Strategy, scenarios, and the global shift in defense power
The art of strategy, in defense as elsewhere, involves understanding possible futures to inform present decisions. Change, volatility, and uncertainty are perennial challenges to the defense strategist and are likely to increase in the coming years. Formulating strategy in these conditions will test planners in the public and private sectors alike.
To succeed, decision makers should look behind the headlines of the day to ask the right questions about what will affect their organization in the future. This requires considering the deeper underlying trends that will reshape the strategic landscape in the years ahead. Foremost among them is the shift in global economic power. Although often commented upon by economists and pundits, many strategists focused on defense issues have not fully internalized this historic shift and its implications.
Here we offer a perspective on how strategists in defense organizations and aerospace and defense companies should approach this challenge. First, we describe how the profound shift in economic power since the end of the Cold War has already reshaped the world’s strategic landscape, including the distribution of global defense spending. The potential evolution of these economic dynamics is fundamental to strategy. Predicting their future is, of course, impossible. Instead, we offer something more modest and practical: a new approach to scenario planning that is rooted in a deep understanding of global economics. Such an understanding reveals the potential for unexpected scale and pace in the shift of defense spending from the United States and its treaty allies1 1.Nations with which the United States has signed a collective-defense arrangement (state.gov). to emerging economies.
ORBIS is powered by ESPAS, the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System, a unique inter-institutional project aimed at strengthening the EU's efforts in the crucial area of forward planning. ESPAS brings together the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Secretariat General of the Council of the European Union and the European External Action Service to strengthen the Union's collective administrative capacity to identify and analyse the key trends and challenges, and the resulting policy choices, which are likely to confront Europe and the wider world in the decades ahead.