining what we have in new ways to hold large segments of the chinese naval fleet at risk to remind them that they would be tremendous costs if they tried a blockade or invasion of taiwan. these are all things we can do in the near term, even as we invest in the transformational cape we can see coming online in the next decade or beyond, so this is a critical part of the agenda for dod, but not just what we buy. it is how we communicate our resolve, demonstrate our resolve , the commitments to underline that, then how we take our
existing capabilities to give us a greater advantage. >> you mentioned earlier the need for flexibility in the right kind of congressional oversight to enable some of the experimentation that is needed, and use the historical analogies of developing new concepts of operation and how transformational those were in prior eras. what role does the system play in setting the incentives or ability of the department to prioritize that kind of activity? does that have a role? and what about oversight? >> the current system is very sequential and rigid.
once something is in the program , it is set in stone unless it fails. we have modeled this on the ford motor company approach to this, so we take years to define requirements and go through these milestones to ultimate acquisition, and it is designed for big, platform programs, complicated programs on schedule and on costs. it is not designed to incentivize innovation and rapid adoption of innovation, so i'm not talking about blowing up the system, because it does what it does and we need that. what i am suggesting is we train a cadre of special forces of
acquisition in the development process, the process for software-defined systems and many other emerging technologies, and they are reported to move quickly, learn, reinvent, succeed with better solutions, and they are trained to do that, rewarded, promoted, a career path for doing that, and that would create new behaviors in our acquisition system that i think would the much more, that would assist the adoption of innovation, help us speed and scale that process. >> yes. that is really interesting. that is a compelling idea. along those lines, this notion
of special forces of acquisitions, inherently agile, dealing with multiple operation simultaneously. how does congress come along to that? so many members are locked into this industrial air oversight system, here is this district's system is made in and there is long-term stability that comes with that. are we on cost and schedule targets? how do dod and congress come together on this? isn't it harder for those two bodies to come together? how do we get there? >> it is challenging. what michelle has laid out is a way to get there that is not completely blowing up the entire system or rocking the entire boat.
i am more on the side of blowing up the whole system, because the reality is, yes, we will have big, clunky, industrial era-type weapons systems we will have on budget, but the majority of acquisitions we need to make will be these more agile, mission-oriented types of technology, fulfilling new operational concepts. the things we often get off-the-shelf in the private sector rather quickly with flexibility and adoption, then they come along. one thing we mentioned in the report is the best way to start is rather than blowing up the entire system, focusing effort on the parts and programs of dod that are working. i think we need to do that as an
end goal, but we are completely aligned in the way we need to start out to change the system, and it is true and you will hear people on the hill saying if we change the way we buy for the military. the current system doesn't give us the oversight we need anyway. we are circling the drain with the system where the dod describes an intricate detail and it is signed off on the oversight and we just keep going in circles. we have enough oversight for the effort, for example, but has that helped anyone? have we need to fix this budgeting and acquisition system. my hope is we might find a way
to keep the oversight, but have it focused on the things that matters, making progress towards an operational goal, fulfilling a new operational concept or new mission. you know, milestones put in place and this tired, old-fashioned, industrial model -way of keeping track of programs. as a member of congress, i keep dod accountable by showing us how the money they spend in a mission-based funding project is done. if not, we can dive into more detail and determine what they need to change about how they are spending this money. often within this mission requirement, to get it done. it doesn't do us any good that
put bureaucratic requirements that don't help us address the operational challenges that we face. >> can i jump in on one point? you are losing control of this panel. i want to applaud what congress has done recently. there are problems. research and development money, testing money, procurement money, operational money, and recently congress has allowed the department much greater flexibility on cybersecurity to have money they can go across those areas, and that is really important. we will need it in other areas as well. in a world with missions, capabilities provided as a service. cybersecurity, data analytics as a service, artificial intelligence as a service, not
just products. we have to figure out the money barriers to enabling us to get the best that is out there commercially in the department as a service, as opposed to thinking in terms of procuring product. >> i think that is well stated. i really like that connection. if we are going to do this experimentation, mixed development and operations, going back through essentially the accounting, and oversight and control system, so that makes a lot of sense to me. >> i totally agree with the last word. maybe you can give us an uplifting note? are there other examples you can offer within the limits of this form about things that have been done that there is a possibility
of generating new capability and operational concept sooner rather than later and affecting operations and outcomes. if you have done it, how did you do it? >> happy to talk on that. there is a limit to what i can say given the nature of the work that we do. let me start by saying a little bit about how we operate. we tried to not silo things within individual projects, and not just across portfolios, but how do we work across the entire effort from those opportunities come into thinking in a different manner? not just within the portfolio, but something i highlighted before, how we integrate services functioning or in the
future to do that better? so part of that is the mindset. another key to that success is how we demonstrate these capabilities. we use the term experimentation quite a bit, so that in some cases we are on the range where we see opportunities about ongoing exercises to understand how a new capability might play in that larger force going forward, so that type of experimentation is powerful to us. with that, i talked about a bit about the relationship and how we work with the services, what i haven't talked about is how we work with others. i would use the term innovation ecosphere, if you will, working across other organizations has been key to our success. it is easy to say no one organization or service can do this alone. you have to work together as a
team to do this. i would take one example that i alluded to. this was a capability with some of the initial technology that were developed by darpa. we took those technologies and operationalized them. this is where we are really moving this forward towards a capability that will be part of the future force. at the same time, we are taking the learning from this experimentation, and feeding it back to organizations like darpa so the next generation of systems and new technologies developing and building can be built upon this knowledge in this experimentation, so that has been key to it. another example i would like to put out there is, in addition to testing on the range or in exercises, getting things into the hand of war fighters is key
to what we have done. we mention software as an example of this. one of the tools we developed, think of it as a visualization of the cyber battlefield, able to bring a collection of data and information to the war fighter that he or she did not have before. so in doing this, well developing it, we were spinning out early versions to the war fighter to do two things. it gets new capability in their hands so they can employ it, which is what was happening, but at the same time, for us to learn as part of that process. we see it in the civil sector all the time with beta development or testing of software being developed. that makes us smarter about the end product that we are working towards. we mentioned and use the term requirements before. sometimes i think we spend too much time upfront trying to get
the perfect requirements only to find those are out-of-date or maybe we didn't have the right requirements to begin with. so another part of our success is we don't view ourselves as validating requirements, but informing them, not only technical, but how we use it on the policies that surrounded. that needs to be part of that learning. the other key part of that learning is we have to be able to take risks and what we do. that is inherent within the scope of not everything we do is going to be successful as we originally foresaw or planned, but that is part of the learning process. often the things that don't work , we can sometimes learn just as much when we find those cases as when we are very successful. so having that mentality where it is ok to understand or challenge it is important. if not, we will not push the
state-of-the-art in take the risks we need to, or it will take forever to develop a capability and by then it will be obsolete. you can summarize this in another way, describing it as something michelle pointed out in her paper as well, it is the culture that exists within the organization, and i alluded to this in my early remarks about a team that is mission-focused and what they do. that has been essential, people come to work on they have their mind on their job, to do with they can to defeat the adversary. when they come to work, when their day is focused on that, and how we do that, that is how we find creative solutions, what we can do to maintain that culture is key. finally, the final key to success is not unique to this, but is a theme of this entire panel, it comes down to something that we hold dear as
americans, teamwork. at the end of the day, we are all on the same team approaching these problems, whether the federal government from a congressional or executive side, extending to the civil sector as well. how we work together because of the daunting challenge we face is inherent with what we have to do to be successful. >> thanks for that. with that, we will wrap up on that high note. i for one share a sense of appreciation for the mission focus of this panel. it is an honor to be on here with all of you. i am deeply appreciative of your collective thoughts, your energy, and your action on the kinds of topics we have talked about today. >> thanks for putting it together. great discussion. >> thanks very much.
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