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Arzumanyan R. V. "Third counterweight strategy: the reaction of the Pentagon to new threats"
Material posted: Publication date: 13-03-2017
Examines the key elements currently under development of the third strategy is a counterweight to the United States. Understanding new strategies requires at least a brief acquaintance with previous initiatives of this kind, represented sushimi an example of a successful long-term Grand strategies of the United States with the aim of forming a counterweight to the quantitative advantage of the Soviet Union in conventional forces based on the American technological advantage. Also explores the operational and strategic shortcomings of the existing U.S. approach to projecting military power. The new strategy of the counterweight is to encourage investment in breakthrough technologies that need to maintain and develop U.S. military dominance in the twenty-first century and to guarantee the armed forces of the United States to successful operation in the security environment, rich of high-precision weapons systems and Autonomous unmanned systems. The result of the third strategy opposed to the next 10 to 15 years should be the creation in the SAF forces able to provide rapid adaptability capabilities for projecting global military power.

For the past several decades, the United States embroiled in military campaigns involving the widespread use of irregular military action, the struggle against global terrorism. It forces them to make cuts in defense spending to reduce public debt levels. Faced with the need for fiscal austerity, the American armed forces nevertheless forced to confront a wide range of global and regional security challenges. In Europe, it is the need to counter Russia, which as a result of the unfolding military modernization again able to assert its influence in the near abroad. The middle East military operations include Syria, Iraq and border areas of Turkey. The Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) intends to reformat the greater middle East, spreading the metastasis of radical Islam throughout the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Iran continues military modernization, in particular, expanding its Arsenal of ballistic missiles. In Central Asia the regimes of post-Soviet States remain fragile, the security environment in Afghanistan remains relatively low and is likely to worsen. In East Asia, unstable and bellicose North Korea possessing nuclear weapons and missile technology, blackmailing countries in the region. China seeks to implement a strategy based on the creation of a network of access bar/block area (PD/BL) (anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD))[1] in the South China sea against the United States, using new disruptive technologies (disruptive technologies), eroding the traditional sources of U.S. military advantage.

The Pentagon was not ready to manifest the challenges of the American military-technological superiority and the necessity of efforts to maintain its technological edge, quite soberly assessing the prospects of the U.S. maintaining a leading position as the only military-technological superpower in the world by 2030. The continued growth of the financial-economic and military power China, military modernization of Russia will be imposed on traditional and new regional and global challenges and threats. Without serious policy and strategy, aimed at supporting breakthrough technologies, American military power will gradually decrease[2]. If the United States will take the necessary steps today, they will be hard to maintain indisputable technological superiority.

According to Deputy Minister of defence R. Wark, "[the US] relied on disruptive technologies, since [1945]," but they "relied on it for so long that they have become steadily corrode"[3]. What has changed from the point of view of Washington: "Due to the fact that the United States were at war for the past thirteen years, the rest of the world and potential adversaries saw the [US] war. They looked at the benefits of [the United States], studied and analyzed them, trying to find weaknesses, then began to create ways to counter technological superiority"[4].

The emergence of new threats occurring on the background of the "reduction possibilities and power of our allies" and growing capabilities of potential adversaries. Today, "almost all of our firepower is concentrated in the United States, and we think about the rapid operation of the armed forces from one theater to another." This means that "if the enemy decides to attack, he will be able to choose the time and place and can benefit from the strength in the first stage". In addition, by reducing the technological gap between the U.S. and potential adversaries in the last condition, for example, cause a global high-precision missile strikes the same extent as the United States[5].

Existing erosion of the us ability to project military power leads to many cascading effects that affect crisis stability regions, to the doubts of allies in U.S. security guarantees and capacity for conventional deterrence. The threat at the highest level was voiced in the speech of the Minister of defence H Hagel in late summer 2014, when he stressed the scale of the danger the military-technological superiority of the US and the need for targeted efforts to overcome[6].

Disruptive technologies and destructive weapons once solely available only to advanced countries, is widely spread. They are searched for or purchased ordinary armed forces and terrorist groups. Meanwhile, China and Russia tried to close the technology gap by pursuing and funding long-term, comprehensive military modernization program.

They also develop the ability to conduct anti-ship, anti-air, anti-space, cyber and electronic warfare and special operations, which appear to be developed enough to counter traditional U.S. military advantages — in particular our ability to project power into any region of the world by aircraft, ships, ground troops and supplies[7].

Response to challenge was announced during a speech in new "Innovative initiative of the Ministry of defense" (Defense Innovation Initiative), which is "to develop game-changing third strategy of the counterweight (3BR)" supporting "the competitive advantage of the us armed forces"[8]. Begins a new period of rivalry between the great powers, requiring the development of "sustainable Grand strategy,... and the United States needs to carefully consider its large, but still limited resources," says Deputy Minister of defence R. Wark, responsible for the development of the third strategy is a counterweight to the Pentagon[9].

Since the end of world war II, the United States has faced similar periods when it was necessary to develop a response to challenges to international security, at the same time by controlling defense spending. We are talking about the "New look" (New Look) President D. D. Eisenhower in the early 1950-ies and the "Strategy of opposition" (Offset Strategy), defence Minister Gordon brown in the mid 1970-ies. In both cases it was about the formation of a counterweight to the quantitative advantage of the Soviet Union in conventional forces based on the American technological advantage. In 1950-ies the strategy took the form of developing multiple and diverse nuclear Arsenal, long-range delivery systems of weapons and active and passive defense. About a quarter of a century later, the response is formed based on the effective integration of new technologies in the field of it, communications and network as well as the development of new military doctrines and organizational forms[10].

The senior military leadership of the Pentagon has repeatedly pointed out that the second strategy of counterbalance of the 1970-ies is the main model for understanding the challenge and building a new — the third strategy opposed to[11]. This is largely a reasonable approach, as it is the second strategy of the counterweight designed the appearance of the American military machine, and the projection of military power has made accurate, controllable and efficient[12]. Opportunities that are clearly visible during the first Gulf war in 1990-1991 and developed later in the framework of the concepts settentrione wars. However, due to the collapse of the Soviet Union's emerging military-technological superiority the U.S. demonstrated over a well-armed but inexperienced regional center of power with Iraq in 1990-1991, then over even more weak opponents such as Yugoslavia, the Taliban in Afghanistan, in Iraq 12 years later. These military campaigns did not match the initial settings of the strategy, and the United States was not able to experience achievement within the framework of the second counterweight against a worthy opponent, capable of equal to wage conventional war, not to mention the possibility of war with the enemy possessing nuclear weapons[13].

Thus, the new strategy of the counterweight is to encourage investment in innovative technologies that "will support and develop American military dominance in the twenty-first century"[14]. Washington understands that the processes of globalization lead to the spread of defense technology around the world, when the threat is long-term benefit of the US in the early detection and precision strike[15]. Indeed, the rapid spread of dual-use technologies, Autonomous weapons systems, quality enhancement opportunities implement the strategy, based on networks of PD/BL, align the capacity of countries in military construction and future wars.

To cope with challenges and keep a gap from other countries, 3BR have to assume investing in disruptive technology such as robotics, Autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, development and integration of complex systems, weapons based on directed energy, etc. in addition, there is a strong necessity in the development of new "operational concepts and organizational constructs" that would guarantee the effective conduct of aerospace, ground, surface and underwater operations, and complex operations with the use of breakthrough technologies[16]. One result of this strategy should be the creation of a network of global reconnaissance and strike (Sgri) (global surveillance and strike), providing the ability of projecting military power against a large range of expected threats[17].

Another feature of the security environment of the twenty-first century is the blurring of boundaries between the outer theater and the United States, when the enemy will be able to slow the deployment of U.S. forces, including conducting cyberspace operations. According to R. Wark, perhaps, "you will be under intense cyber attack before begin to move troops to the theater"[18]. The efforts of the Pentagon to improve cyber strategies should be aimed at improving the security of military networks, the strengthening of the national information infrastructure against network attacks and develop offensive cyber capabilities that could deter attack.

The classic definition of war C. von Clausewitz, as the duel and confrontation with the enemy to impose his will, reminiscent of its interactive nature, when any innovation, including technological, cause a reaction of the enemy. Given the speed of technological progress and preservation of military-technological advantage in the twenty-first century requires continuous efforts as a huge number of available technologies allows potential adversaries to prepare an asymmetric response, using an unexpected set of technologies, doctrine, operational and tactical decisions. To cope with this challenge, security and military organization of the state needs to be adaptability[19]. R. Wark, in his report in College, the US Army recalled the words of Professor K. crane (Conrad Crane) that there are two ways of confrontation between the US armed forces — asymmetric and stupid. Military construction may not proceed on the assumption that potential adversaries will choose the option stupid behavior. And if they adapt, forming an asymmetric response, the U.S. should also be prepared for adaptability behavior[20].

The third strategy of the counterweight tends to put potential adversaries facing a multitude of dilemmas and threats that are specific to several genera of troops, unfolding in multiple domains, spanning the entire continuum of war, from strategic to tactical. Trying to narrow down a military confrontation to one kind of troops, or domain level of war in such conditions lead to defeat. Thus, the real essence of the 3BR is in the attack of the enemy in all domains and levels of war, with the goal of making it impossible for him to adapt and defeat before he will be able to adapt to the current action[21].

In this work, which requires further expansion and deepening, examines the contours of 3BR and key steps that are going to take US to implement it in the next 10-15 years. Understanding new strategies counterweight requires at least a brief acquaintance with previous initiatives of this kind. Also to be considered operational and strategic shortcomings of the existing U.S. approach to projecting military power. This will allow to understand the logic and grammar of the new strategy. How does it intend to restore the American ability of projecting global military power, as well as trends that are likely to be stable and will grow.


[1] "the Obstruction of access" means the ability to slow down or prevent the deployment of enemy forces in the theater or the compulsion to create a springboard for operations significantly removing the desired deployment location. "Blocking zone" covers actions to restrict the freedom of manoeuvre, reducing operating efficiency and increasing the risks associated with the operations of friendly forces in theatre.

[2] Warwick, Graham. “Pentagon 'Wide Open' to Ideas for a Third Offset Strategy,” Aviation Weekly, December 3, 2014. 30 November. 2016. <>

[3] Work, Robert O. .”The Third U.S. Offset Strategy and its Implications for Partners and Allies,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Speech made at the Willard Hotel, Washington, DC, 28 January 2015, 30 November. 2016. <>

[4] Ibid.

[5] Peniston, Bradley “Work: ‘The Age of Everything Is the Era of Grand Strategy,” Defense One, November 2, 2015. 30 November. 2016. <>

[6] Hagel, Chuck. “ 'Defense Innovation Days Opening Keynote,” Secretary of Defense Speech, Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance, Newport, RI, September 3, 2014. 30 November. 2016. <>

Hagel, Chuck. “Reagan National Defense Forum Keynote,” Secretary of Defense Speech, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, CA, November 15, 2014. 30 November. 2016. <>

[7] Hagel, 'Defense Innovation Days Opening Keynote.

[8] Hagel, Reagan National Defense Forum Keynote.

[9] Peniston, Bradley “Work: The Age of Everything Is the Era of Grand Strategy,” Defense One, November 2, 2015 {10} 30 November. 2016. <>

[10] Martinage, Robert. Toward a New Offset Strategy: Exploiting U.S. Long-Term Advantages to Restore U.S. Global Power Projection Capability. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), Washington, DC: October 27, 2014, p 2. 30 November. 2016. <>

[11] Work, O. Robert. “National Defense University Convocation,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Speech made at the National Defense University, Washington, August 5, 2014. 30 November. 2016. <>

[12] Ibid.

[13] Colby, Elbridge. Nuclear Weapons in the Third Offset Strategy: Avoiding a Nuclear Blind Spot in the Pentagon's New Initiative. Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Washington, DC, February 2015, p. 5.>

[14] Hagel, Reagan National Defense Forum Keynote.

[15] US Joint Chiefs of Staff. The National Military Strategy of the United States of America 2015. June 2015, p. 1. 30 November. 2016. <>

[16] Work, O. Robert. “The Third Offset Strategy and America's Allies and Partners,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Speech made at the RUSI, London, 10 September 2015.>

[17] Martinage, Toward a New Offset Strategy, p. 2.

[18] Peniston, Work: The Age of Everything Is the Era of Grand Strategy.

[19] Work, O. Robert. “Deputy Secretary of Defense Speech,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Speech: Army made at the War College Strategy Conference, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2015. 30 November. 2016. <>

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

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