A strategic inflection point in warfare refers to a significant shift in the character of war, often due to technological, geopolitical, or societal changes. These points can reshape military strategies, doctrines, and conduct of warfare. Technological advancements, such as cyber warfare, artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons systems, and space-based capabilities, are changing the way wars are fought, creating new vulnerabilities and capabilities for both state and non-state actors.
Information warfare, disinformation campaigns, and social media manipulation have become powerful tools in modern conflict, making controlling narratives and perceptions as important as traditional military capabilities. Non-state actors, such as terrorist organizations, have continued to adapt their tactics using asymmetrical strategies, leading to a reevaluation of military doctrines and strategies.
Geopolitical shifts, such as the rise of new powers, shifts in alliances, and regional conflicts, can profoundly impact the character of warfare. Environmental and resource challenges, such as climate change and resource scarcity, can exacerbate conflicts and lead to new security challenges. Ethical and legal considerations are also raised due to advances in technology, and international norms and laws governing warfare are still evolving to address these challenges. The formation of new alliances and coalitions can significantly influence the character of warfare.
Geostrategic competition and technology are transforming the nature of war, necessitating a modernization of the Joint Force to deter adversaries, defend the United States, ensure future military advantage, and prevail in conflict. The Joint Force has developed the Joint Warfighting Concept (JWC) and updated Joint Publication 1, Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States, guiding the future of the military across all domains. The next step is to create a leadership structure that transforms concepts into capabilities.
The Joint Force must make significant changes to prevent the upcoming war and prevent its occurrence. Since 1945, limited and regional wars have occurred, but no Great Power war has occurred. The rules-based international order and the U.S. military’s dominant capability have played a crucial role in deterring such wars. The U.S. military’s purpose is to support and defend the Constitution, protect the American people, and defend their interests. However, freedom is not guaranteed and must be defended by each generation. In 2023, the rules-based international order is under intense stress, and the U.S. military is the most effective fighting force globally.
The evolving nature of war necessitates a significant shift in the Joint Forces. The dynamic interaction between government, people, and the military is characterized by fear, friction, uncertainty, and chance. Technological advancements have significantly transformed warfare, affecting organizational structure, training, and leadership development. Countries that capitalized on these changes have gained significant advantages in battle.
The next conflict will feature ubiquitous sensors, mass data collection, low-cost autonomous platforms, and AI-driven weapon systems. These advancements will make it difficult for military forces to hide and reduce the time it takes to close the kill web. Robotics and additive manufacturing will also change the way militaries supply and sustain their forces. The battlefield fundamentals will be fundamentally changed, with organizations becoming small, dispersed, autonomous, self-sustaining, and able to mass effect for decisive action.
The Joint Force is utilizing advanced technologies to combat war, but this does not guarantee success. The force must adopt innovative technology, modernize older systems, train and equip warfighters, update doctrine, develop resilient leaders, and work as a joint and combined team. However, the Joint Force is not adapting fast enough to keep pace with the changing nature of war. The global geopolitical situation has significantly changed, with the United States, China, and Russia now being the three Great Powers.
The 2022 National Security Strategy identifies the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge and its “pacing challenge.” The PRC is a revisionist power that uses state-controlled forces, cyber and space operations, and economic coercion against the US and its allies. The world is also facing the greatest shift in economic power in over 100 years, with the PRC investing heavily in its military to exceed the US military’s capabilities in the Western Pacific and globally by 2049. The PRC’s goal is to revise the global international order by midcentury and become the regional Asian hegemon in the next decade, posing a growing national security challenge for the US and its allies.
Russia and China pose a significant threat to Europe’s regional security order, as they seek to regain their imperial dominance in the 19th and 20th centuries. Both countries use disinformation, cyber, and space operations against the US and irregular proxy forces. The changing nature of war and geopolitical landscape necessitates an interoperable, multidomain capable, joint and coalition force to demonstrate integrated deterrence.
The Joint Force needs a unifying concept and faster process to field required capabilities to remain the most lethal military globally. This requires authorities and a leadership model that drives deliberate Joint Force Development and Design. The Joint Warfighting Concept (JWC) provides a threat-informed operational concept for the Department of Defense, driving investment and guiding joint forces with allies and partners.
The Joint Warfare Council (JWC) originated from the AirLand Battle (ALB) concept in the 1970s and 1980s, which aimed to create jointness between the Army and Air Force. The JWC outlines the Joint Force’s operations across multiple domains and systems, ensuring the United States remains the most lethal military globally. The Joint Vision 2010 in 1996 proposed effects-based operations, focusing on dominant maneuver, precision engagement, full-dimensional protection, and focused logistics.
The Capstone Concept for Joint Operations (CCJO) 2.0 in 2005 called for the Joint Force to think differently and act from multiple directions in multiple domains concurrently. In 2012, the Capstone Concept for Joint Operations: Joint Force 2020 proposed a new approach, focusing on globally integrated operations with eight elements: mission command, seize, retain and exploit the initiative, global agility, partnering, flexibility in establishing joint forces, cross-domain synergy, use of flexible, low-signature capabilities, and increasingly discriminate to minimize unintended consequences. Over the past 25 years, significant lessons have been learned, including the need for agility, rapid decision-making, creativity, dispersed teamwork, and extreme resiliency. Future warfighting attributes must include speed, constant motion, small size, lethality, self-sustaining autonomous abilities, and mastery of technological and physical camouflage, concealment, and deception.
The Joint Publication (JP) 1 outlines the Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States, which will guide the Joint Force in identifying and procuring capabilities. The Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) is responsible for validating these requirements and ensuring the right people, equipment, training, leader development, and doctrine to deter and win in future conflicts. Established in 1986, the JROC has primarily operated through a bottom-up process, balancing nearer term combatant command needs with the pressing need to modernize the Joint Force. The JWC has been instrumental in this process, providing a list of Concept Required Capabilities for concept execution.
In 2022, the JROC aligned capability portfolio management with Office of the Secretary of Defense integrated acquisition portfolios to streamline procurement processes. A future-focused organization, like Army Futures Command (AFC), can drive change by aligning critical force design and development functions, integrating concepts with experimentation, and synchronizing users to accelerate modernization and close capability gaps.
A Joint Futures organization would drive future Joint Force Design, characterizing the future joint operating environment, developing and iterating on future joint warfighting concepts, and prioritizing joint experimentation to validate joint concepts. This would strengthen Joint Force Design through competition of ideas, leveraging Service, industry, and academic innovation efforts, and creating experimentation venues to evaluate innovative tactical and operational solutions to inherently joint problems.
The organization aims to improve the Joint Force and coalition force by integrating with allies and partners from the start of force design. This reduces redundancies, leverages strategic competitive advantages, and strengthens alliances and security partnerships. The senior advocate will focus on the future joint operating environment, concepts, force design, requirements, and doctrine, representing the future joint warfighter in decision forums.
The Strategic Inflection Point: A Pivotal Moment for Businesses
The term “strategic inflection point” refers to a critical moment when a company must make a fundamental shift in its strategy, operations, or business model to remain relevant and competitive. It is often triggered by disruptive technologies, shifting market dynamics, or significant changes in consumer behaviour. Failing to recognize and respond to these inflection points can lead to decline or even the demise of a once-thriving business.
A strategic inflection point include disruption, market dynamics, customer behavior, competition, and leadership. Disruptive technologies or innovations can disrupt industry norms, while market dynamics can be influenced by consumer preferences, regulatory reforms, or global economic trends. Customer behavior can also undergo significant changes, such as the rise of the sharing economy, subscription-based models, and the preference for digital over physical experiences.
Competition can evolve rapidly, with new entrants or nimble startups disrupting established players. Companies must adapt to maintain their competitive edge or risk losing market share. A change in leadership or vision within an organization can also precipitate an inflection point. Recognizing these inflection points is crucial for businesses, as failure to do so can result in a loss of market share, declining revenue, and diminished relevance.
Strategies for navigating inflection points include continuous monitoring, scenario planning, embracing innovation, understanding and responding to shifting customer needs and preferences, and strategic partnerships. By staying ahead of the curve and adapting to changing circumstances, businesses can ensure continued growth, increased profitability, and enhanced competitiveness.
Identifying Strategic Inflection Points: What They Are Not
The term “strategic inflection” is often associated with pivotal moments that reshape industries, but it is crucial to recognize what does not qualify as such. Incremental changes, short-term market fluctuations, routine business challenges, technological advancements, regulatory changes, and market trends without broad impact are all factors that should not be considered strategic inflection.
Incremental changes, such as minor price adjustments or market share shifts, do not fundamentally alter the competitive landscape or force an organization to reevaluate its entire business model. Short-term market fluctuations, while causing panic or excitement among stakeholders, lack the lasting impact necessary for strategic inflection points. Routine business challenges are part of doing business, but they are not strategic inflection.
Technological advancements, while disruptive, do not necessarily qualify as strategic inflection. Companies must adapt to new technologies or shifts in consumer behavior as part of their ongoing operations. Regulatory changes, while significant, do not inherently qualify as strategic inflection points. Market trends without broad impact can be misleading indicators of strategic inflection points, as they generally affect a substantial portion of the market or industry as a whole.