Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford on Wednesday previewed a soon-to-be-finalized National Military Strategy, saying that developing international alliances and projecting power to faraway places will be the two key tenets of the classified document.
Speaking at the Association of the United States Army's annual convention in Washington, Dunford said the new strategy also will attempt to reframe the definition of war and the planning processes the Defense Department has in place to prepare for it.
"We owe the secretary a better command-and-control structure," Dunford told Defense News following his speech. Improved planning and collaboration among combatant commanders would be especially important in times of simultaneous conflicts, he said.
A re-evaluation of what constitutes war comes against the backdrop of what US officials consider Russian activities in Europe carefully orchestrated to fall below the West's threshold.
During his speech, Dunford argued Moscow was specifically seeking to undermine America's ability to project power and "the credibility of our alliances" because those two capabilities represent the "centers of gravity" from which the US military draws strength.
Dunford eschewed the term "hybrid warfare" to describe modern-day conflicts, arguing it had become "laden with baggage." Instead, conflicts involving military, economic and political muscling are better understood as "adversarial competition."
"Our traditional approach is to think whether we're at peace of whether we're at war," he said. "And meanwhile, our adversaries don't think about it that way."
Military operation plans, therefore, are ill-suited to prepare forces for what defense leaders consider an increasingly complex international security environment, according to Dunford.
"We don't have mission command today at the strategic level," he said. "And more importantly, we haven't set the fundamental conditions that are necessary to establish mission command."
The Pentagon's National Military Strategy documents have previously been released publicly, as part of a canon of senior-level defense-related publications, but the new version will be classified. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has yet to sign off on the latest iteration, Dunford said.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.