The Parabolic Curve: Creating Operational Agility in the Third Offset Strategy

The “third offset strategy” is viewed as the third chapter of a long running United States defense policy, an evolution driven by a requirement to “offset” current and future threat capabilities in an increasingly complex and constrained environment. Unfortunately, the rhetoric of this strategy has seemingly outpaced content to support its goals. The US Air Force’s Strategic Master Plan and Future Operating Concepts, for example, provide a broad vector and vision, but lack actionable substance.

In this paper, the author outlines what he coins “the parabolic curve,” which seeks to reform the current construct of the US Air Force to regain the erosion of airpower’s advantages. Based on a few key principles, this approach provides a course-correction strategy that transcends the current linear long-term acquisition and sustainment of equipment, while simultaneously growing a more agile US defense industrial base.

To maintain this enduring strategic agility in both equipping and operations, the author advocates the introduction of the business “S-curve model.” Applied in both acquisition and tactical development, this curve construct encapsulates critical thinking that will maintain a smaller and shorter OODA-loop, which is required to sustain the third offset strategy into the future.

Finally, this paper argues that cognitive transformation is required to succeed in any of the proposed endeavors, by challenging the partition of functional command of cross-functional platforms and recommends adopting concurrent tactical and doctrinal development for the force to remain viable.

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