New Report Offers Proposals for Dominating Techno-Cognitive Confrontation

The Center for New American Security (CNAS) released a report in late May 2021 urging the U.S. Department of Defense to adopt a strategy of “degradation dominance” to maintain advantage in the techno-cognitive confrontation against China and Russia. In “More than Half the Battle: Information and Command in a New American Way of War,” author Chris Dougherty notes that the character of war has changed in the Great Power Competition, which requires the U.S. military to also change its approach to information dominance.

“Instead of striving for information dominance, the DoD should seek “degradation dominance” as a way of achieving an advantage in the techno-cognitive confrontation with China and Russia. This notion attacks their theory of victory by demonstrating the ability to operate effectively enough with degraded systems in contested environments, while imposing proportional degradation on Chinese and Russian systems, thereby causing them to lose confidence in their ability to gain an insuperable advantage in the techno-cognitive confrontation.”

The report recommends four mutually reinforcing lines of effort to achieve this:

  1. Force them into dilemmas about expanding or escalating a conflict by exploiting tensions between their
    limited-war strategies and their operational imperative to attack information and command systems aggressively.
  2. Level the playing field in the “peacetime” information environment.
  3. Achieve degradation dominance in the techno-cognitive confrontation in space, cyberspace, and the
    electromagnetic spectrum.
  4. Organize and train for degraded and disrupted multi-domain operations.

We see movement toward these approaches, such as the recent IW exercises and training programs of the 16th Air Force (see our IPA blog post here). Dougherty notes, however, this type of paradigm shift can be daunting for the Department of Defense and may take time to achieve across the enterprise.

Download the full CNAS report here.