On May 8, 2012, more than 200 national security leaders and professionals attended CACI's sixth Asymmetric Threat symposium, titled "Decision Superiority: Countering Surprise, Denial, and Deception" and held at the Naval Heritage Center at the Navy Memorial in Washington, DC. Presented here are opening remarks made by CACI's Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board, Dr. Jack London.
Good morning everyone, and welcome to today's symposium on "Decision Superiority: Countering Surprise, Denial, and Deception."
Our symposia are held as pro bono, educational, and non-partisan public service events. Today's proceedings are also unclassified. All of the dialogue is off the record, and not for attribution. Finally, my views here are mine alone and do not necessarily represent those of CACI or anyone else here today.
I am proud to note that this is the sixth symposium in our Asymmetric Threat Series. In 2007, CACI Director Dr. Warren Phillips and I started talking more and more about the asymmetric threat environment. We realized that many other people in the national security field were probably having similar discussions. This led to our first symposium. And along with our CEO Paul Cofoni, we have kept the series going strong. We also thank the National Defense University, the U.S. Naval Institute, and the Center for Security Policy, who have all been co-sponsors at times for the series.
Over the course of the past five symposia, we have examined the asymmetric threat environment as such, and the national transition to soft and smart power strategic frameworks. Our series has also focused on cyber threats as an emerging national security priority for our supply chains and critical infrastructure, in particular. Today we take a necessary step back, I believe, to examine a more fundamental aspect overarching America's security challenges.
The ancient Chinese general, Sun Tzu, once said that "All warfare is based on deception." And we can see how pivotal "trickery" has been throughout history.
What if George Washington hadn't crossed the Delaware River and caught Prussian and British forces by surprise? Would we be singing "God Save the Queen" instead of "The Star-Spangled Banner"? The Surprise at Trenton.
How much longer would World War II have lasted if the complex diversions of "Operation Fortitude" had not convinced Hitler that Allied forces would attack somewhere other than Normandy? The Deception at Pas de Calais.
Why were these ploys so effective? Because surprise, denial, and deception are the ultimate asymmetric threats. They interfere with our ability to assess intentions, capabilities, and threats. They impede our ability to make timely and optimal decisions. They also influence policies and public opinion, and can shift the balance of power. Surprise, denial, and deception are some of the oldest tricks in the book. Yet, history shows us these are tricks we fall for over and over again!
The purpose of today's symposia is to examine and frame the highly complex challenges of surprise, denial, and deception. We'll also look at ways to strengthen our threat assessment capabilities, improve indications and warning systems, and facilitate better decision making across government. In other words, we're asking: How do we stop falling for the age-old tricks of surprise, denial, and deception? To answer this question, I would like to put forward some thoughts for our discussion today.
The first is that we may have to accept that we can only mitigate – not eliminate – surprise, denial, and deception. Simply put, surprise, denial, and deception are effective because they challenge our perceptions. Surprise is the perception that something is happening contrary to our expectations. Denial prevents accessibility and the accuracy of our perceptions. And deception distorts our perception of reality. And our perceptions fill the very large gap between what is known and unknown.
In 1815, Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo – in part – because he dismissed the possibility of Gebhard von Blücher's Prussian troops being able to recover from a previous battle and join Wellington's army in time. Blucher brought his Prussian army through a long and arduous march to the battlefield and helped deliver a crushing blow. Napoleon's misperceptions...and ego...did him in.
Perceptions are an intrinsic part of the human condition and are cultural, experiential, and environmental. The resulting ambiguity is unavoidable. Retired Army Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, former commander of Multi National Security Transition Command-Iraq, pointed out that "Ambiguity can be reduced but not eliminated – not as long as one fights other human beings." So it seems we will have to become comfortable with trying to bridge the gap between perception and reality.
The second principle to remember is this: It's one thing to be a target, but it doesn't mean you have to be a victim. What do I mean by this? Consider where we are meeting today – the U.S. Navy Memorial.
One of the most pivotal events in naval history was the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese believed attacking Pearl Harbor would prevent the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with Japan's military plans in Southeast Asia. Not only were the Japanese mistaken about American intentions, they directly brought the U.S into World War II. Japanese Admiral Hara Tadaichi, who commanded Carrier Division 5 in the attacks, quickly concluded that "We won a great tactical victory at Pearl Harbor and thereby lost the war."
This example reminds us that surprise, denial, and deception are means, not ends. The initiator has to fully exploit the opportunity for these means to be effective. But the results are typically short lived. The target, if capable and quick, may also easily recover and respond. Therefore, the difference between a target and a victim is the unwillingness to let such opportunities determine the final outcome.
My final point today is about duality. Decision superiority is the combination of two things: information superiority and decisive action. Yet there are too many disconnects between our knowledge and our capabilities. When our national security is threatened or compromised, it is often framed as a question of an intelligence failure or a policy failure. But a threat or attack is rarely marked by one piece of information or even one act. Decision superiority must be recognized as an iterative, networked, and evolving process.
Decision superiority also has to be a balance between the technical and the human. Take Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, for example. In both cases, the U.S. was overwhelmingly superior when it came to technological capabilities. However, the insurgency was on a person-to-person level, one where technical superiority was not necessarily advantageous.
Decision superiority also has to recognize that national security is not only the government's responsibility. The private sector has been increasingly on the front line of our national security. Because it owns about 85 percent of America's critical infrastructure, the private sector is increasingly a target of surprise, denial, and deception activities. And this is particularly true in cyberspace. Likewise, the private sector is also a key partner with the government in absorbing, rebuilding, and reconstituting capabilities from such multi-faceted asymmetric attacks. The public-private partnership must be a part of any effective security strategy and program going forward.
In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli states, "Men are so simple and yield so readily to the desires of the moment that he who will trick will always find another who will suffer to be tricked." Luckily, we are not all so simple and yielding. But we cannot afford to suffer from the tricks of surprise, denial, and deception.
From information to action, decision superiority will be achieved by better understanding the threats, improving our resilience, and better integrating the perspectives and the players in national security! Otherwise, we are condemned to keep falling for the same old tricks.
As you can see, we have serious and pressing topics to discuss today. Thank you!