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The Kill Chain: An Interview with Christian Brose

May 26, 2020

Speakers:

Christian Brose, Chief Strategy Officer, Anduril Industries

Mara Karlin, Associate Professor of the Practice; Director, Strategic Studies Program; Executive Director, The Merrill Center for Strategic Studies

Professor Mara Karlin was joined by Johns Hopkins SAIS Alumnus Christian Brose ’13 for a discussion on his new book, “The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare.” The book explores America’s preparedness for future risks and examines potential existential risks. Brose argues in the book that America must build a battle network of systems that enables human operators to rapidly understand threats, make decisions, and take military actions, the process known as “the kill chain.”

Juxtaposing with China, Brose discussed the strategies America has adopted to build its military. He noted that unlike China, the United States has a system that is geared towards addressing the needs of the present. This is also compounded by the focus on current operations and a mindset that the future can always wait. Brose’s analysis points towards an American military that became comfortable in its dominance leading to a state of inertia that has led to the ignorance of interesting emerging technologies.

Karlin questioned whether it was fair to critique this mindset considering the significant resources necessary for the numerous military operations. In response, Brose argued that it is a myth that most of the military’s budget in the past twenty or so years has been allocated to operations like defeating Al-Qaeda. He noted that an eyewatering amount of money has been spent on capital intensive projects to modernize the military. However, he stated that many projects did not come to fruition and the problem is how the money for modernization efforts have been spent.

Despite these issues, Brose believes that there is an avenue for change. He mentioned that America is still blessed with the technology and financial resources that will be key to transforming the military. He specified that we need to change the way the system operates and the incentives that govern it. Hence, we need to imagine the costs of not changing versus the costs of changing.