Speaker: Walton, D. (National Defense University)
Date: 10 June 2019
SMA hosted a speaker session presented by Dr. David Walton (National Defense University) as a part of its SMA NDU Speaker Series. For the conclusion of the SOF Paradigm in Great Power series, Dr. Walton encouraged listeners to think about commonly discussed issues but in new ways. In Dr. Walton’s words, this presentation was designed to provide “a cross-functional and multi-disciplinary approach to strategic and critical thinking,” to build “a foundational understanding of the common denominator issues that strategic leaders face, and to ground “the discussion in practical approaches to building analytical frameworks, evaluating information, and prioritizing solutions.” During the brief, Dr. Walton stated that the US is emerging from a period of strategic atrophy. The US’s competitive military advantage has been eroding, and it faces increased global disorder, reflecting a decline in the long-standing, rules-based international order. He stated that the US must return to a Cold War-type strategy in order to succeed in this era of competition. Dr. Walton then highlighted a series of strategic assumptions: 1) We’ve been so busy doing our jobs that we may have forgotten how to do our jobs (i.e., fewer operators are actually gaining field experience); 2) There is more work to do than we have people to do it (i.e., no one wants to say “no” or specialize); 3) Our peer competitors have not waited for us; and 4) The future is unknown and perhaps unknowable, which makes it difficult to prepare for worst case scenarios. He also discussed how the US should compete and regain its strategic advantage (or avoid becoming disadvantaged). Dr. Walton stated that the US must: 1) maintain its advantage of operational unpredictability, 2) identify what it is matching in order to achieve overmatch, 3) learn to say “no,” and 4) make ‘them’ spend more than ‘us.’ Dr. Walton also provided a to-do list for US decision makers, which included items such as “get smarter,” “focus on not being ‘dumb,'” and “expand your competitive space.” To conclude, Dr. Walton explained how to achieve cognitive compromise and understand risk.