The authors acknowledge that each engagement is unique and that no single metric could ever fully account for the complexities of war. However, in order to make informed decisions with the goal of improving the lethality of its force, the United States needs to at least attempt to develop a rudimentary lethality metric that could be applied to comparatively analyze the impact of policies, equipment, operations, tactics and training.
U.S. policymakers and military strategists have been too slow to appreciate the changes going on around them. If the defense establishment fixates on building a more lethal force at the expense of investment in emerging areas of military competition, it will fail in these new domains, perhaps catastrophically.
Left undefined, lethality risks the fate of many insufficiently elucidated but well-meaning concepts. It is imperative the concept is properly understood, otherwise the word will saturate PowerPoint slides bereft of insight. Given the theoretical grounding it deserves, lethality provides incisive structure. It forms the backbone and guiding intent underwriting the litany of defense actions, processes, and programs: from doctrine, organization, training, and materials to leadership, education, personnel, and facilities. Understood tactically, organizationally, and strategically, lethality hones a latent ethos. Word choice matters, which is the point. The National Defense Strategy is a well-informed and insightful guiding document, but lethality deserves unpacking.