210. “The Convergence” – Episode 3: Modernizing the Future Army with Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to announce the latest episode of “The Convergence” podcast, featuring an interview with Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, Director of the Futures and Concepts Center, Army Futures Command. Please note that this podcast and several of the embedded links below are best accessed via a non-DoD network — Enjoy!]

In the latest episode of “The Convergence,” we talk with Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, currently the Director of the Futures and Concepts Center, U.S. Army Futures Command, at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Lt. Gen. Wesley has served in numerous operational units throughout his 34 year career, as well as on the National Security Council at the White House as the Director for Afghanistan-Pakistan Policy, and on the Army Staff as Deputy Director for Program Analysis and Evaluation (PAE) for the Army G8. Prior to taking over the Futures and Concepts Center, Lt. Gen. Wesley was the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia. In this episode of “The Convergence,” we discuss multi-domain operations, modernization, and the future Army with Lt. Gen. Wesley.

Lt. Gen. Wesley’s military education includes the Armor Officer Basic Course, the Armor Officer Advanced Course, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He is a graduate of the National War College, earning a Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. Lt. Gen. Wesley also holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from Troy State University.

Stay tuned to the Mad Scientist Laboratory as we will be releasing a new podcast every other week with exciting and impactful guests… our next episode will feature Michael Kanaan, Director of Operations, U.S. Air Force / MIT Artificial Intelligence.

The purpose of “The Convergence” is to explore technological, economic, and societal trends that disrupt the operational environment and to obtain a diversity of opinions regarding the changing character of warfare. You too can help Mad Scientist expand the U.S. Army’s understanding of the operational environment — join the 642 others who have already done so and take a few minutes to complete our short, on-line Global Perspectives Survey. Check out our initial findings here and stay tuned to future blog posts on the Mad Scientist Laboratory to learn what further insights we will have gleaned from this survey about operational environment trends, challenges, technologies, and disruptors.

Don’t forget to enter The Operational Environment in 2035 Mad Scientist Writing Contest and share your unique insights on the future of warfighting — click here to learn more (submission deadline is 1 March 2020!)

209. Takeaways from the Mad Scientist Global Perspectives in the Operational Environment Virtual Conference

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist would like to thank everyone who participated in the Mad Scientist Global Perspectives in the Operational Environment Virtual Conference on 29 January 2020 — from our co-hosts at the Army Futures Command (AFC) and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) International Army Programs Directorate (IAPD); to TRADOC’s Foreign Liaison Officer community and the U.S. Army liaison officers overseas who helped us identify and coordinate with international subject matter experts; to each of the briefers who presented their respective nations’ insightful perspectives on a diverse array of topics affecting the Operational Environment (OE); to our audience who attended virtually via the TRADOC Watch page’s interactive chat room and asked penetrating questions that significantly helped broaden our aperture on the OE and the changing character of warfare. Today’s post documents the key takeaways Mad Scientist captured from the conference — Enjoy!]

Our first Mad Scientist Virtual Conference focused on global perspectives of the operational environment. While our presenters represented only a small part of the globe, these countries do account for a significant percentage of global defense expenditures and have international defense related engagements and responsibilities.

As expected, we heard many similarities between the Operational Environment described by the United States Army and the presenters from France, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Canada, and our NATO Panel. We also identified some interesting nuances in how potential challenges and threats are described and which ones are emphasized.

Here are a few takeaways from the conference — if they pique your interest, check out this conference’s Mad Scientist APAN (All Partners Access Network) page for the associated slides and video presentations (to be posted)!

1) Interoperability is key but increasingly difficult with uneven modernization and different policies for emerging technologies. Each country emphasized the future of coalition operations, but they also described interoperability in different ways. This ranged from the classic definition of interoperability of radios, firing data, and common operating pictures to tactical integration with a country’s units inside another country’s formations. Emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) add another level of difficulty to interoperability. Each country will develop their own AI policies outlining legal levels of autonomy and coding standards for identifying biases and ensuring transparency. How these different AI capabilities will interact in fast pace machine-to-machine collaboration is not clear.

2) Asymmetry of Ethics is a Pink Flamingo (known challenge without program to address it) Each country mentioned the developing and differing standards for AI. It was commonly understood that competition and conflict is speeding up but there is no clear consensus on what the tactical and operational advantages could be for an adversary that chooses to integrate AI in a more permissive manner than accepted by western armed forces. Also, lagging policy, regulations, and laws in the West create a possibility for overmatch by these potential adversaries. This is an area where experimentation with differing AI policies and approaches might identify the risks of strategic and technological surprise.

3) Weaponization of information to attack societies and their armed forces is the #1 described threat and it wasn’t even close. This is understandable as our European allies are closer geographically to the persistent Russian competition activities. The emphasis of this threat differs from the United States Army where we have focused and experimented around the idea of a return to high intensity conflict with a near–peer competitor. While each presenter discussed ongoing organizational, doctrinal, and capability changes to address the information environment, it was widely understood that this is a military problem without a military solution.

4) Climate change and mass migration are the conflict drivers of most concern. Human migration as a consequence of climate change will create new security concerns for impacted countries as well as neighboring regions and, due to European geography, seemed to be of greater concern than our focus on great power conflict.

5) Virtual training is increasingly important for Armies with decreasing defense budgets and the demand to improve training proficiencies. As realistic synthetic training becomes a reality, we can more readily transition troops trained for a host of contingencies in the virtual world to the rigors of diverse operations in the physical world. This Synthetic Training Environment may also facilitate Joint and inter-coalition training of geographically-disparate assets and formations, with the concomitant issue of interoperability to conduct combined training events in the future.

6) As society evolves and changes, so does warfare. Our presenters described several pressures on their societies that are not part of or are only tangentially mentioned in the U.S. Army’s operational narrative:

    • Declining demographics in western nations pose potential recruitment and reconstitution challenges.
    • Nationalism is rising and could result in an erosion of rules-based international order. If these systems break down, smaller nations will be challenged.
    • Authoritarian systems are rising and exporting technology to support other authoritarian governments. At the same time democratic systems are weakening.
    • Aging populations and slow growth economies are seeing a global shift of economic strength from the West to the East.

In the future, we will host another global perspectives conference that will include presenters from Asia and South America to further broaden our perspectives and identify potential blind spots from these regions. For now, we encourage the international community to continue to share their ideas by taking our Global Perspectives Survey. Preliminary findings were presented at this conference. Stay tuned to the Mad Scientist Laboratory as we will publish the results of this survey in a series of assessments, starting in March…

… don’t forget to enter The Operational Environment in 2035 Mad Scientist Writing Contest and share your unique insights on the future of warfighting — click here to learn more (deadline for submission is 1 March 2020!)…

… and a quick reminder that the U.S. Army Mission Command Battle Lab Futures Branch is also conducting its Command Post of the Future – 2040-2050 Writing Contest. Click here to learn more about suggested contest writing prompts, rules, and how to submit your entry — deadline for their writing contest is also 1 March 2020!

207. China Issues New Plan to Address Aging Population

[Editor’s Note: Today’s post, excerpted from this month’s OE Watch, addresses China’s new plan to redress its most pressing socio-economic predicament — a declining population of working age citizens (the legacy of its national “One-Child Policy”) who must simultaneously care for an aging population while trying to stem a decline in real economic growth (down from a high of 14.3% in 2007 to a reported 6.1% last year). As previous guest bloggers Collin Meisel and Dr. Jonathan D. Moyer, from the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures, have observed in On Hype and Hyperwar, how our near-peer adversary tackles this persistent, declining trend is just as relevant to future warfighters preparing for competition and conflict in the operational environment as is artificial intelligence, quantum computing, or any other potential game changing technology. How China resolves this issue will determine if it will surpass Russia as our most capable threat in the latter half of the Era of Accelerated Human Progress (now through 2035) — Read on!]

China Population Pyramid – 2018 / Source: The World Factbook, CIA, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ch.html

China’s government is issuing a new plan to address population aging. While many countries’ population growth have begun to slow down, China’s aging is on track to be particularly dramatic. In 2016, over 230 million Chinese were over 60, and that number is expected to rise to 487 million (35% of the population) by 2055. As explained in the translated readout of the new Plan, the Chinese Communist Party and State Council view population aging as having a direct impact on every aspect of the Chinese economy and China’s “comprehensive national power.” The plan sets deadlines for developing a framework for dealing with population aging by 2022, instituting the policies by 2035, and having complete and mature policies in place by 2050.

Despite strong economic growth since the 1980s, China’s government and economy will likely have trouble when faced with slowing growth and rising healthcare and pension costs. China’s total debt ratio to GDP hit a record high in the summer of 2019, topping 300 percent for the first time, a consequence of lending that helped fuel its economic growth.

“Please for the sake of your country, use birth control” — Government sign found in Nanchang (Tangshan Village, De’an County, Jiujiang, Jiangxi) / Source: China One Child Policy, by Lori Scott via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

China loosened the One-Child Policy in January 2016, but the new two-child policy and financial incentives appear to have limited success. High costs of living, and pressure from educational and work cultures and other factors have disincentivized new parents from having multiple children, so the Chinese government will have to take steps to avoid further problems.

The Plan, therefore, lays out five areas of action: First, social security funds for retirees are to be consolidated and expanded. Second, promote more effective pre-natal screening and education to create a high-quality population. Third, create a high-quality system of services and products for the elderly, with an emphasis on better health care, including preventative care. Fourth, refocus scientific and technological development to address population-aging related issues. The fifth section notes that additional work is needed to ensure legal frameworks to protect the elderly, which have increasingly been the target of various scams and other crimes in China. As emphasized in the fourth directive, Chinese leaders understand that population aging will have a significant impact on the economy. While the service industry now makes up over 50 percent of the economy, many sectors will likely see shortfalls in workers, requiring prompt investment in automation and other smart technologies to increase productivity while reducing reliance on workers. Educating the workforce, and reforms to the mandatory retirement age could allow workers to defer retirement.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative / Source: Lommes via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Interestingly, the article ends with a note that China plans to use international cooperative agreements, particularly the Belt and Road Initiative to help address population aging. While this includes cooperation in scientific studies and sharing lessons on effective policies, it is possible that China may seek to encourage migration to help reduce the domestic burden of the elderly—something that appears to be happening informally already. End OE Watch Commentary (Peter Wood)

Population aging has far-reaching impacts on the entire economy, society, culture and even comprehensive national strength and international competitiveness.

Source: 中共中央 国务院印发《国家积极应对人口老龄化中长期规划 (CCP Central Committee and State Council issue Medium and
Long-Term Plan for Proactive Response to Population Aging), Xinhua, 21 November 2019.

To proactively address population aging, and in accordance with the Party’s 19th Congress Work Report, recently the CCP Central Committee and State Council issued the Medium- and Long-Term Plan for Proactive Response to Population Aging (hereafter, “Plan”). The Plan is a strategic, comprehensive and guiding document for China to actively respond to population aging by the middle of this century, with a long-term outlook to 2050, from the near to mid-term components covering 2022-2035.

Source: http://cc.nphoto.net/view/2008/12597.shtml via Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 China Mainland, by 芝崖

The Plan points out that population aging is an important trend of social development, the embodiment of the progress of human civilization, and the basic national conditions of our country for a longer period of time. Population aging has far-reaching impacts on the entire economy, society, culture and even comprehensive national strength and international competitiveness.

The Plan emphasizes that actively responding to population aging is a basic requirement for implementing the ‘people-centric development concept,’ a necessary guarantee for the realization of high-quality economic development, and an important measure to safeguard national security and social harmony and stability. In accordance with the requirements of high-quality economic development, we should adhere to the main line of supply-side structural reform, build a long-term institutional framework, formulate major policies that are effective, adhere to the basic principles of active response, joint construction, and sharing, moderate capacity, innovation and openness, and develop a response to population aging with Chinese characteristics.

Chinese characters “Chinese Dream” in South Lake Park, Panzhou, Guizhou, China / Source: Huangdan2060 via Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

The Plan defines the strategic objectives of actively responding to population aging, namely, the continuous consolidation of the institutional basis for actively responding to the population aging, the increasing abundance of wealth reserves, the continuous improvement of human capital, more powerful support of science and technology, the rich quality of products and services, the livable and friendly social environment, and the continuous adaptation of economic and social development to the process of population aging. We will successfully build a socialist modern power and realize the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. By 2022, China’s institutional framework for actively dealing with population will be initially established, by 2035, the institutional arrangements for actively dealing with population aging will be more scientific and effective, and by the middle of this century, the institutional arrangements for dealing with population aging, which are compatible with a strong modern socialist nation, will be mature and complete.

The Plan deploys specific tasks to address population aging in five areas.

First, consolidate social security reserves that deal with population aging. By expanding the total amount, optimizing the structure and improving the efficiency, the economic development is adapted to population aging. By perfecting the national income distribution system, optimizing the distribution pattern between government, enterprises and residents, we will steadily increase the reserve of retirement benefits. A more equitable and sustainable social security system will continue to promote the well-being of all people.

Second, improve the effective supply of labor under the background of population aging. Improve the overall quality of China’s human resources by improving the quality of the new population, improving the quality of the new labor force, and building a lifelong learning system for learning. We will promote the utilization of human resources development, achieve higher quality and full employment, and ensure that the total amount and quality of human resources actively cope with population aging are sufficient and high quality.

Beijing Haidian Hospital / Source: AddisWang via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Third, create high-quality services and product-supply systems for the elderly. We will actively promote the construction of a healthy China and establish and improve a comprehensive and continuous system of health care for the elderly, including health education, preventive health care, disease diagnosis and treatment, rehabilitation care, long-term care and peaceful care. We will improve the multi-level old-age service system based on homeownership, community-based, full institutional development, a natural combination of medical care, expand the supply of elderly-appropriate products and services in various channels and fields, and improve the quality of products and services.

Fourth, strengthen the capacity of scientific and technological innovation to cope with population aging. Deepen implementation of innovation-driven development strategies, with technological innovation as the first driving force and strategic support to actively respond to population aging, and comprehensively improve the smart technology-level of the national economic industrial system. Improve the level of science and technology and informationization of services for the elderly, increase the support of health science and technology for the elderly, and strengthen the research and development and application of assisted technologies for the elderly.

Fifth, build a social environment emphasizing elder-care, filial piety, and respect for the elderly. Strengthen the rule of law to deal with population aging and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the elderly. Build a family support system, build a friendly society for the elderly, and create a good atmosphere for the elderly, family, society and the government to participate together.

President Xi / Source: U.S. Department of State

The Plan calls for adhering to the Party’s leadership in actively responding to population aging, adhering to the overall responsibility of the principals of the Party and government, strengthening all levels of government’s ability to implement the plan, and further improving the organizational coordination mechanisms. We will promote international cooperation and policy dialogue and project interface with the Belt and Road countries to address population aging…

If you enjoyed this post, please see the OE Watch, January 2020 issue, by the TRADOC G-2’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO), featuring this piece and other articles of interest…

… don’t forget to take a few minutes to complete our short, on-line Global Perspectives Conference Survey. Check out our initial findings here and stay tuned to future blog posts on the Mad Scientist Laboratory to learn what further insights we will have gleaned from this survey about operational environment trends, challenges, technologies, and disruptors….

200. Broadening our Aperture on the Operational Environment

[Editor’s Note: Like many of our readers, Mad Scientist Laboratory is starting off the new year with a bit of introspection…. As we continue to focus on the Operational Environment (OE) and the changing character of warfare, we find ourselves wondering if we aren’t getting a little too comfortable and complacent with what we think we know and understand. Are we falling victim to our own confirmation biases, risking total surprise by something lurking just over the horizon, beyond our line of sight? To mitigate this, Mad Scientist has resolved to broaden our aperture on the OE this year. Today’s post describes several near term initiatives that will help expand our understanding of the full extent of OE possibilities to preclude our being sucker-punched. Help Mad Scientist by participating — share your ideas, pass on these opportunities to your colleagues, and actively engage in these events and activities! Happy 2020!]

Global Perspectives in the Operational Environment
The U.S. Army’s Mad Scientist Initiative will co-host our first conference this year with the Army Futures Command (AFC) and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) International Army Programs Directorate (IAPD) on 29 January 2020. Leveraging TRADOC’s Foreign Liaison Officer community to coordinate presentations by subject matter experts from their respective nations, this virtual, on-line conference will provide international perspectives on a diverse array of topics affecting the OE. Mark your calendar now to livestream this conference at www.tradoc.army.mil/watch, starting at 0830 EST (note that this link is not live until the conference).

Global Perspectives Conference Survey
In conjunction with the aforementioned conference, Mad Scientist is conducting an on-line survey querying your thoughts about the OE. We want your input, so take ~5 minutes to complete our short survey here. We will brief back our interim findings during the conference, then publish a blog post documenting the comprehensive survey results in February.  Stay tuned to the Mad Scientist Laboratory to learn what insights we will have gleaned from the international community regarding potential OE trends, challenges, technologies, and disruptors.

Project on International Peace and Security (PIPS)
Seeking insights into a younger demographic’s perspectives on the OE, Mad Scientist will livestream presentations by fellows from The College of William and Mary in Virginia‘s PIPS Program on 21 February 2020. This program is designed to bridge the gap between the academic and foreign policy communities in the area of undergraduate education. PIPS research fellows identify emerging international security issues and develop original policy recommendations to address those challenges. Undergraduate fellows have the chance to work with practitioners in the military and intelligence communities, and present their work to policy officials and scholars at a year-end symposium in Washington, DC. Topic areas presented at the Mad Scientist livestream event will include weaponized information, artificial intelligence, and bio convergence — representing a year’s worth of research by each of the fellows.

The Operational Environment in 2035 Mad Scientist Writing Contest Crowdsourcing is an effective tool for harvesting ideas, thoughts, and concepts from a wide variety of interested individuals, helping to diversify thought and challenge conventional assumptions. Mad Scientist’s latest writing contest seeks to harness diverse intellects to mine new knowledge and imagine the possibilities of the OE in 2035.  This contest is open to everyone around the globe. We are seeking submissions of no more than 2000 words in length — nonfiction only, please!  Topics of interest include:

    • What new skills and talent management techniques will be required by the Army in 2035?
    • What does the information landscape look like in 2035? Infrastructure? Computing? Communication? Media?
    • What can we anticipate in the Competition phase (below armed Conflict) and how do we prepare future Soldiers and Leaders for these challenges?
    • What does strategic, operational, and tactical (relative) surprise look like in 2035?
    • What does Multi-Domain Command and Control look like on the battlefield in 2035?
    • How do we prepare for the second move in a future conflict?
    • Which past battle or conflict best represents the challenges we face in the future and why?
    • What technology or convergence of technologies could provide a U.S. advantage by 2050?

For additional information on this writing contest, click here. Deadline for submission is 1 March 2020, so start outlining your entry today!

By participating in each of these events, you will enhance the Mad Scientist Initiative’s understanding of the OE and help the U.S. Army prepare for an extended array of future possibilities.