The DEFCON Warning System™

Ongoing GeoIntel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.  DEFCON Level assessment issued for public notification.  Established 1984.

Integrated Deterrence: An Admission That America Is No Longer Militarily Dominant?

Since 2021, the Biden administration’s key defense concept has been “integrated deterrence.” The administration’s first strategy document, the March 2021 Interim National Security Guidance (INSG), provided a partial rationale for developing this concept when it identified the threats posed by both China and Russia and the challenge of deterring their “aggression.” To deter these adversaries and prevent them from “directly threatening the United States and our allies, inhibiting access to the global commons, or dominating key regions,” the INSG asserted, the United States would have to “work with like-minded partners” and “pool our collective strength” to “counter threats to our collective security, prosperity, and democratic way of life.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin subsequently built on this in speeches from May and July of 2021. During an address to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii on May 3, 2021, Austin affirmed that the “cornerstone of America’s defense is still deterrence,” which “meant fixing a basic truth within the minds of our potential foes: that the costs and risks of aggression are out of line with any conceivable benefit.” But to achieve this in the twenty-first century, the United States must undertake “integrated deterrence.” This would mean not only “us[ing] existing capabilities, and build[ing] new ones, and us[ing] all of them in networked ways” but also doing so “hand in hand with our allies and partners.” A similar definition was then offered during an address in Singapore on July 27, 2021, where the Secretary of Defense described “integrated deterrence” as “using existing capabilities, and building new ones, and deploying them all in new and networked ways – all tailored to a region’s security landscape, and growing in partnership with our friends.”

Yet the exact content of this neologism and how it differed from the multitude of adjectival forms of deterrence that have punctuated U.S. defense strategy in recent decades remained a mystery that was not resolved until the administration’s almost simultaneous release of its National Defense Strategy (NDS) and National Security Strategy in October 2022. These documents, in combination with an examination of the administration’s approach to the war in Ukraine, provide a clearer picture of that “integrated deterrence” has less to do with the deterrence of immediate threats than with the dissuasion of adversaries using not primarily military instruments but diplomatic and economic ones and greater burden sharing with allies.

Read more at National Interest

Ongoing Geointel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.

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