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This Perspective defines, evaluates, and derives key requirements for defense programs from the concept of integrated deterrence, which was introduced in the 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS). It includes a review of several fundamental aspects of deterrence theory, distinctions among various types of deterrence as well as between the insights from two discrete subtypes, cross-domain and tailored deterrence.

Classic deterrence theory offers two other insights. First, nations practicing deterrence can go too far in their posturing, threats, and deployment of military forces, which has the effect of provocation rather that prevention. Second, deterrence is a perceptual challenge and thus is not easily reducible to measurable indicators. It can be difficult to identify effects of specific actions on potential aggressor motivations or mindset. At a time of growing revisionist intent by potential aggressors and in an era when warfighting success is more and more dependent on networks of information and command and control, the United States can best reinforce deterrence by better aligning its various instruments of power and through closer integration with allies and partners. The objective is to generate synergies that offer added potential for the deterrent effect.

The authors of this Perspective find that the United States can gain significant deterrent and warfighting value from improved integration, especially coordination across services, throughout the wider U.S. government, and with allies and partners. They also offer guideposts for U.S. defense planners aiming to align their priorities to the NDS, and specifically to its core idea of integrated deterrence.

This work was sponsored by U.S. Defense Department Office of Global Partnerships and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

This commentary is part of the RAND expert insight series. RAND Expert Insights present perspectives on timely policy issues. All RAND Expert Insights undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

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