Joseph DeFranco is a J-5 Donovan Group Fellow in Biowarfare and Biosecurity, at USSOCOM. He is currently studying neuroscience in the college of arts and sciences, and biodefense at the Schar School of Policy and Government of George Mason University, VA, and formerly served on the staff of Congressman Donald S. Beyer (VA-08). His current research focuses upon the possible use of novel microbiological agents and big data as force-multiplying elements in non-kinetic, hybrid, and kinetic engagements, and the role of global agencies in biosecurity.
Over the past decade, China’s increasing activities in media and industrial acquisition, soft power messaging, development, and exploitation of international laws has made it starkly apparent that the U.S. is engaged in an innovative form of multi-dimensional competition. China’s commitment to the scientific and technological (S&T) enterprises as specific components of current and future Five-Year Plans emphasize an increasing reliance on—and investment in—convergent S&T approaches (e.g., cyber, nano, media, and economic) to effect dominance on the world stage. This use of multiple technological pathways, coupled with pre-bellicose, non-kinetic actions and subtle yet potent influence operations demonstrates a strategic paradigm to threaten, if not suppress, U.S. global power. During 2018, the Department of Defense (DoD) pressed forward on garnering both internal and external expertise to increase technology-focused efforts necessary to inform policy, acquisitions, and security strategy. Over the past four years, the authors were tasked by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Donovan Group and the SOFWERX Innovation Center at United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) with studying the use and advantages of current and emerging technologies (ETs) by near-peer adversaries. Toward that end, an exploration of these non-kinetic, technology-enabled engagements was conducted by the group to best define the current evolution in tactics and strategy challenging U.S. national security.