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Defense Secretary Austin Says ‘Integrated Deterrence’ Is Cornerstone Of US Defense

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By C. Todd Lopez

Deterrence has always been the first line of defense. Preventing conflict, when possible, is greater than engaging, said the secretary of defense.

“The cornerstone of America’s defense is still deterrence, ensuring that our adversaries understand the folly of outright conflict,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in Hawaii Friday during a change of command ceremony for the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

“Throughout American history, deterrence has meant fixing a basic truth within the minds of our potential foes: And that truth is that the costs and risks of aggression are out of line with any conceivable benefit,” Austin said.

But Austin said that, going forward, deterrence must be different from what it has been in the past, characterizing a new approach as “integrated deterrence.”

“To make that clear today, we’ll use existing capabilities, and build new ones, and use all of them in networked ways — hand in hand with our allies and partners,” he said. “Deterrence still rests on the same logic — but it now spans multiple realms, all of which must be mastered to ensure our security in the 21st century.”

Integrated deterrence, Austin said, includes having the best weapons systems and the latest technologies that make adversaries think twice. This includes development of tools that make use of artificial intelligence and quantum computing, for example.

Integrated deterrence also includes new concepts of operation, the elimination of stovepipes between services and their capabilities, and coordinated operations on land, in the air, on the sea, in space and in cyberspace.

“We can’t predict the future,” Austin said. “What we need is the right mix of technology, operational concepts and capabilities — all woven together and networked in a way that is so credible, flexible and so formidable that it will give any adversary pause. We need to create advantages for us and dilemmas for them.”

Most significantly, Austin said, integrated deterrence means working together in ways that were not done before.

“Integrated deterrence means all of us giving our all,” he said. “It means that working together is an imperative, and not an option. It means that capabilities must be shared across lines as a matter of course, and not as an exception to the rule. And it means that coordination across commands and services needs to be a reflex and not an afterthought.”

As a former soldier and one-time commander of operations in Iraq and U.S. Central Command, Austin said he understands the instinctive impulse to trust first those who wear the same uniform.

“I’ve been there,” he said. “I’m a former combatant commander and senior service leader. I get it. I know the temptations and the impulses, the desire to preserve what you believe is your equity. I indulged in that kind of thinking myself back in the day. But I also see what’s coming. And there’s some old habits that just don’t serve our core mission anymore.”

Now, he said, every service and agency — each of which brings its own unique capability for deterrence, first, and conflict, when needed — must be willing to draw on the capabilities of partners. Those partners include not just the U.S. military services, but federal agencies, partner nations and allies, as well.

“We have to redouble our efforts to work together — across commands, across services, and across stovepipes,” he said.

During Friday’s ceremony, Navy Adm. John Aquilino took the helm of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command from outgoing commander Navy Adm. Philip Davidson.

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One thought on “Defense Secretary Austin Says ‘Integrated Deterrence’ Is Cornerstone Of US Defense

  • May 3, 2021 at 10:04 pm
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    Is it possible to win a conventional war without it escalating to the nuclear, cyber or biological phase? And don’t battlefield or intermediate nuclear weapons render troop and material concentrations moot? And won’t the use of any these less-than-strategic nuclear systems trigger an existential escalatory response? Also, what role do ABM systems play in both strategic nuclear stability and battlefield management? And aren’t these defensive systems by their very nature in opposition to stability on all levels? Please tell us: Where does it all stop? Because I believe that future advances in quantum computing and artificial intelligence can only lead to new and more dangerous degrees of military uncertainty. Is it really about integrated deterrence? Aren’t these new technologies tied directly to space-based, anti-satellite, anti-missile and anti-command and control systems? And won’t advances in all these areas worsen any sense of stability in military and geopolitical affairs? If so, then how do they contribute to deterrence? In other words, isn’t the very concept of deterrence — in this age of extremely advanced technology — nothing more than a heightened form of military propaganda? And aren’t such verbal concepts (such as deterrence, and integrated deterrence) actually divorced from their true design purpose? For how can such a flux of indeterminate and questionable platforms lead to anything but a multiplicity of confusion? And won’t these so-called advances make the traditional “fog-of-war”, even foggier? And isn’t the continued advancement of military technology an attempt to create a capacity for war-winning and/or permanent hegemony and not really deterrence (or integrated deterrence) at all? And can any nation ever be certain that such a race is even winnable? Or even affordable? And is this endeavor really nothing more than a multi-state-based chimera constructed to perpetuate the permanent institution of war? And isn’t it also constructed for the self-interests of many costly and irrational defense institutions? And finally, how can humanity ever hope to survive a failing planetary ecology within a military and international climate that begs the whole issue of peace and harmony? Do the world’s politicians and generals really think that a climate of war can breed its opposite? Isn’t such a reality (Orwellian — war is peace) nothing more than civilization’s ultimate delusion? Just asking.

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