Envisioning the Third Offset – Essay Contest

Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare project held an essay competition titled: Envisioning the Third Offset: The Future of the American Way of War. The winners were announced at the 2016 Global Strategy Forum: America’s Role in a Changing World which took place May 2 – 3, 2016. Project Director and Nonresident Senior Fellow August Cole announced the competition winner, interviewed Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, and presented the Secretary with twenty of the essays.

The Art of the Future Warfare project was created to stimulate warfighters and policy makers imaginations with works of fiction and art.

The Art of the Future on YouTube

In November 2014, the Department of Defense announced the Third Offset Strategy as a means to gain overwhelming advantage in future wars. The Third offset consists of human–computer collaboration to meld human reasoning with computing power to enhance space, air, sea, undersea, ground, and cyber operations. The first offset was based on nuclear weapons and the second offset employed precision guided munitions and stealth technology.

The Third Offset Strategy has five components: Autonomous Learning Systems (e.g., new signals acquisition, analysis, and attack in real or near real-time), Human-Machine Collaboration (e.g., automated executive able to accelerate human’s observe-orient-decide-act loop), Assisted Human Operations (e.g., exoskeletons), Manned-Unmanned Combat Teaming (e.g., swarming drones assisting manned planes), Hardened and Network-Enabled Autonomous Weapons (e.g., automating diversity and encryption to secure battle networks in denied environments.)

Our entry, Envisioning the Third Offset — Conflict in the South China Sea did not win. We suspect it was because it was too much like a fictionalized Concept of Operations rather than the literature other contestants submitted. Their work is available on the site. Our entry will be posted shortly.