The 10th symposium in the Asymmetric Threat symposia series explored how the U.S. can combat asymmetric threats that have expanded in prevalence and complexity. The latest symposium addressed the reality that America and its allies face increasingly complex global threats. Nation states, terrorist organizations, and insider threats employ diverse means to tip the strategic advantage in their favor.

About the Asymmetric Threat Symposia

The asymmetric threats discussed in the past decade of the symposia series continue to proliferate. These threats span domains, involve a growing range of state and non-state actors, and employ diverse means from terrorism to cyber aggression, insider threats to nuclear proliferation. Does the United States have the technologies, processes, and systems in place to actively respond to these threats? And, with asymmetric threats increasingly targeting the private sector, how can government partner with industry to forge a new direction?

The Asymmetric Threat symposia series is hosted by CACI, the Center for Security Policy, the Institute for the Study of War, and the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies as a forum for furthering the national dialogue on asymmetric threats to national security. The symposium gathers today's preeminent thought leaders across government, industry, and the private sector. The non-partisan, not-for-profit, pro-bono series was founded in 2008 by CACI Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board Dr. J.P. (Jack) London and Lead Director on CACI's Board of Directors Dr. Warren Phillips.

Dealing With Today's Asymmetric Threat to U.S. and Global Security

Dealing With Today's Asymmetric Threat to U.S. and Global Security

Dealing With Today's Asymmetric Threat to U.S. and Global Security

Dealing With Today's Asymmetric Threat to U.S. and Global Security

Terrorism and Islamic extremism are major factors in the current asymmetric threat picture. However, there are myriad asymmetric threats to U.S. and global security that must be examined further in developing a truly Integrated National Asymmetric Threat Strategy.

Asymmetrical threats are not uniquely military, but require the engagement of all elements of national power, including that applied by Congress, the judiciary and the executive branch, as well as the private sector. To best meet today's asymmetric threat to U.S. and global security, government and industry should partner to develop a comprehensive and unified national strategy. Leaders in all sectors must work together if we are to be successful against a dedicated, capable and multi-faceted threat.

Four major functional areas of responsibility have been suggested that are integral to a global and national asymmetric threat response paradigm.

  1. Strategic Communications
  2. Securing the Homeland
  3. Economics
  4. Diplomacy

Together, these areas would unite all relevant departments of government and other national resources, where appropriate, to build a consensus on a national strategy to address and defeat such asymmetrical threats.

A broad, yet in-depth, understanding of the scope and complexity of these diverse challenges and how the U.S. must deal with them is required. This response should be based upon a formulation of national policies and strategies that address diplomatic and military responses and synergies, social and cultural initiatives to bolster the understanding and will of the American people, and other programs to directly counter the terrorist and extremist threats faced by the U.S. and our foreign partners.

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Enhancing and Applying Soft Power

Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University created the term "soft power," which he described as "the ability to shape the preferences of others" and "getting others to want the outcomes you want." Although the phrase was coined in 1990, the concept behind soft power has been evolving for some time.

Government leaders in the U.S. have, for some time, reached a general consensus that there are limits on the efficacy of military force alone in meeting current and future asymmetrical threats. The collective and coordinated strengths of a broad range of government institutions, the private sector and the influence of American culture are needed to effectively meet increasingly asymmetrical challenges and threats.

The current foreign policy dialogue is focusing on soft power. The concept has an important role to play in an integrated national security strategy. While Congress has initiated steps to strengthen the soft power capabilities of federal government departments and agencies, more is needed if the U.S. is to move forward in creating a meaningful and practical security framework in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.

During the Cold War era, the U.S. actively used a rich portfolio of soft power tools and established organizations to promote democratic values and ideals. Examples included cultural tours of foreign capitals, Voice of America and the Peace Corps. When the Cold War ended, the need for these tools seemed to diminish. Many of these soft power initiatives were reduced or eliminated.

In the 1990s a new war of ideas emerged, along with a new set of security threats. These threats came from sources with varying capabilities and agendas that could not be easily deterred solely through hard power (military) means. In the meantime, the U.S. had not done enough to communicate and extend the ideals that promote peaceful and stable societies. American influence was in decline worldwide, and international opinion (exacerbated by internally directed media criticism) of the U.S. steadily decreased, even in allied nations.

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Employing Smart Power

The world has changed significantly in the recent past. A new U.S. administration promises to modify or change the national security structure, renewed tensions in the Middle East have escalated global threats and the worldwide financial crisis has worsened. This is in dramatic contrast to the relative stability of the threat environment that generally characterized the Cold War era. A new and practical national security strategy that will work effectively and best serve the U.S., its allies, and the world is required. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated "...correcting that acute imbalance in American 'hard' and 'soft' power is likely to prove the single greatest challenge for the next Secretary of State..." in her confirmation hearings.

Soft power can be wielded strategically and proactively. Soft power must also be a major priority for the current administration. It must be coordinated across agencies, and include both private and non-governmental organizations. To do so, the existing national security structure must be re-evaluated. While there would naturally be obstacles to such a large-scale change, experience shows that when it is a priority, these changes can be effectively made in a timely manner. The establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the restructuring of national security functions after September 11, 2001 is a prime example. And there is considerable thought being given to these views.

On the other hand, hard power may be completely different by 2020, and the U.S. must be ready for anything. Further, while the concept of soft power is intuitively understood, it is empirically known to be difficult to implement. Also, compounding these challenges, the increasing importance of environmental issues, including climate change, renewable energies and availability of food supplies, will need to be given greater consideration.

The U.S. must develop a truly integrated national security strategy that synchronizes both hard and soft power appropriate for the specifics of each situation, and that adjusts as the particular threat evolves. This mix is now commonly referred to as "smart power."

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Cyber Threats to National Security,
Countering Challengesto the Global Supply Chain

The United States is faced with an unprecedented asymmetric threat to its national security, one to which the public is not yet fully awake. Of increasing importance, it is a threat to the nation's vast information assets, networks, and systems that operate in cyberspace. Within this context, it is critical to look at the cyber threat to the nation's supply chains. Supply chains provide goods and services that are essential to the functions of the U.S. government and its economy, the well-being of Americans, and the support and protection of American troops worldwide.

To enforce cybersecurity of U.S. supply chains, it is necessary for the government and its citizens to engage in a unique collaborative effort. Every user of a cyber-enabled device has in their hands a point of vulnerability and a source of potential attack, and is a potential cyber warrior. Congress and the executive branch must engage cooperatively in defining roles and responsibilities. Diplomatic solutions must be explored, and a public-private partnership must develop. Responsibility must be shared among the government, the private sector, and every private citizen to protect U.S. cyber assets.

Cyber Threats to National Security -
Keeping the Nation's Industrial Base Safe from Cyber Threats

Our national challenge is to protect and sustain our industrial base, critical infrastructure, and government missions. As a government and as a nation, we must be second to none in implementing comprehensive cybersecurity systems and procedures. Commitment and planning is necessary to meet the national challenge posed by cyber-faceted threats to national security. Our industrial base is heavily dependent on information technology and distributed data, which puts it at risk for cyber attacks.

Any strategy to defeat the cyber threat and protect America's industrial base must be supported by flexible legislation that defines government roles and authorities while balancing national security imperatives with personal privacy, and by U.S.-led international agreements that establish norms and enforce sanctions. If carried out among an aware citizenry by federal officials who recognize private industry's indispensable cybersecurity role, and a savvy, technologically educated workforce, such an approach offers the U.S. the surest path to safeguarding its industrial base within a cyberspace that remains more a bustling social and economic forum and marketplace than a battlefield.

Decision Superiority:
Countering Surprise, Denial, and Deception

To protect national security and mitigate asymmetric threats and risks, we must establish absolute superiority in assessing threat indications and warning signs and responding appropriately. A key element in this capability is preventing and countering strategic and operational surprise, denial, and deception. In this area, our capability is heavily dependent on information technology and distributed data, which are themselves at risk from multi-faceted asymmetric attacks.

As cyber threats, cyber-related insider threats, and the means of deception grow in sophistication and destructive power, we must develop new tools, authorities, and strategies to counter such challenges as pandemics, terrorism, economic/market manipulation, weapons of mass destruction, and other technology proliferation. Federal planning is key, but resource commitments are also necessary to enhance the abilities of every stakeholder organization in this area.

Combatting Asymmetric Threats:
The Interplay of Offense and Defense

America's enduring challenge is to promote and defend our national interest, assure allies and friends, deter adversaries and, should deterrence fail, fight and win against all threats — symmetric and asymmetric. To this end, we must develop, deploy, and sustain credible offensive and defensive capabilities and authorities to respond in an effective, appropriate, and timely fashion. The interaction of offense and defense shapes the character, conduct, and ultimate outcomes of all conflicts, symmetric and asymmetric. The interplay between offense and defense is inherent in the very nature of war. Indeed, it is intrinsic to any human interaction. While often presented as polar opposites, offense and defense constitute the essential duality that defines any contest — be it of arms, wits, or physical prowess.

By focusing on ideas, events, and leaders that drive the evolution of national security thought and practice, we can crystallize the central tenets that would assist both policymakers and the national security community at large in providing for the common defense. We must assess whether the nation has adequate legislation, authorities, policies, procedures, tactics, techniques, and systems, and to combat asymmetric, multi-faceted, and asynchronous threats. At this symposium, keynote speakers and panelists explored America's capability to counter and ultimately defeat asymmetric threats to our national security and national interests by assessing the interplay of our nation's offensive and defensive powers.

Cyber, Electronic Warfare, and Critical Infrastructure
Strategies for National Security

What if America were suddenly deprived of electricity, water, money, cyberspace, and fuel? Asymmetric Threat Symposium VIII addressed that question by exploring the indispensable role of cyber, electromagnetic spectrum dominance, and electronic warfare in defending the United States and assuring U.S. military operational superiority. There is an accelerated and compelling need to protect the nation from all hazards, including cyber, electronic, and physical threats. The race is to the swift, the resourced, and the prepared. He who masters the electromagnetic spectrum - and cyber - denies dominance to the adversary, and is resilient - wins.

In addition to a series of keynote speakers, the symposium featured two expert panels. One focused on Department of Homeland Security-led missions and actions included in the National Infrastructure Protection Plan to protect critical cyber infrastructure, as well as the energy infrastructure that powers cyber capabilities; and the other focused on Department of Defense and Intelligence Community challenges in facing a contested full-spectrum and cyber warfare environment. The symposium built upon the overarching conclusion of previous events in this series that today's security challenges are predominately hybrids. Such challenges require multi-dimensional, nuanced, innovative approaches from across government, industry, academia, and the public-private partnership.

Offset Strategies to Prevail Against Asymmetric Threats

Asymmetric Threat Symposium IX addressed how offset strategies position the U.S. to prevail against resurging global power competition, multiregional conflicts, and cross-domain challenges. These threats continue to proliferate against the backdrop of an increasingly leveled technological playing field and convoluted acquisitions processes. The U.S. requires multi-dimensional, nuanced, innovative approaches that incorporate new technologies and operational concepts into a coherent strategy that may be applied across federal agencies.

The report draws on the Asymmetric Threat Symposium IX, held in October 2016 in McLean, VA, which featured discussions from today's foremost thought leadership in government, industry, and academia. In addition to a series of keynote speakers, the symposium included expert panels. View the full event agenda and speaker biographies here.

One panel focused on finding, forging, and fielding game-changing technologies such as autonomous systems, and applying multidisciplinary approaches that span the interagency and engage the private sector. Another addressed legal authorities, acquisition reforms, STEM education challenges, and interagency coordination issues necessary to countervail threats ranging from terrorist organizations to nation states.