Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work’s new strategy has a fetching and slightly ominous name—the Third Offset. True, more than a few of us paused at first hearing it, wondering why he was talking about another round of countertrade negotiations in arms exports; the Pentagon normally hates those offsets. But once he made clear that this idea followed the heritage of the New Look and Assault Breaker, we mostly got it. Those were compelling ideas, even if the first one was mildly crazy, and the second is finally, after four decades, reaching its expiration date.
The first operational construct of this Third Offset, Inside Defense noted, recently stood up: the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, or JICSpOC. This one is not just joint (multi-service) and combined (multi-national), it’s interagency. This one’s a whole-of-government space operations center. Now, if we could just get Brussels to loan some EU observers, it could be a comprehensive approach SpOC too. Fascinating.
Fairly, as Colin Clark of Breaking Defense reported this summer, it’s adding those spy satellite people from the NRO, who partly report to the DNI, thats make this an interagency activity. And as eager as the Chinese and the Russians are about anti-satellite weapons, building a new command post makes sense. Giving it an awkward name does not.
Perhaps it’s easier to find fetching names for your command posts if you’re evil. Bond villains have underground lairs. Sith Lords have Death Stars. The US military, though, has J-STARS. They could put a “laser” on it and it would still have a lame name. But as I wrote back in September, Pentagon people feel compelled to put a ‘J’ on the front of everything. I hate to break it to them, but this is not like the Marines calling things amphibious or expeditionary to denote awesomeness. Joint just says coordinated and bureaucratic.
As for that Third Offset, we got more clarity the other day. The interface between humans and learning machines, Work he revealed, may be its technological core. A friend of mine finds the deputy secretary a Strangelovian figure, and this will do nothing to disabuse him of that notion. But SkyNet is a pretty fetching name too, so we’re good.