Concept of Integrated Deterrence Will Be Key to National Defense Strategy, DOD Official Says

  • Published
  • By Jim Garamone
  • DOD News

While the National Defense Strategy won't be released until next year, it is no secret that the concept of integrated deterrence will play a large part in the document.

Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, fleshed out the concept during the Defense One Outlook 2022 summit. He said the concept "will inform almost everything that we do."

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has spoken about the concept since taking office last January. He calls it a new way of approaching deterrence.

Kahl discussed both sides of the concept: integration and deterrence. "In terms of integrated … we mean, integrated across domains, so conventional, nuclear, cyber, space, informational," he said. "[It is also] integrated across theaters of competition and potential conflict [and] integrated across the spectrum of conflict from high intensity warfare to the gray zone."

The concept in this case also means integration of all instruments of national power. Most importantly it means being "integrated across our allies and partners, which are the real asymmetric advantage that the United States has over any other competitor or potential adversary," Kahl said. 

While deterrence has been the heart of U.S. defense policy since the Cold War, it has a different meaning as part of integrated deterrence, he said. "We need to think about deterrence differently given the existing security environment, and the potential scenarios for conflict that we're trying to deter," Kahl said. "We at [the] Department of Defense need to have the capabilities and the concepts to deny the type of rapid fait accompli scenarios that we know potential adversaries are contemplating, so they can't make a rapid lunge at our partners and allies before they believe the United States can show up."

The United States must be able to deny those scenarios. 

"We also have to make ourselves more resilient because frankly, we know that our adversaries have developed theories of victory, cognizant that they wouldn't do particularly well in a protracted conflict with the United States," he said. "So they don't intend to fight a protracted conflict. Instead, they intend to blind us and deafen us and slow us down."

Information operations against the United States may cause the United States to turn inward focused on domestic matters, he said. "We have to make our systems and our networks and our critical infrastructure much more resilient, so that they can ride out early attacks on those networks that are aimed to prevent us from moving forward to defend our allies," he said. "Resilience will be a major theme."

The nuclear deterrent remains important. "The secretary has spoken about the need to continue modernizing the nuclear triad to make sure that we have a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent as the ultimate backstop," Kahl said. "But we'll also develop additional capabilities."

Finally, the whole alliance system is crucial to integrated deterrence. "We have to work alongside our allies and partners so that our adversaries know that they're not just taking on the United States, they're taking on a coalition of countries who are committed to upholding a rules-based international order," Kahl said.