SEST-515 Net Assessment and Strategic Planning
Fall for 2017-2018
This course provides an introduction to diagnostic net assessment as conceived in the early 1970s by Andrew W. Marshall while a member of the National Security Council and subsequently practiced under him at the Department of Defense since 1973.
Diagnostic net assessment seeks to provide top decision makers with objective assessments of where the United States stands relative to prospective opponents in key areas of long-term military competition. It does so by comparing such things as the competitors’ objectives, strategies and tactics, equipment holdings and deployments, technological capabilities, military doctrines, operational concepts, training, and logistics. Especially important are trends and asymmetries in the competition as well as clarity the about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the competitors, their allies, or other actors who may influence the balance. The main output of Marshall’s assessments has been to identify emerging strategic problems and opportunities that could affect the U.S. position in the future. Net assessments are subject to considerable uncertainty and a given “balance” may need to consider broader factors such as demographics, economic strength and budgetary constraints, organizational behavior, competitor assessments, strategic culture, and disruptive technologies.
Since diagnostic net assessment is fundamentally a practical endeavor, several historical and recent cases will be examined, including: the general problems of measuring military power, the U.S.-Soviet strategic-nuclear and NATO-Warsaw Pact balances during the Cold War, emerging “revolutions in military affairs,” and U.S.strategic performance since 9/11.
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