Over the past several decades, the Department of Defense (DoD) primarily focused on power projection abroad under the assumption that the U.S. homeland was immune to any serious non- nuclear attack(s). That assumption has now been called into question by the 2018 National Defense Strategy Summary, which states, “It is now undeniable that the homeland is no longer a sanctuary.” Our competitors have become more aggressive and are developing power projection capabilities of their own, coupled with cyber offensive and exploitation operations. In spite of the awareness raised by the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS), the Task Force found that the DoD is currently ill-prepared to deter and defend against these threats to the homeland.
The Task Force was charged with examining threats to the homeland from adversary nations as well as non-state actors across all warfighting domains. Specific areas of investigation included:
- Assessing threats to the homeland and its most vulnerable targets;
- DoD’s posture in its homeland defense mission;
- DoD’s ability to prosecute an overseas contingency if critical infrastructure and military targets based in the homeland are threatened or attacked; and
- Shortfalls and improvements in warning, detection, tracking, and interdiction capabilities against emerging kinetic threats to the nation.
Since WWII the United States has been fortunate not to have faced serious conventional threats to the homeland, but that luck is running out. Attacks against the homeland will most certainly include those on infrastructure and facilities whose loss will impede force projection abroad. Current air and maritime defense capabilities will be seriously challenged against emerging adversary capabilities.
Attacks on the electric grid or Defense Critical Infrastructure – both kinetic and digital – could slow down or stall the movement of U.S. forces in other theaters. Neglecting the defense of the homeland is no longer a luxury that the United States can afford. The DoD must recognize the primacy of its homeland defense mission and respond with a concerted effort to ensure it can fulfill its homeland defense responsibilities.
The recommendations of this Task Force provide DoD with the building blocks for doing so by:
- Creating a comprehensive and integrated picture of threats to the homeland;
- Ensuring that NORAD-USNORTHCOM’s initiatives to transition to a warfighting command are supported;
- Partnering with the interagency and private sector owners to ensure the resiliency of infrastructure critical to national security; and
- Addressing air and maritime defense.
Without a well-protected homeland, the United States will struggle to deter great power competitors and defeat peer adversaries. It is imperative that the DoD address the recommendations provided by this Task Force quickly and with the seriousness of purpose that they deserve.