The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare

The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare

Failure of U.S. to meet the future threat from China

  • Explores how modern and near-future can impact the nature of warfare. Argues that the U.S. is falling behind China in the race to develop this next generation of warfare. This is attributed to complacency of U.S. public, politicians, and defense industry for lack of having a “real” opponent in the last three decades.
    • He believes that in order for us to break out the complacency the above groups must believe there is something worse than changed.
    • Bureaucracy is resistant to change and clings to
      • One success story of military change without an ongoing conflict was the assault breaker program, which was designed to identify and strike a soviet land invasion during the cold war with precision munitions.
    • Congressional gridlock and a Byzantine procurement process has entrenched building more of the same and makes innovation too risky
    • The lack of Great Power Conflict has led to strange incentives and a lack of clarity on what the U.S. actually wants militarily. Evenly matched competitors leads to stalemate type conflicts (WWI)
  • He views the solution to the situation to be defining real world problems, and then creating the proper incentives in the market to solve those problems.
    • He has a good real world solution here where congress/the government could set up real competitions and then reward the winners handsomely. This would skirt a lot of the fractional divides along partisan and service lines, and focus on solving the problem, rather than meeting specs. This would also open the door for innovative solutions.
    • JSTAR retirement and fund disbursement was a success story on this front
    • Rewarding the winners handsomely is necessary, and would motivate more private money to get off the bench if they see real money to be made.
    • He also argues that the defense leaders and congress must heal the divide that have plagued them recently.
    • Instead of investing in in a few expensive platforms, we should invest in a lot of smaller attritable platforms. Drone swarm rather than an aircraft carrier.
    • People must believe that the risk of not making changes to policy, bureaucracy and strategy are more painful than the alternative.
    • A future force will likely be more defined by its software than it’s hardware
    • Finally, he argues that U.S. military strategy should be less about projecting power abroad and more about defending the homeland. This strategic change would negate the defensive advantage assumed in theoretical conflicts with China.
  • Militaries are unlike civil institutions because they lack routine sources of real-world feedback on performance.
  • He notes that the invasion of invasion of the Ukraine by Russia and Putin marked a new era of warfare, where the Kill Chain was closed in a quick fashion and combined with tactics such as cyber warfare. A clear demonstration of theGerasimov Doctrine.
  • Presents an idealistic view of how technology may be used. This reminds me of justifications of SV for new tech. It is difficult to argue with his realpolitik of needing to develop these weapons to keep pace with China. However, the controls he suggest are lacking in the same way tech companies fail to reign in their tech.
    • Brose argues that we should not “fear” giving decision making up to machines as long as there are clear directives and controls. He feels that this arrangement is already present in human hierarchies.
    • Idea that machines could liberate human operators to higher level tasks
  • Argues that technical and autonomous weapons do not criterion for unlawful weapons.
  • Sensors in defense applications will focus on quantity rather than quality assuming machines can process the information (something they are good at within constraints).
  • Argues that Americans should develop their values in artificial intelligence weapon systems and establish an ethical foundations before it’s competitors.
  • Interesting technology explored:
    • Quantum sensors
    • Quantum encryption
      • 2017 Chinese scientists make quantum encrypted Skype call
    • Fiber laser weapons
    • Drone Swarms
    • Hypersonic weapons
      • Some can reach 3.8k mph
    • Biotechnology and Bioengineering
    • Additive manufacturing (printing)
    • Edge computing and AI
  • Weapon restriction largely comes after it’s widespread usage (e.g. mustard gas)
  • He is clearly in the tank for the military, and his derision of SV tech is amusing despite his acknowledgment that the defense industry is hostile to tech.


“The classic case is of the theoretical house-cleaning robot that concludes the best way to keep the house clean is to lock the family in the basement—the wrong decision, but not necessarily illogical from the machine’s perspective.”

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