Report

Third Offset Strategy: Reacting to Risk or Becoming Blindsided?

August 11th 2020 - 10:00

The character of war is changing, and the long-held U.S. superiority is under threat. New weapon systems require investment in modern defenses, but does absolute reliance on technology make our Alliance safer, or are we fooling ourselves and leaving open vulnerabilities? This snapshot by Patrick Bolder and Dorith Kool provides some insights and food for thought on future defense spending and the inherent strategic dilemmas it presents.

Investment in technology will be necessary to maintain security. The proliferation of artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous and unmanned systems level the playing field between the U.S. and its adversaries. The rise of China, military modernization of Russia, nuclear developments in North Korea and Iran, and technologically empowered terrorist networks increasingly undermine U.S. power.

To counteract their adversaries’ technological edge, the U.S. has embarked on a Third Offset Strategy that pushes for more investment in state-of-the-art military technologies to bring U.S. dominance back. This will not be easy. Unlike the First and Second Offset Strategies of the Cold War, the Third Offset Strategy must deal with a multi-threat and multi-actor security environment.

Absolute reliance on military-technological advantage will not be a sustainable or effective strategy, however. While both China and Russia invest in new technology, they seem to understand the importance of investing in conventional and asymmetric capabilities and have somewhat strayed away from the technological hype.

Should we throw all our cards in high-end technology? Have the U.S. and its allies in NATO fallen for novel and savvy technologies too quickly?

Read the new snapshot by Strategic analysts Patrick Bolder and Dorith Kool and download the PDF here.

Patrick Bolder is an officer in the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Since January 2019 he is seconded to The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. His expertise lies in all Defence matters, with a focus on Military Space, Unmanned systems, European Defence issues and Nuclear Policy.
Dorith Kool is a Strategic Analyst at HCSS, where she contributes to projects commissioned by the Dutch Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs. Her primary focus is on fragile states and the role of the security sector in stabilising conflicts. Her work also includes research on the nexus between water, peace and security in Iraq. In her previous work she looked at the politicisation of peace settlements in Syria and the political dimensions of the humanitarian sector. Her main research interests include geopolitics and the security implications of climate change, hybrid warfare, security resilience and migration. She also has experience working as an Arabic translator.