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Innovation key on the battlefield

Thomas Ricks at ASU talk: U.S. military like a Ferrari without a steering wheel.
Adaptation more important than might in war, Ricks told ASU crowd.
Pulitzer winner part of ASU Center on the Future of War Spring Speakers Series.
February 8, 2016

Pulitzer winner Thomas Ricks tells ASU crowd that U.S. needs to out-adapt the enemy to stay relevant, claim victory

Too much George Patton and not enough Steve Jobs.

Lack of innovation, rigid inflexibility instead of creative adaptivity and stubborn adherence to using past solutions for future problems are leaving the United States with a vulnerable military, said Thomas Ricks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist speaking at Arizona State University Monday night.

“The U.S. Army today is like a Ferrari without a steering wheel,” Ricks told a crowd at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “It’s really powerful and really fast, but it has no direction.”

Ricks, who spent more than 25 years between the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post covering the U.S. military, presented “Why I Fear We Will Lose Our Next Big War” during a free public lecture.

“We have a very large and powerful military,” Ricks said. “We spend a lot of money on it.”

He described “fighting hillbillies in Afghanistan who make our hillbillies look like George Clooney ... and they’re tying us in knots. Does that sound like the world’s most powerful military to you?”

Ricks described a conversation with then U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal. McChrystal talked about going around the country interviewing officers on the ground. They told him about their current operations. He asked them what they’d do differently if they knew they’d be there indefinitely instead of a few months. “Everything,” they told him, “But we’re just keeping a lid on it.”

A man speaks at a lectern in front of a large photo of military planes.

In his lecture "Why I Fear We Will Lose
Our Next Big War" Monday at the
Cronkite School, Thomas Ricks
compares the current U.S. military
to the British naval power
from the 1930s.

Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

In the Information Age, victory goes to the most adaptive, Ricks said.

“It’s not, ‘Do you have the most powerful military?’ ” he said. “It’s ‘Do you have the most relevant military?’ ... The dirty little secret of the past 15 years is that the enemy has adapted far more quickly than we have.”

ISIS sends out tweets immediately. The Pentagon convenes committees to study how to counter ISIS’ social-media strategy and then implements the findings a year later.

“We’ve been at war for 15 years now,” Ricks said. “What do we have to show for it?”

Creating adaptive leaders would be a start in the right direction, Ricks said. “We need leaders to think critically to go into ambiguous situations and figure out how to deal with those situations.”

Unfortunately, Ricks feels there will have to be a catastrophe unlike the country has ever seen before to effect change.

“We will need a wakeup call,” he said.

Daniel Rothenberg, co-director of the Center on the Future of War, introduced Ricks as “one of the country’s premier national-security journalists.”

Ricks is currently senior adviser for national security at the New America Foundation and a contributing editor of Foreign Policy magazine.

At the Washington Post, he was part of a reporting team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting for coverage on America’s war on terrorism. He also was part of a team at the Wall Street Journal that won the same award in 2000 for coverage of U.S. defense spending and military deployment in the post-Cold War era.

An aerial photo of a crowd listening to a speaker inside the Cronkite School.

More than 100 people listen as Thomas Ricks, an ASU Senior Future of War Fellow at New America, delivers the 2016 Paul J. Schatt Memorial Lecture on "Why I Fear We Will Lose Our Next Big War," at the Cronkite School on Monday. Ricks says the U.S. needs a relevant, adaptive military with stealthy, smaller naval vessels that send off stealth drones.

Ricks has reported on U.S. military activities around the globe and is the author of numerous books, including the New York Times best-seller and Pulitzer Prize finalist “Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq.” His most recent book is “The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today.”

This year’s Schatt Lecture also is part of ASU’s Center on the Future of War Spring Speakers Series and includes an introduction by Rothenberg, co-director of the center, which explores the social, political, economic and cultural implications of the changing nature of war and conflict. See the full list of speakers here.

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In PLuS Alliance, ASU tackles global challenges

In PLuS Alliance, ASU tackles global challenges
ASU joins King's College London, UNSW Australia to tackle sustainability, health
Tri-continental alliance to create suite of online learning programs for world
February 9, 2016

Tri-continental partnership will address global issues such as sustainability, social justice

LONDON — Arizona State University and two other major research institutions today formally launched the PLuS Alliance, a new tri-continental partnership to help find research-led solutions to global challenges and expand access to world-class learning.

ASU, King’s College London and the University of New South Wales in Australia are combining cutting-edge research capabilities, faculty expertise and student experience to address global issues related to sustainability, health, social justice, and technology and innovation. The research will be supported with a suite of related online learning programs.

At a ceremony in London this morning, ASU President Michael M. Crow said that the complex social and cultural transformations unfolding as the world’s population continues to grow present challenges that out-scale the capacity of any single institution to address. The combined powers of the PLuS Alliance will focus on potential solutions in a pair of critical areas.

“There are two essential, core things that need to be advanced at the largest scale possible, with the deepest impact possible,” Crow said. “And those are educational attainment and sustainable outcomes. And those two things together sit at the core of this alliance.”

Some 150 guests from the three universities as well as higher-education and other nongovernmental groups attended the ceremony held at Bush House on the Strand campus at King’s, an historic building that in the previous century was home to the BBC World Service.

Joining Crow at the event were ASU Executive Vice President and Provost Mark Searle, Executive Vice President and Chief Research Innovation Officer Sethuraman Panchanathan, and Philip Regier, the CEO of EdPlus at ASU, which is developing the online platform that will host PLuS Alliance courses. More than 20 degree programs will be available through the alliance beginning in September 2016, including bachelor’s degrees in sustainability, global health, and business and global logistics management; as well as master’s degrees in the Science of Healthcare Delivery and Infectious Diseases Intelligence and Sustainability.

To spur research collaboration, the presidents of the alliance institutions named more than 60 jointly appointed faculty members — a number that is expected to grow to more than 100. The launch was preceded by a research symposium designed to identify project priorities, which was attended by several representatives of the ASU faculty who will be named PLuS Alliance Fellows, including Gary DirksDirks is also: Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; Julie A. Wrigley Chair, Practice of Sustainable Energy Systems, School of Sustainability; Director, LightWorks; Affiliated Faculty, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, director of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; David GustonGuston is also: Senior Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; Co-Director and Professor, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Professor, School of Politics and Global Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Director, Center for Nanotechnology in Society; Co-Leader, Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation; Affiliated Faculty, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, director of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society; Michael HannemanHanneman is also: Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; Julie A. Wrigley Chair in Sustainability, School of Sustainability; Professor, School of Sustainability; Member, National Academy of Sciences, director of the Center for Environmental Economics and Sustainability Policy; Elizabeth WentzWentz is also: Senior Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; Professor, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Executive Committee, Decision Center for a Desert City, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; Affiliate, GeoDa Center for Geospatial Analysis and Computation; Affiliated Faculty, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, dean of the social sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Barry BozemanBozeman official title: Ander Crenshaw Professor of Public Policy and Regents' Professor of Public Policy, Department of Public Administration, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia, Regents' Professor of public policy and a faculty member at the School of Public Affairs in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“This partnership represents both a significant commitment and unique opportunity to create impactful solutions for a sustainable future. The PLuS Alliance will bring together some of the best minds on the planet and tackle many of the big questions facing our societies today, which would simply not be possible for one institution working alone,” said professor Edward Byrne, president and principal of King’s College London, which has been ranked among the top 20 universities in the world. King’s has a distinguished reputation in the humanities, health, medicine and law. Its research has helped shaped modern life from the discovery of DNA structure to development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar technology.

A photograph of (from left) Ian Jacobs of UNSW Australia, ASU President Michael Crow and Edward Byrne of King's College London, and

The leaders of the PLuS Alliance (from left): professor Ian Jacobs, president and vice chancellor, UNSW Australia; Michael M. Crow, president of ASU; and professor Edward Byrne, president and principal of King’s College London. Above, Bryne, Crow and Jacobs with moderator Emily Buchanan of the BBC.

UNSW Australia is a recognized leader in innovation, focusing on areas critical to the future from climate change, renewable technologies and sustainable cities to business, public health and human rights. Its solar-cell engineers hold world records for converting sunlight into electricity; and its quantum physicists are leading the race to build the world’s first quantum computer in silicon.

“The PLuS Alliance brings together three world-leading universities that share an ambition to improve lives by working together on ambitious educational and research initiatives. Our combined scale, international reach and expertise will enable us to deliver innovative solutions to grand challenges, which are beyond the scope of our individual organizations," said professor Ian Jacobs, president and vice chancellor, UNSW Australia.

ASU is home to the United States’ first degree-granting School of Sustainability and has an impressive track record in innovation and science, having been named the “Most Innovative University” by U.S. News and World Report in 2015. ASU is also renowned for its innovations in online education and making higher education accessible to more people around the world.

“One of the critical components of the PLuS Alliance is being accessible to learners around the world,” said Regier, CEO of EdPlus, which manages ASU Online and other ASU digital learning programs. “We’re always searching for new and better ways to get education to those who need and want it. The PLuS Alliance will give students the opportunity to travel the world and engage across cultures, but it will also give students in nations without sufficient post-secondary education opportunities to learn globally from one of these top research institutions.”