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The Kill Chain: How Emerging Technologies Threaten America's Military Dominance

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From a former senior advisor to Senator John McCain, an urgent wake-up call about how new technologies are threatening America's military might. When we think about the future of war, the military and Washington and most everyone gets it backwards. We think in terms of buying single military systems, such as fighter jets or aircraft carriers. And when we think about mod From a former senior advisor to Senator John McCain, an urgent wake-up call about how new technologies are threatening America's military might. When we think about the future of war, the military and Washington and most everyone gets it backwards. We think in terms of buying single military systems, such as fighter jets or aircraft carriers. And when we think about modernizing those systems, we think about buying better versions of the same things. But what really matters is not the single system but "the battle network"--the collection of sensors and shooters that enables a military to find an enemy system, target it, and attack it. This process is what the military calls "the kill chain"--how you get from detection to action, and do it as quickly as possible. The future of war is not about buying better versions of the same systems we have always had; it is about buying faster, better kill chains. As former Staff Director for the Senate Armed Services Committee and senior policy advisor to Senator John McCain, Christian Brose saw this reality up close. In The Kill Chain, he elaborates on one of the greatest strategic predicaments facing America now: that we are playing a losing game. Our military's technological superiority and traditional approach to projecting power have served us well for decades, when we faced lesser opponents. But now we face highly capable and motivated competitors that are using advanced technologies to erode our military edge, and with it, our ability to prevent war, deter aggression, and maintain peace. We must adapt or fail, Brose writes, and the biggest obstacle to doing so is the sheer inertial force of the status quo.


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From a former senior advisor to Senator John McCain, an urgent wake-up call about how new technologies are threatening America's military might. When we think about the future of war, the military and Washington and most everyone gets it backwards. We think in terms of buying single military systems, such as fighter jets or aircraft carriers. And when we think about mod From a former senior advisor to Senator John McCain, an urgent wake-up call about how new technologies are threatening America's military might. When we think about the future of war, the military and Washington and most everyone gets it backwards. We think in terms of buying single military systems, such as fighter jets or aircraft carriers. And when we think about modernizing those systems, we think about buying better versions of the same things. But what really matters is not the single system but "the battle network"--the collection of sensors and shooters that enables a military to find an enemy system, target it, and attack it. This process is what the military calls "the kill chain"--how you get from detection to action, and do it as quickly as possible. The future of war is not about buying better versions of the same systems we have always had; it is about buying faster, better kill chains. As former Staff Director for the Senate Armed Services Committee and senior policy advisor to Senator John McCain, Christian Brose saw this reality up close. In The Kill Chain, he elaborates on one of the greatest strategic predicaments facing America now: that we are playing a losing game. Our military's technological superiority and traditional approach to projecting power have served us well for decades, when we faced lesser opponents. But now we face highly capable and motivated competitors that are using advanced technologies to erode our military edge, and with it, our ability to prevent war, deter aggression, and maintain peace. We must adapt or fail, Brose writes, and the biggest obstacle to doing so is the sheer inertial force of the status quo.

30 review for The Kill Chain: How Emerging Technologies Threaten America's Military Dominance

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    The premise of Brose's book, as laid out in the introduction, is fundamentally absurd. Brose presents a deliberately alarmist view of the Chinese military threat by making several unstated assumptions about Chinese and American capabilities, their ability to employ those capabilities, and how an unstated hypothetical conflict would play out. Brose asks the reader to assume that the US could potentially lose in a conflict with China in the near future. To make this assumption, Brose assumes, with The premise of Brose's book, as laid out in the introduction, is fundamentally absurd. Brose presents a deliberately alarmist view of the Chinese military threat by making several unstated assumptions about Chinese and American capabilities, their ability to employ those capabilities, and how an unstated hypothetical conflict would play out. Brose asks the reader to assume that the US could potentially lose in a conflict with China in the near future. To make this assumption, Brose assumes, without stating, that China's weapons and war plans would work without fault in destroying American naval ships and military bases, that US counterattacks against Chinese weapons with cruise missiles and stealth fighters would completely fail to halt or roll back Chinese advances, and that US and allied defenses would collapse. He also assumes that anecdotes about US military computer networks not working somehow do not apply to China and that China, a country that has not fought a modern war, would somehow do everything right while the US, with commanders experienced at fighting several different wars, would not have equipment that worked. Another major fault is that Brose suggests that Chinese hypersonic weapons are ready when they are certainly years away and that the US cannot counter such weapons, even though such a program might be so highly classified that even alluding to it would be inappropriate. Brose brings in several worn-out tropes into his book. He suggests that China aims to "win without fighting," as stated in Sun Tzu, which would seem to suggest that the US would rather fight China when it could possibly achieve its goals without fighting. Brose suggests that the American public and Congress are not as informed about China's military threat as the Chinese Communist Party, but one suspects that the average Chinese citizen and the average politburo member would be as equally uninformed about military weapons and capabilities as their American counterparts. The idea that Congress is uninformed is simply wrong as the Department of Defense publishes an annual unclassified overview of Chinese military weapons and capabilities, a topic also touched on the the annual US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. He also tries to talk around China's actual military capabilities, but he could have referenced IISS's annual report The Military Balance to give the reader an accurate view of how US and China stack up against each other. If any Congressional leader is uninformed on the nuances of the US/China military balance, it is likely because they are busy tending to matters of more importance to their constituencies. Other factors that Brose assumes away are that the US would find casualties unacceptable but that somehow China would be willing to sacrifice an untold number of its citizens. This may be a fair assumption, but Brose should have stated it. It is also fundamentally strange for Brose to suggest how proud he is of his ten years of work, and then suggest that he completely failed to keep America safe from the biggest threat facing it. Lastly, Brose seems to know nothing about foundational international security theory. He suggests that the US must have an overwhelming unilateral capability to defeat China on the other side of the planet, but does not recognize that this would almost certainly create a security dilemma or an arms race that would increase the risk of conflict. He also does not acknowledge, despite his experience, that decisions about force levels are fundamentally decisions about money. The US could have no military and draft one as needed, a military that could defeat any threat, or a military somewhere in between. The US will almost certainly maintain a standing military, but it is absurd to think that the US would invest the trillions of dollars it would need to have a standing force ready do defeat China. Logically, the US has to accept some level of risk, a point that Brose does not address in, essentially, making the point that the US has accepted too much risk, even though he has no clue how the US would pay to buy down that risk. Finally, if the US could buy down that risk through diplomacy, alliances, or economic means, would not both sides be better off by not investing in military forces and instead investing in infrastructure or in improving the standards of living of their poorest citizens? While these issues are not the point of Brose's book, it is inappropriate not to address them directly. Additionally, the idea of "the kill chain" is not as dramatic as Brose imagines it. For millennia military commanders have identified enemy forces, decided what to do about it, and then done it. The fundamental concept does not change whether one is using their eyes and human sources of information, or if they are using the internet, satellites, and wireless communications. Brose's take on Russia and China is fundamentally flawed throughout his book. Brose continually assumes that the most alarming reports of Russian and Chinese military capabilities are accurate while ignoring the fact that US military capabilities and war plans to counter Chinese and Russian weapons are highly classified. Brose also completely ignores that US decisions not to intervene in Ukraine and the South China Sea in 2014 were purely political decisions. The US could have intervened, but there was no political will within the US Congress, the public, or its allies in Eastern Europe or Asia. Naturally, both China and Russia pushed the limits of what they could get away with, with Russia shooting down an airliner and China militarizing the South China Sea. That the US let these actions happen is fundamentally not a question of military capability, but of political will. Brose also makes a fundamentally serious and dangerous flaw in the political theory underpinning his narrative. Brose portrays Russian and Chinese actions to modernize military forces by deploying capabilities the US fielded, in some cases, decades ago and develop weapons that are decades away from being fielded as fundamentally unstable. Moreover, Russia and China have displayed no intentions to project force, other than nuclear weapons, around the world, but instead seek to assert a level of influence near their borders not unlike that which the US asserts of Central and South America and not completely unlike the way the US used military force in the late 19th and early 20th century to assure that security. With an undergraduate degree in political science, presumably having taken fundamentals of international relations as an 18 or 19 year old, it is incredulous that Brose would characterize US military abilities to project any type of force (air, ground, naval, and space) worldwide as inherently stable and Russian and Chinese efforts to catch up and modernize forces to protect more closely held national interests on their borders as inherently unstable, and then implying that the US needs to overhaul its defense program by spending untold sums of money to offset those efforts. If Brose is looking at the world through a realist lens as a struggle for power, which he is calling on the US to do, then it is completely natural for an adversary of the US to recognize the US's ability to project force and threaten its national interests and to take measures to defend those interests. Brose's alarmist prose seems to suggest that Americans should be shocked and outraged at Chinese and Russian military efforts, but a freshman in college would not pass class without being able to tell you that this is the natural course of events from a realist viewpoint. Political science also shows us that there are serious risks in security dilemmas and arms races, and that the way out of them is for both sides to recognize that the costs and risks of maintaining large standing forces are not with the losses both sides would suffer in an armed conflict. Conterintuitively, both sides are better off when the arms race ends. The true tragedy of Brose's book is that he is correct about many things. Chinese and Russian military modernization efforts do pose a threat to US national interests. However, in sensationalizing the threat and trying to convince the public and policy makers to address the threat Brose undermines his own case by making it easy to dismiss his alarmist concerns. If the US is going to have to spend trillions of dollars to modernize the military at the expense of investing in infrastructure, healthcare, and jobs, why not spend substantially less and invest in diplomacy and allies to merely avoid conflict while ceding some ground to Russia and China in the interest of avoiding an all-out war? The problem is that neither approach, full-scale investment or a full-scale hedging strategy, would likely be effective. One side invites conflict, the other invites salami-slicing tactics that gradually change international order over many years. Instead, the US needs strategic thinkers, like Brose, to provide clear, rational views that address economic, political, and military considerations in determining the amount of force to employ. Fortunately, the US strategy is largely there, and could be modernized. To hedge against Russia and China the US should modernize its military to the extent politically and economically practical while establishing trade-deals and military alliances that bring us closer to like-minded countries. Unfortunately, free trade and alliances management have been neglected over the past three years and were considered controversial even before that. There are so many more ways that this book is terrible that it is best to just state a few more points: - Brose may be right about many of his points, but he makes so many suggestions without direct evidence that it is impossible to know which ideas are supported, and which are not. - Brose skirts around politics, but does not address the Republican Party's, for whom he presumably worked as a senior aid to John McCain, abandonment of credibility on national security issues. From the war in Iraq and the lack of support for Afghanistan to the Republican's Party's high approval rating for Trump as he antagonized allies and failed to confront Russia, Brose does not address how far the Republican Party is from addressing the key issues he highlights. - Brose provides essentially no evidence to back up claim after claim about national security matters. - Brose does not recognize that his book will almost certainly be cited by hawks in China who want to prove that the US seeks to achieve massive military superiority over China as they pursue advanced military equipment. - Brose does not recognize at any point that the bulk of Chinese and Russian forces are very similar, but not as advanced, as current US forces, or that the most capable Russian and Chinese forces he cites as threats are inherently defensive missiles. Chinese fifth-generation fighters will have the same fueling problems as US fighters, and China doesn't even have a large refueling fleet with decades of experience. The same arguments he makes about the weaknesses of US forces could be made, only even stronger, by Chinese generals and admirals. - Brose betrays no sense of political science theory or ability to comprehend how China would, from a realist point of view, see the United States. Brose suggests that the US needs to have a realist view towards the military threat from China, but seems to think that China will see a much more capable military threat from the US and simply decide not to respond, going against decades of Chinese military modernization. etc. I suspect that the average reader would be better off researching the issues presented in this book and thinking about them for themselves. The reports stated above are an excellent place to start and this book skipped. The true tragedy is that in making his valid point that the US must figure out a military strategy to confront China he ignores theory, logic, and common sense. It may be the case that the US can avoid conflict with China by following Brose's advice, but he could have made his point in a balanced way. More likely is that, ironically, following Brose's advice will make conflict with China or Russia more likely.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Murphy

    The Kill Chain: How Emerging Technologies Threaten America's Military Dominance by Christian Brose is a book I deeply appreciate, but find myself reluctant to fully agree with. The Kill Chain has a thesis: we are unprepared to fight the next war, with military budget allocations and the defense industry anchored to the past, and unwilling to engage in the type of experimentation and innovation necessary to generate the technologies and best practices needed for the next wars. He takes on the rol The Kill Chain: How Emerging Technologies Threaten America's Military Dominance by Christian Brose is a book I deeply appreciate, but find myself reluctant to fully agree with. The Kill Chain has a thesis: we are unprepared to fight the next war, with military budget allocations and the defense industry anchored to the past, and unwilling to engage in the type of experimentation and innovation necessary to generate the technologies and best practices needed for the next wars. He takes on the role of Cassandra, and dramatically emphasizes the capabilities of China and Russia. He wants to bridge Silicon Valley and the Defense establishment, he wants defense to embrace technology, and he believes the military-industrial-congressional complex of the Iron Triangle is holding us back. The solution, or at least one of the key solutions, is to alter the incentivization structure to allow for smaller firms to engage in experimental development and be allowed to thrive when successful, rather than the firm consolidation and perpetuation of programs of record and older platforms. I agree with about 80% of what the man says, but there are a couple of things that concern me. I'm not really sure what Brose wants us to be engaged in for the world we're heading into. This book is about making sure that we are capable of competing, but I don't really get the exact mechanisms of competition. Chapter 10 explores some of this, but there's no cohesive vision of a future here. Rather, its just making sure we can fight, and fight continuously, to maintain deterrence and ward off aggressive challengers into the future. There's an overemphasis on incentives leading to change, a de-emphasis on the role of organizational culture, and I'm not sure there's a solid plan here to challenge the Iron Triangle. Towards the end, he seems to advocate making modern tech worth its while, which just seems like a recipe to repeat past inertia, and is unlikely to be very disruptive to the system. There's a bit too much of an emphasis on tech as a panacea, and I heard him speak a little while ago where he said that its almost impossible to over-correct on tech given how much its lost out recently. That feels like a potentially dangerous attitude. As a result, this is pretty much a policy advocacy piece. One that I'm sympathetic towards, but perhaps a little weary of completely embracing. That said, I learned a ton and there are some chapters that are must-reads as far as I'm concerned for an aspiring defense policy specialist. I also recommend it for any educated voting citizen of the republic. 91/100

  3. 4 out of 5

    Madeline Zimmerman

    The Kill Chain is a convincing wakeup call that the military-congressional-industrial complex is so broken that the very survival of America as Americans know it is at risk unless mammoth changes are made in how the Department of Defense defines, identifies, procures and deploys emerging technology, a problem that is as much about organizational change as it is about technological change. America’s complacent mindset stems from its decades-long military dominance and lack of serious retribution The Kill Chain is a convincing wakeup call that the military-congressional-industrial complex is so broken that the very survival of America as Americans know it is at risk unless mammoth changes are made in how the Department of Defense defines, identifies, procures and deploys emerging technology, a problem that is as much about organizational change as it is about technological change. America’s complacent mindset stems from its decades-long military dominance and lack of serious retribution for its “business as usual” approach to warfare: the U.S. fights offensively, projecting its combat power directly onto enemy territory via large, manned platforms (tanks, fighter jets, etc) and remaining there for as long as desired. The speed with which the U.S. defeated Iraq in the Gulf War only affirmed the success and immutability of a strategy dependent on massed brute force and an inferior enemy whose territory could be occupied without repercussions to the homeland. Such an approach is infeasible with the information revolution and emerging technologies that will favor defense over offense, including sensors, networked systems, machine learning, hypersonic weapons and additive manufacturing. Unfortunately, some of this technology is only “emerging” for the U.S. defense community, as it exists commercially in many of our quotidian apps. Tanks and battleships will become targets that precision strike weapons can easily identify and severely damage, if not destroy. Brose writes, “Rather than large numbers of people operating small numbers of heavily manned machines, the future force should consist of smaller numbers of people operating much larger numbers of highly intelligent unmanned machines.” The U.S. also requires a serious shift in favor of software over hardware and a focus on moving limited amounts of data through highly decentralized networks. Brose addresses the most common counter argument: The U.S. leads the world in military spend by a significant amount - why can’t a percentage of the nearly $700bn+ annual budget go towards investing in this force of the future? Ah, if only it were so simple. Much of this budget is already reserved for programs of record, like expensive legacy platforms. Of the budget that is not reserved, Pentagon planners must determine how to spend it nearly two years in advance. (Note the absurdist element in asking budgeters to purchase their innovative, future capabilities based on what exists in the present). But fear not, if the Pentagon wants to change where some of its spend is allocated in a given year, towards say, emerging technologies, a generous 0.009% of the budget is available. Add to this a system that favors the few incumbent defense contractors, a Congress that tends to prioritize the interests of its constituents over the national interest, and career bureaucrats who get promoted for not opposing the status quo, and what remains is an environment that is de facto hostile to emerging technology. Brose goes to pains to illustrate that China is all the motivation Americans should need to recognize the necessity of change. China is not just an adversary or even another great power; on its current trajectory, it will be a peer to the U.S., a concept more foreign to most Americans than China itself. China’s military budget increased by 900% since observing the U.S. swiftly defeat Iraq in the Golf War. China has specifically invested in undermining the U.S.’s offensive strategy by increasing its missile arsenal, building out small but significant outposts in the South China Sea, and more generally tracking to become the global leader in AI. Should the U.S. face China in a more direct conflict, it will not have the luxury of moving the required ships, carriers, weapons and supplies from U.S. bases to forward positions over the weeks and months before it is ready to fight, as these will quite literally become target practice for the enemy. The cynical will note Brose works for Anduril, a defense technology startup developing autonomous machines, and a company with a specific interest in competing against the defense primes so entrenched in Washington. But Brose is hardly the first person to sound the alarm for change. Chuck Hagel and Ash Carter were the first secretaries of defense to take the controversial stand that America’s advantage was eroding. James Mattis kept this argument alive with the influential 2018 National Defense Strategy. Most convincingly that Brose’s thesis transcends any existing corporate interests is his decades long career as a public servant, where he held positions as staff director of the senate armed services committee and policy advisor to John McCain. The Kill Chain’s motivation is pragmatic, not ideological.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Pbloom

    This is an exceptionally important book. I thought I understood the issues but was both enlightened and disturbed by many of the examples cited by the author. I believe this book should be mandatory reading for anyone in the government/military who wants to challenge their own views about U.S. military dominance in the next decade. The author has a political agenda, which he readily admits to. Even though some of the examples are a bit repetitive and I don't agree with all his recommendations, th This is an exceptionally important book. I thought I understood the issues but was both enlightened and disturbed by many of the examples cited by the author. I believe this book should be mandatory reading for anyone in the government/military who wants to challenge their own views about U.S. military dominance in the next decade. The author has a political agenda, which he readily admits to. Even though some of the examples are a bit repetitive and I don't agree with all his recommendations, this is still one of the most enlightening books I have read. You will not soon forget it and you'll almost certainly read future headlines with a broader perspective. You might also want to learn Mandarin before it's too late!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Everett Probasco

    First of all, as other reviews have mentioned, this book shouldn't have been made into a book to being with. The author is extremely repetitive and it is clear he spent time trying to put "meat-on-the-bones" for a fairly straightforward thesis. This could easily be a magazine article or a 20-minute TED Talk. The bigger problem with the book is that it reads like something you'd give to a Congressional budget committee member in order to coerce different spending on defense. While I agree with the First of all, as other reviews have mentioned, this book shouldn't have been made into a book to being with. The author is extremely repetitive and it is clear he spent time trying to put "meat-on-the-bones" for a fairly straightforward thesis. This could easily be a magazine article or a 20-minute TED Talk. The bigger problem with the book is that it reads like something you'd give to a Congressional budget committee member in order to coerce different spending on defense. While I agree with the overarching premise as to what the author is getting at, he uses WAY to much hyperbole, pessimism for "blue" capabilities, and optimism for "red" capabilities (China in this case). Additionally, the America v. China scenario he presents is extremely myopic and focuses only on the military aspect of a future conflict. I would not recommend this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    A good book, written by a former Senate Armed Services Committee staffer, providing an overview of many of the issuers confronting the modern US National Security establishment. The book lays out what the author sees as the major strategic threats facing the US into the future and then discusses the major changes which have taken place in the methods of warfare over the past decades. He then proceeds with a long explanation of how current US policy and practices are unable to reconcile the two a A good book, written by a former Senate Armed Services Committee staffer, providing an overview of many of the issuers confronting the modern US National Security establishment. The book lays out what the author sees as the major strategic threats facing the US into the future and then discusses the major changes which have taken place in the methods of warfare over the past decades. He then proceeds with a long explanation of how current US policy and practices are unable to reconcile the two and ends with presenting potential solutions. Many of the opinions expressed by the author have been well-discussed in recent years, to include the “rise of China,” the stagnation of the US defense industry, the over-politicization of defense acquisition, and the failure of the military services to adequately adapt to changing technology. Thus, I don’t think the book broke any new ground in presenting those topics. But his ideas for solutions, perhaps better described as marginal changes which could have long term positive effects, are interesting and should provide useful food for thought. Admittedly, I think the author underplays the uphill battle needed to fully enact even those limited reforms. A reader looking for an apologia, or at the least an insider’s admittance of being remotely associated with “the problem,” will be disappointed. From the beginning the author makes it clear who the good groups are and who are the ones that need to reform. He is polite and never disdainful, but there is little in the way of introspection. But, all that being said, this book does provide a good summary of many of the issues, across the diverse fields of technology, politics, policy, culture, and private business, which need to be confronted to reform defense and bring more efficiency to meeting the threats the author sees as most dangerous to America. Definitely recommended for those wanting an introductory understanding to national security politics, and are able to sort out the implicit biases which lurk between the sentences.

  7. 5 out of 5

    O.S. Prime

    In the beginning we learn what "kill chain" means. By the end, we wish never to read the phrase again, as it is repeated every few paragraphs. My sense is that Brose knows his stuff. I found his warnings, prognostications and recommendations all compelling. But the writing style used in this book is underwhelming. Understood this is a work of non-fiction, but that doesn't mean it has to be written in the most deadly dull mode available. It is a call to action, thus should have much more energy to In the beginning we learn what "kill chain" means. By the end, we wish never to read the phrase again, as it is repeated every few paragraphs. My sense is that Brose knows his stuff. I found his warnings, prognostications and recommendations all compelling. But the writing style used in this book is underwhelming. Understood this is a work of non-fiction, but that doesn't mean it has to be written in the most deadly dull mode available. It is a call to action, thus should have much more energy to it. That said, if you're not already worried about China's growing military might or you don't see the need for AI in warfare, this book may change your mind about both topics.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mike Donahue

    Best book I've read on systemic issues in the contemporary U.S. military. Anyone who works in or has interest in U.S. military/foreign policy should read this. I think Brose over-exaggerates the effects of future technology implementation (or at least thinks those effects will happen much sooner than I do), but his assessment of the strategic and operational problems facing the American military from both within and without are a solid 5/5. The fact that this is #1 on Berger's reading list gives Best book I've read on systemic issues in the contemporary U.S. military. Anyone who works in or has interest in U.S. military/foreign policy should read this. I think Brose over-exaggerates the effects of future technology implementation (or at least thinks those effects will happen much sooner than I do), but his assessment of the strategic and operational problems facing the American military from both within and without are a solid 5/5. The fact that this is #1 on Berger's reading list gives me some faith.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    Exactly which problem is this book adressing? The legacy of John McCain, the military-industrial-congressional complex, the building your military for the last war, the military potential of China - all of the above? Th book contains several insightful pieces of analysis, but fails to consolidate them in a convincing and succinct narrative and proposal.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Nicole

    Certainly the best book of its kind that I have read. As a military member, the main premise of the book resonates with the problems I/we see every day within our military. He not only takes the words right out of my cynical mouth, but gives suggestions on how to counter these problems, which is necessary if he wants anyone to take the book seriously and as anything more than a collection of complaints. The few criticisms I've seen against this book are that the author makes absurd assumptions o Certainly the best book of its kind that I have read. As a military member, the main premise of the book resonates with the problems I/we see every day within our military. He not only takes the words right out of my cynical mouth, but gives suggestions on how to counter these problems, which is necessary if he wants anyone to take the book seriously and as anything more than a collection of complaints. The few criticisms I've seen against this book are that the author makes absurd assumptions on the ability of China to win in a war against America despite not having recent (read, not since the 70s) combat experience and their likelihood to also make mistakes throughout wartime execution. While quoting Sun Tsu may be overdone, the author is not wrong in his points regarding both China's long game as well as the specifics they are employing to quickly outstrip us. One of those is that to the average American and even to many many military members who don't routinely get exposed to "the big picture," the idea of America not militarily dominating can't come close to being accepted, which is a big problem because it leads to the culture that continues to stagnate change. Additionally, the author isn't arguing that China would execute flawlessly, but that the US is being technologically outstripped in a systemic way and isn't living up to its potential. Listen...just read it, okay? It's good, and you'll learn something, and then you'll be able to decide for yourself.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Pokorny

    Christian Brose connects the tactical lethality of our military to the executive and congressional policies that have been passed. He explains the negative impact of a bureaucratic system that engenders the military industrial complex, and how it positively impacts defense contractors to the detriment of national security. Brose recommends investing in future oriented problems, addressing the need for (far from sexy) cyber and high tech capabilities. While this isn’t as attractive as buying new Christian Brose connects the tactical lethality of our military to the executive and congressional policies that have been passed. He explains the negative impact of a bureaucratic system that engenders the military industrial complex, and how it positively impacts defense contractors to the detriment of national security. Brose recommends investing in future oriented problems, addressing the need for (far from sexy) cyber and high tech capabilities. While this isn’t as attractive as buying new ships, aircraft and land warfare vehicles, he argues for the need of a high tech infrastructure to facilitate a swift kill chain. This includes investment in satellites, technology, and cyber capabilities. This has been a great primer on understanding how government policies impact the department of defense, utilizing real world examples of recent history.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John

    This book is foundational reading for all young military officers, congressional staffers, and defense industry leaders. Mr. Brose systematically lays out the failings of United States defense policy since the end of the Gulf War, helping would-be leaders understand the problem confronting us in the 21st century. More problem statement than comprehensive solution (though he offers a vision for the future with his last chapter), this book can help all stake holders get on the same page and salvag This book is foundational reading for all young military officers, congressional staffers, and defense industry leaders. Mr. Brose systematically lays out the failings of United States defense policy since the end of the Gulf War, helping would-be leaders understand the problem confronting us in the 21st century. More problem statement than comprehensive solution (though he offers a vision for the future with his last chapter), this book can help all stake holders get on the same page and salvage America's position in the world.

  13. 4 out of 5

    I Read

    This is a very interesting book - I don't think I've ever seen someone so intimately involved in US defence criticise it quite so harshly. Brose's criticism of the US military can be boiled down to two major issues. One, the US military is overly focused on big, sexy platforms that are basically new versions of old tech, instead of focusing on systems that transmit information to allow these platforms to operate. Two, it is stuck in tactics and strategies that have worked great when the opposing This is a very interesting book - I don't think I've ever seen someone so intimately involved in US defence criticise it quite so harshly. Brose's criticism of the US military can be boiled down to two major issues. One, the US military is overly focused on big, sexy platforms that are basically new versions of old tech, instead of focusing on systems that transmit information to allow these platforms to operate. Two, it is stuck in tactics and strategies that have worked great when the opposing force is an ant to be crushed under a boot, but not against another major power; and point two feeds into point one. The book is at its best when it's drawing on Brose's first-hand experience in the defence establishment to expound on the causes and consequences of these problems, but it did start to get slightly repetitive by the end. Frankly, I don't have enough military and strategic knowledge to ascertain if Brose is accurate or not, especially when it comes to opposing Chinese capabilities. But defence secretaries have been warning about the erosion of American military supremacy for years. This book could well prove prophetic.

  14. 4 out of 5

    William

    Informative book that does a great job laying out the relevant history in a concise manner, dissecting and articulating the problems our national security complex face at present, and presenting a crisp thesis for what our nation needs to do to compete in the future. My only complaint is significant redundancy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Meyer

    A must read for anyone in the defense, national security, policy, and military -space. Prose - the former Senate Armed Service Committee Staff Director for the late Senator McCain and current Head of Strategy at Anduril Industries and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace - outlines a compelling vision of future war, its inherent risks, what got us here, and what will get us there. If the 2018 National Defense Strategy, drafted at the direction and oversight of then Sec A must read for anyone in the defense, national security, policy, and military -space. Prose - the former Senate Armed Service Committee Staff Director for the late Senator McCain and current Head of Strategy at Anduril Industries and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace - outlines a compelling vision of future war, its inherent risks, what got us here, and what will get us there. If the 2018 National Defense Strategy, drafted at the direction and oversight of then Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, is the skeleton - Brose's work is the muscle. Great power competition requires leadership...real leadership. Leaders that set priorities, make hard decisions, drive the military industrial complex, and persuade the massive US government geopolitical machine toward preparing for the realities of the 21st century landscape. The Kill Chain is the most compelling book on future war I have read in the last three + years and perhaps the most comprehensive vision of a way forward.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jared

    This should be required reading for anyone involved in defense R&D

  17. 5 out of 5

    Omar Elkhader

    Provocative, smart, and scary.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Zach Apperson

    Must read for any military officer to have an actual conversation on the state of affairs.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jared

    “Do we now believe, viscerally and actually, that there is something worse than change?” WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT? - This fascinating, is disturbing, book confronts the existential risks on the horizon, charting a way for America’s military to adapt and succeed with new thinking as well as new technology. WHO IS THE AUTHOR? - Christian Brose is the former Staff Director of the Armed Service Committee and Senior Policy Advisor to Senator John McCain. THE IRON TRIANGLE - the iron triangle of the Departme “Do we now believe, viscerally and actually, that there is something worse than change?” WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT? - This fascinating, is disturbing, book confronts the existential risks on the horizon, charting a way for America’s military to adapt and succeed with new thinking as well as new technology. WHO IS THE AUTHOR? - Christian Brose is the former Staff Director of the Armed Service Committee and Senior Policy Advisor to Senator John McCain. THE IRON TRIANGLE - the iron triangle of the Department of Defense, Congress, and defense industry that McCain, modifying President Dwight Eisenhower, used to call the “military-industrial-congressional complex.” THE KILL CHAIN - The kill chain is a process that occurs on the battlefield or wherever militaries compete. It involves three steps: The first is gaining understanding about what is happening. The second is making a decision about what to do. And the third is taking action that creates an effect to achieve an objective. FOCUS HAS BEEN ON PLATFORMS - Prior to the information revolution, the kill chain was largely concentrated in single military platforms. - Instead of concentrating all of these functions in one platform, militaries could distribute them across a “battle network” of many different military systems. CHINA’S FOCUS HAS BEEN ON DENYING FORCE PROJECTION - China has devised strategies not to beat America at its own game but to play a different game—to win by denying the US military the opportunity to project power, fight in its traditional ways, and achieve its goals. A NEW WAY FORWARD IS NEEDED - The question is not how new technologies can improve the US military’s ability to do the same things it has done for decades but rather how these technologies can enable us to do entirely different things—to build new kinds of military forces and operate them in new ways. - New technologies are important, but not as important as new thinking. And new thinking is more likely to emerge if we remain focused on the right things. - It requires a sweeping redesign of the American military: from a military built around small numbers of large, expensive, exquisite, heavily manned, and hard-to-replace platforms to a military built around large numbers of smaller, lower-cost, expendable, and highly autonomous machines. Put simply, it should be a military defined less by the strength and quantities of its platforms than by the efficacy, speed, flexibility, adaptability, and overall dynamism of its kill chains. SOME SAW THIS CHANGE COMING BACK IN THE EARLY 1990s - ...Department of Defense that most Americans had never heard of: the Office of Net Assessment. Its mission, in brief, was to determine how the United States measured up against its competitors, - Shortly after Marshall finished his report, some of his analysts were searching for a shorthand way to describe how a powerful adversary might harness the emerging military revolution to counter America’s traditional platform-centered approach. They settled on the term “anti-access and area denial” capabilities. Little did they know, all the way back in 1992, that these were exactly the kinds of weapons that China was beginning to build. 9/11 HELPED US SEND US IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION - The biggest way that 9/11 changed everything was in one of the least desirable ways: amid the shift toward counterterrorism, the emerging focus on China and the anti-access and area denial threats it was creating faded into the background. - The bigger problem remained what it had been since 1991: there was still no pressing need for change. - in the words of The 9/11 Commission Report, transnational threats such as terrorism, not great-power rivalry, were “the defining quality of world politics.” PREDICTABLE PRESENCE - Too often, we have imagined that a persistent and predictable presence of US forces in numerous places around the world—rather than periodic and surprising demonstrations of new and better ways to close the kill chain—would deter US rivals from acting aggressively. The result is that we have run our military into the ground through repeated deployments of limited strategic value, and US adversaries have factored this into their plans to counter us. THREATS TO OUR WAY OF DOING BUSINESS - These and other promising technologies were not neglected or abandoned for lack of funding but rather because they threatened traditional ideas and interests, such as manned military aviation. - The deeper problem is that the Pentagon and Congress got military modernization backward. Rather than thinking in terms of buying new battle networks that could close the kill chain faster than ever, they thought in terms of buying incrementally better versions of the same platforms they had relied upon for decades—tanks, manned short-range aircraft, big satellites, and bigger ships. THE SURE BETS GOT THE FUNDING - it was the future that ended up without a seat when the music stopped. Legacy systems were largely prioritized over new technologies, and Washington doubled down on the same old assumptions about warfare it had been making for two decades. THE RUSSIANS GAVE US A WAKE UP CALL - “The very ‘rules of war’ have changed,” Gerasimov wrote. “The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness.” CHINA PAID CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE GULF WAR - The Chinese military conducted a major study of the Gulf War, which included an after-action assessment in Iraq. Upon visiting Baghdad, Chinese military officials learned that Saddam Hussein had the same aging Soviet air defenses and other weapons that China did, and in some cases, Iraq’s were better. - The United States had reached into Iraq and selectively destroyed its ability to fight—to close its own kill chains. And if the US military could do that to Iraq, it was not hard to imagine that it could do the same thing to China. CHINA FORMS A STRATEGY - The first problem that China sought to neutralize was the network of US military bases, primarily in Japan and Guam...China’s plan was to saturate US bases with more missiles than they could ever defend against. - The second major problem China sought to negate was US strike aircraft...As a result, China developed early-warning and long-range radars to spot approaching US aircraft from as far away as possible. - Beyond US land bases and strike aircraft, Beijing set its sights on America’s other primary means of projecting military power: the aircraft carrier...The DF-21, the world’s first ever anti-ship ballistic missile, was designed to do just that—fly out more than one thousand miles, slam into a carrier, and cripple its ability to fight, if not sink it altogether...quiet diesel submarines and anti-ship cruise missiles that were harder to detect - This was all part of a broader warfighting doctrine that Chinese military officials ultimately called “systems destruction warfare.” The simple idea was that the US giant could not move or fight if it were deaf, dumb, and blind. CHINA’S R&D SHORTCUTS - By plundering intellectual property and trade secrets from US military and defense contractors, China saved years of painstaking work and a small fortune in military research and development, EARLIER EXAMPLES OF HOW WE DID INNOVATION RIGHT - Air Force general Bernard Schriever, a German immigrant who had only recently gotten his first star when the president assigned him the mission of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear weapon to the other side of the planet in a matter of minutes...They laid the technological foundation from which America first went to space and then the moon. And they did it all, from start to finish, in just five years. - Admiral Hyman Rickover...overcame opposition in his own service in his quest to miniaturize a nuclear reactor that could fit into a submarine and power its operations for years deep underwater. PICKING WINNERS - Eisenhower’s more personalized approach to military acquisition and innovation, which was based on picking winners and holding them accountable, became bureaucratized amid the broader adoption of the industrial age management practices that had come into vogue in leading companies. LATER GOT “PROGRAMMED” TO FAIL - For its part, Congress tied the military’s hands through the budget process, making it harder to spend money in new ways or on new ideas that were not exactly what the Pentagon had “programmed” and Congress had decreed. - The result was that the process of developing military technology became harder, slower, and less creative. GREAT CONSOLIDATION OF DEFENSE COMPANIES - In 1993, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Perry convened what became known as “The Last Supper.”... because in a few years’ time, as defense spending came down, most of them would be gone. Perry urged the CEOs to consolidate, and that is exactly what they did. When the Cold War ended, there were 107 major defense firms. By the end of the 1990s, there were five. “VALLEY OF DEATH” - The opportunities they found to work in the defense world increasingly amounted to little science projects and technology demos that often failed to transition into large military programs but disappeared instead into what became known as the “valley of death.” PROGRAMS OF RECORD - The Department of Defense and Congress sought to fix these existing technologies into so-called programs of record to make it easier to plan for future costs and predictably fund them each year. The downside was that these programs took on lives of their own and, once established and funded, became very difficult to dislodge with new and better capabilities. IT’S ALL ABOUT CONNECTIONS, NOT THINGS - The information revolution and the revolution in military affairs, as Marshall and others saw it, were less about things, and more about the connections between them. The revolution was about networks. - This concept of networking is one of the most under-appreciated but consequential ways that the commercial technology world has left the US military behind. - The most important objective is for the battle network to facilitate human understanding, decisions, and actions. SOFTWARE NOT HARDWARE - After all, most of the companies building these systems are hardware companies, not software companies. TRANSFORMATION - In reality, true military innovation is less about technology than about operational and organizational transformation. WASHINGTON AND SILICON VALLEY DRIFT APART - The schism between Washington and Silicon Valley became a tale of two cities. - As the US government’s policies and actions pushed new technology developers away from Washington and the defense market, the opportunities of the commercial technology economy pulled them toward Silicon Valley in droves. - Palantir and SpaceX are the only two that have achieved this so-called unicorn status in the defense sector. DEFENSE MOSTLY GIVES UP ON EXPERIMENTATION - This has been one of the biggest failings of the US defense establishment over the past few decades: we stopped doing meaningful experimentation, - There used to be an entire four-star command devoted to military experimentation: Joint Forces Command. A NEW TYPE OF COMMAND AND CONTROL - Our challenge, then, will be adapting to an era of human command and machine control. - This comes down to three factors: training, testing, and trust. INTELLIGENT MACHINES - When I say intelligent machines, I am not referring to current military drones...In reality, these supposedly “unmanned” systems require dozens of people to pilot each one remotely, steer its sensors, maintain it on the ground, and analyze the information that it collects, much of which is discarded because there are simply not enough people to process all of it. - In time, intelligent machines should not just enhance manned platforms; they should replace them. The real goal should be to build the next battle network around intelligent machines. HUMANS COULD BE DOING OTHER THINGS - In the absence of machines that can share information directly with other machines, this is how the United States connects its battle networks: a lot of people sitting in a lot of large rooms. These people are some of the best men and women that America produces, and I have watched them spend excessive amounts of their time and talent trying to solve problems associated with closing the kill chain that better technology could solve for them right now. HAVING A PERSON IN THE MACHINE MAKES IT MORE COSTLY - Putting people in machines makes them significantly more complex and expensive. - Many of these parts, as in all machines that contain people, are required to ensure that their human occupants are safe, comfortable, and capable of controlling the machine. Most of those components will be unnecessary in intelligent machines, which drives down their complexity and cost and makes them easier and cheaper to produce, especially with advanced manufacturing methods. HUMANS DON’T MAKE THE BEST SENSORS - a Military Internet of Things will be built around the assumption that intelligent machines, not human beings, will be processing most of the information that the network collects. - The emphasis will be more on quantity than quality, LIKE IN WWI, ADVANTAGE IS SHIFTING TO THE DEFENSE - The improved range, accuracy, and effects of fire have already created considerable advantages for defenders over attackers, and emerging technologies will likely further this trend. - Projecting military power and fighting offensively are not becoming more difficult only for us but for everyone, COME TO GRIPS WITH THE END OF OUR HYPER-POWER STATUS - we will need to relearn a lesson of history that we largely forgot during our three decades of uncontested dominance: that great powers are capable of limiting one another’s ambitions and rendering many of each other’s goals impractical or unachievable, regardless of how desirable those goals may be for one side or the other. - real homeland defense will have to become an American goal that consumes far more of our defense budget. - In recent decades, US leaders have given our military too many missions and have prioritized US military “presence” in too many places across the world that deliver too little benefit to our national defense. CAUSE THE SAME PROBLEMS FOR CHINA - We could achieve the more limited, defensive goal of denying military dominance to China by creating the same kinds of anti-access and area denial predicaments for China that it has been creating for us. WHAT TO DO THEN? - How would we build the US military differently? - First, rather than small numbers of larger systems, the future force should be built around larger numbers of smaller systems...the future force should be built around lower-cost systems that are effectively expendable. - the future force should consist of smaller numbers of people operating much larger numbers of highly intelligent unmanned machines. - The future force should also be built around highly decentralized networks that move limited amounts of data rather than the highly centralized networks of today that must move tons of data. - the future force must be defined more by its software than its hardware. It must be, in every way, a digital force. ALLIES, AS ALWAYS, ARE IMPORTANT - The United States needs capable allies and partners to succeed in the world, especially to balance Chinese power. LOBBYISTS ARE NOT THE MAIN CONCERN - Defense lobbyists are a convenient scapegoat. But the real problem is not that a handful of big defense contractors have a loud voice in the budget process. The real problem is that so few defense companies are left in America after decades of defense industry consolidation, that so few of the remaining companies are leaders in emerging technologies, and that those which are doing this futuristic work for the US military have little to no voice in the budget process. BUDGET BATTLES MAKE THINGS HARD - Indeed, over the past ten years, Congress has managed only once to pass spending legislation for the Department of Defense by the start of the fiscal year. When Congress fails to do its job in this way, it passes a “continuing resolution,” which requires the military to spend money on only the things it spent money on the prior year. Not only does this waste billions of dollars in misallocated resources, it literally locks the military into the past and prevents it from implementing its plans for the future. - When Congress failed to pass a budget for six months at the start of the 2018 fiscal year, for example, the Navy had to renegotiate roughly ten thousand contracts, which senior Navy leaders estimated cost them roughly $5.8 billion in wasted buying power. That could have bought three destroyers. WE HAVE TO PLAY WITHIN THE SYSTEM WE HAVE - If the future is going to win, it will have to win inside our current system. ADVANCES IN THE ARMY - More recently, the Army’s two highest-ranking generals, together with its top two civilian leaders, convened what became known as “night court,” regular after-hours meetings in which the four of them sorted through every early-stage development program in the Army to identify—and cut—the ones that did not align with the new defense strategy. The result was $25 billion in savings over five years that the Army asked Congress to shift toward higher-priority programs. PROGRESS IN THE MARINE CORPS - Not to be outdone, in July 2019, just one month after being confirmed as Commandant of the Marine Corps, General David Berger laid out a vision to change his service that was bolder than anything put forward in a generation. For decades, it had been holy writ for the Marine Corps that it required thirty-eight amphibious ships, which are better versions of the platforms that sent Marines ashore at the start of the Korean War in 1950. Berger jettisoned that requirement, suggesting that these big multi-billion-dollar ships might not survive against technologically advanced militaries. He sought instead to redesign the Marine Corps, less to project power than to counter the ability of competitors to do so, and he directed that the future force be built around smaller, lower-cost, more expendable, and more autonomous systems. RAPID PURSUIT OF WELL-DEFINED GOALS IS KEY - The only way to succeed is how Admiral William Moffett got the Navy to embrace aircraft carriers between the world wars and how General Bernard Schriever developed intercontinental ballistic missiles during the early Cold War: rapid but incremental pursuits of transformational goals. HAVE ‘BAKE-OFFS’ - Senior leaders in the Pentagon and Congress should set aside a large sum of money every year at the start of the budget process and then hold competitions to determine who has the best solutions to the US military’s highest-priority operational problems. - And here is the most important part: we really have to reward the winners by funding and fielding their capabilities at scale. - For example, to try to prevent the military services from fighting with one another, leaders give each service an equal portion of the budget, regardless of merit and the particular problems a service must solve. TRANSITION PHASES ARE FINE - Over time, if the future is given fair chances to compete on the merits of solving the right problems, new technologies such as intelligent machines could transition from enhancing traditional platforms to replacing them. - Similar transitions to homeland defense or other high-priority roles could occur for a host of other legacy platforms. IN SUMMARY - define problems correctly and clearly, compete over the best solutions, pick winners, and spend real money on what is most important and can make our military most effective.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gregg

    I generally agree with this book and found it a good read. I published on the same topic as chapters 7-9 two years ago and came to the same conclusions this author did.

  21. 4 out of 5

    JMA

    4.5 but five stars for Megan.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zachery Tyson

    A must-read for every DoD employee, Service-member, and Congressional staffer.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    An important perspective on the state of defense tech- must read for every individual working in this industry.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jon Frantz

    Brose does an incredible job of detailing crippling issues within the Department of Defense and Congress that I see manifested down to my level as a junior officer in the Army nearly every day. Simply put, the reality is terrifying. Brose provides a very unbiased breakdown of our current failure to modernize as a force and the consequences that will inevitably follow a failure to course correct. I appreciate that this book is not finger pointing at one entity, but outlines how failures in each r Brose does an incredible job of detailing crippling issues within the Department of Defense and Congress that I see manifested down to my level as a junior officer in the Army nearly every day. Simply put, the reality is terrifying. Brose provides a very unbiased breakdown of our current failure to modernize as a force and the consequences that will inevitably follow a failure to course correct. I appreciate that this book is not finger pointing at one entity, but outlines how failures in each respective organization has led us to where we are today. Brose does not present a problem without a solution, and I would recommend this book to anyone that has a vested interest in continuing our current way of life.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Carr

    There is an uncommon deal of good sense in this book. It raves about new technology yet recognises that much of AI's contribution will be supplemental. It bemoans the failures of Congress yet realises this is due to incentives and structures as otherwise good people try and serve their country. It seeks a much stronger US military, yet directly urges pulling back core strategic aims to be more achievable and considered. The central argument of the book is relatively simple. Military combat requi There is an uncommon deal of good sense in this book. It raves about new technology yet recognises that much of AI's contribution will be supplemental. It bemoans the failures of Congress yet realises this is due to incentives and structures as otherwise good people try and serve their country. It seeks a much stronger US military, yet directly urges pulling back core strategic aims to be more achievable and considered. The central argument of the book is relatively simple. Military combat requires linking sensors to shooters via a communications network. When you can 'understand-decide-act' and achieve a result, that means you have 'closed the kill chain'. Brose worries the US has too few exquisite platforms that cant talk to each other, that small and quick networked systems need to play a much larger role and that the Defence leadership and Congress for understandable reasons are not doing nearly enough to fix this. Much of this argument will be well known, but there's a degree of care here that is often missing in similar books. For all that strategy is about war and politics, most authors can only really speak capably about war or politics. Both may be touched on, but often one side receives far less nuance and care. This may be merely idiosyncratic for historians, but can be fatal to the impact of current affairs books. The Kill Chain stands out for its sense of balance. Beyond any one argument or section, you get the sense that Brose - who worked for John McCain for several years - both loved working in Congress and yet actually read the dense technical military reports that think tanks like RAND and the Pentagon sent his way. No doubt experts will push back on elements of the argument. Even from my vantage point (more on the politics side), I know that thinking in terms of networks rather than platforms is at the heart of the 5th generation approach. The F-35 is far more impressive for how it can coordinate other systems to achieve a military effect than its own individual capacity. Brose may be right to argue the US needs much much more of that approach, but I'm not sure it's as far from recognition or implementation as he sometimes implies. What really elevated this book in my eyes was the willingness to push beyond seeking a technological fix. As Brose notes, the US lacks neither money, capacity or technology. The big flaw is strategic. In a -far too brief section- Brose argues the US needs to abandon its preferred offence-dominated strategy, and seek not to impose its will, but simply deny and deter China (and others) from dominance over US interests or key allies. This is a radical idea in US circles, and one which receives far too little serious thought in my view (some of the restaint school of thought accept it, though not all). For those who care about how the sausage actually gets made, the final chapters are a useful - if lightly done - assessment of how and why Congress, the Pentagon and America's corporate industry seem to amount to much less than the sum of their parts for delivering military capacity. Brose in particular identifies a defence industry that is too concentrated in a handful of companies and with the most advanced American companies out in Silicon Valley unsure whether real profits are there to be made. Congress is too concerned with local electorate benefits and unsure of how to manage the Military. Meanwhile the Military is badly hamstrung by Congress (such as the lack of clear budgets and space for risk taking, while also being risk-adverse itself and unsure of how much change it is willing to accept. Combined these three groups produce a military budget that continues to spend vast amounts replicating previous investments but can't really innovate or change. This is still a current affairs book. It moves across a lot of territory quickly, and I'd have liked more on the strategic side and the hard costs there, over the benefits of a new tactical/technical approach. But this is an important book that is rightly receiving strong attention. Recommended.

  26. 5 out of 5

    P M E

    I should say this should be required reading for all servicemembers and lawmakers in America. But what it really would be is required reading for American citizens. To make them confront the reality that our vaunted military is actually not equipped with the latest and greatest, but burdened with outdated 1990s tech and mindsets about waging war that has a very real possible outcome of the US losing a major one. It would be required reading because the military is a public institution that needs I should say this should be required reading for all servicemembers and lawmakers in America. But what it really would be is required reading for American citizens. To make them confront the reality that our vaunted military is actually not equipped with the latest and greatest, but burdened with outdated 1990s tech and mindsets about waging war that has a very real possible outcome of the US losing a major one. It would be required reading because the military is a public institution that needs to be held to account and standard, and the blind adulation most Americans unquestioningly render to the military is only hurting us. We need to modernize. We're Sears and Roebuck headed into a maelstrom of societal and technological change, without having significantly changed since since WWII. Our bad technology, and the extraordinary difficulty it takes to do inanely simplistic tasks is going to get my sailors killed when the shooting starts in the strait of Taiwan and we're bringing decades old gear to fight autonomous Chinese killer drones. I need you as an American to care about this.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Blue Morse

    “The United States could lose a war with China - not in the distant future, but now ... The entire model of American military power now finds itself in much the same position that Barnes & Noble or Blockbuster Video did amid the rise of Amazon, Apple, and Netflix, and this circumstance is forcing a similar choice: Change or become obsolete.” Christian Brose may have written one of the most relevant and stirring books of the year. His thesis and supporting points are spot on. An absolute must rea “The United States could lose a war with China - not in the distant future, but now ... The entire model of American military power now finds itself in much the same position that Barnes & Noble or Blockbuster Video did amid the rise of Amazon, Apple, and Netflix, and this circumstance is forcing a similar choice: Change or become obsolete.” Christian Brose may have written one of the most relevant and stirring books of the year. His thesis and supporting points are spot on. An absolute must read for any military professional or political leader.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Niloofar Razi Howe

    Kill Chain, which tackles the critical problem of “getting from the military we have to the military we need” should be mandatory reading for the incoming administration and anyone interested in understanding how we can empower our senior leaders to solve our future war fighter problems and all the forces working against them. When will we finally envision and fear something more than we fear change?

  29. 4 out of 5

    John

    This is without a doubt one of the most sobering books I have read in some time. While other national security-oriented book I’ve read recently have made sweeping judgments about America’s military capacity—in short, it’s ability to maintain one of the central pillars of foreign policy—they have not gone as far to expose the atrophied heart of America’s hard power. Brose pulls no punches, and pours every modicum of insight he gleaned from years working for the late John McCain as an advisor and This is without a doubt one of the most sobering books I have read in some time. While other national security-oriented book I’ve read recently have made sweeping judgments about America’s military capacity—in short, it’s ability to maintain one of the central pillars of foreign policy—they have not gone as far to expose the atrophied heart of America’s hard power. Brose pulls no punches, and pours every modicum of insight he gleaned from years working for the late John McCain as an advisor and then as staff director for the Senate Armed Services Committee (i.e. the lead majority staffer who in many ways wrote the annual defense authorization legislation and maintained contact with the executive branch). Brose’s message is simple: America is in danger, and likely already is in some ways, of losing battles before they are even waged, and that the services are fielding centralized, outdated, vulnerable platforms that in a future battlefield will not survive. Their attrition will not merely lead to battlefield losses, but to strategic setbacks from which the United States may never recover. Every service, every member of Congress, every secretary of defense, and every president for the last two decades is implicated. The changes Brose suggests, that the services must become more dispersed and less platform-oriented, that our financial investments must becomes more future-oriented, that Congress must give up some of its parochial interests, and that our military must catch up first with Silicon Valley before it ever hopes to catch up to China’s enormous investments, will raise major eyebrows in Washington and within the corridors of the Pentagon. But Brose comes back again and again to a central warning: some things are worse than change, that those things are sinking aircraft carriers, crippled airbases, falling aircraft, hamstrung allies, and worse yet: flag-draped caskets. The titular “kill chain" consumes Brose’s analysis. The kill chain is the military’s term for the ability to acquire information, decipher it, and then act up on it—usually culminating in some sort of military action, oftentimes violent. This has consumed tactical thinking for millennia, and it becomes even more important when militaries are not lined up across a field from one another but are instead hurling high explosive projectiles at each other from hundreds of miles away, as a modern battlefield would look. And to Brose, the American military’s ability to both fulfill its own kill chain and deny the enemy’s—which in this book is usually an omnipresent China—is seriously degraded because we have been making losing bets on old platforms, run by outdated technology, unconnected with a larger network of machines and people, and overseen by military doctrines that have not caught up to the times. An adversary will be able to attack our communications network, cripple logistical systems, bombard our bases, and annihilate platforms quickly and before we are in a position to act. Much of this is born out lack of investment in emerging, frontier technologies—such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, secure microelectronics, hypersonic weapons, advanced manufacturing, and ultimately: autonomous platforms. Every one of these has their own vulnerability, but Brose’s central conception is that machines with these characteristics and in large quantity will make the military—every service—more survivable and more capable of carrying out its missions, thus able to better serve as our nation’s hard power option. In short, the military needs to be less platform-oriented, i.e. less focused on number of ships, squadrons, and brigades, and more focused on outcomes: denying an adversary freedom of navigation, shutting down communications, damaging international positions, causing confusion and second-guessing, etc. This shift of focus would carry its own ramifications: services would on the one hand be required to integrate their capabilities with rival services, but would also stimulate good competition as they sought to remain relevant to requirements. Brose closes his book on a low-point, fearing that these recommendation will not matter, that Congress, the executive, and our political parties are disinterested in the changes required. But he returns to the problem of some things being worse than change. Thus the reader is admonished to try to make this work, to seek the change required to ensure both our military and our nation are prepared for the decades of competition it will encounter. This is the national security challenge of our time, and it is one that we as a nation cannot ignore. Books like Brose (and articles, as I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his essay in May in the Wall Street Journal titled 'The End of America’s Era of Military Primacy’) are vital for this conversation. They force us to think about a great country on its way to becoming a weary titan, about a military at its zenith sleepwalking into one that may soon only know defeat, about an economy strangled because its national defense could not maintain order. At the close the gallant motto of the Special Air Service comes to the forefront of my mind, and it is one that Congress, the presidency, the defense industry, and the military services must embrace if we are to take up this challenge, begin to use our collective imaginations, and make hard decision - both now and in the decades to come. Who Dares, Wins.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Shaw

    crucial contribution because it puts all the right technologies in a bucket together; disappointing in not drawing nuclear weapons connections and painting the Chinese as 10 foot tall monsters and lamenting the loss of U.S. dominance as a critical threat to national security rather than the normal human condition

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