A previous post, Defense Futures: Why All of Our Scenarios Should Be Disruptive, I wrote about the need to have our long-term DoD scenarios be “disruptive.” In this context, disruptive scenarios should challenge core assumptions about the security environment and about how we are organized to provide it. As the earlier post points out, the last 70 years of American history demonstrate that any long-term thinking about the security environment – and our role in it – must challenge any assumptions that the 25 year future will be just like today (only smaller, faster, and more accurate).
Today’s post follows up with some examples of the types of scenarios – and the kind of disruptive futures thinking – that we need to forecast in order to do a much better job thinking critically about what the world may look like in the decades ahead. The layout presented in figure 1 presents these scenarios and introduces some of the approach needed in order to develop these types of forecasts.
The layout uses VFS’s own framework for plotting and assessing scenario forecasts in the context of uncertainty and possible futures. The four disruptive scenarios are plotted on the cone of uncertainty, along with three scenarios about nearer-term conflict in the South China Sea that represent intuitively obvious scenarios about what is currently top-of-mind. This framework was developed specifically to help assess how “challenging” scenario forecasts are to core institutional assumptions and to help foresight professionals with ensuring new forecasts sufficiently challenge assumptions about the status quo’s long-term prospects.
While not all of our foresight work needs to feature dramatic disruption, all of our long-term defense futures should be grounded in our own history of dramatic long-term changes and present decision makers with future contexts that require rethinking of roles, doctrines, and structures.