“Necessity is the mother of invention.” The phrase is well known. Yet the implication of forces outside our control impelling us to be creative is not popular or comfortable. But when it does happen, the results can be paradigm-shifting. The world has been changed by people needing to be creative under pressure. For the Department of Defense (DoD), growing risks and budgetary constraints are producing just such pressure. For the next shift in tactics, strategy, and systems, the DoD needs to be allowed, and to allow itself, creativity. Otherwise, it will revert to stale solutions that cannot solve the problems it faces.

Under current pressures, the U.S. military is already having to make adjustments. Budget constraints for the Army have forced it to reconsider its helicopter procurements, upgrades, and strategies. This has translated in the rebuilding of the Army’s heavy attack reconnaissance squadrons. The new squadrons will mix the manned (Apache helicopters) systems with unmanned (Grey Eagle drones) systems – a first for the U.S. military. There is still budgetary math to work out, but the Army will be reducing the number of Blackhawks it operates to offset the costs.

While the capabilities of these manned-unmanned squadrons is yet to be determined, the integration of the two types of weapons systems is a prime example of creativity in action. And it is budgetary constraints that have pushed the Army out of its comfort zone to adopt the new arrangement. While the Army may have integrated these systems at some point in the future, budget reductions produced incentives to do so. The service wanted to maintain the Apache helicopter within its force, and decided that it could change how it operates its units to do so. The results still need to be determined, but it is that spirit of experimentation that will be needed in addressing the other threats and risks the U.S. military sees around the world today.

The problems the U.S. military faces today are because the strategies, tactics, and weapons of the past are no longer sufficient. Pouring more money into the past will not provide the solutions. Today’s combination of relative budget constraints, threats, and risks, provides an opportunity for the DoD to make the next jump in military evolution. But that will only happen if the jump feels necessary. Otherwise, the Pentagon might risk remaining stuck in its comfort zone.