Press Release

APL Leaders Appointed to Defense Task Force on the Future of U.S. Military Superiority

Three members of the executive leadership team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory — Christine Fox, Dave Van Wie and Christopher Watkins — have been named to the Defense Science Board’s 2019 Summer Study on the Future of U.S. Military Superiority.

The Defense Science Board is a committee of civilian experts appointed to advise the U.S. Department of Defense on scientific and technical matters; APL Director Ralph Semmel is a member of that body. The study on the Future of U.S. Military Superiority was commissioned to develop creative ways to achieve national defense strategy objectives.

“The U.S. does not enjoy the same historical military superiority over potential adversaries,” Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin noted in a memorandum commissioning the study. “Technological parity, nuclear weapon proliferation, and successful gray zone operations coupled with expected home field advantages of potential adversaries serve as effective deterrents and complicate our decision-making as we attempt to coerce others to achieve our national goals.”

To that end, the task force will explore:

  • Using technological advantages in novel ways to influence or disrupt adversary decision-making;
  • Better understanding individual states’ key values and interests;
  • Countering adversary influence and information operations (including false narratives); and
  • Leveraging U.S. financial, economic and commercial power to respond to commensurate adversary actions.

Griffin said the task force will also examine “the full spectrum of national capabilities to manage escalation and deter adversary aggression,” a plan well suited to the skills and expertise of the APL appointees.

Fox, APL’s assistant director for policy and analysis, has led strategy exercises to address challenges related to national security policy and decision-making at the highest levels of government. She served as acting deputy secretary of defense from December 2013 to May 2014; she is also a former program director within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where she oversaw reviews of defense operations, budget, and technology investments.

Van Wie is head of APL’s Air and Missile Defense Sector and one of the nation’s foremost experts on hypersonics. He has published more than 140 papers on high-temperature fluid dynamics, plasma aerodynamics and hypersonic air-breathing propulsion systems. He has also played key roles on major studies conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, and the Defense Science Board.

Watkins is APL’s Sea Control mission area executive and manages the Unconventional Littoral Warfare Program Area. An expert in remote sensing, he has also served as the assistant to the technical director for the Silent Hammer Limited Objective Experiment, which assessed capabilities for a new class of submarines in fighting terrorism. He was selected as a National Reconnaissance Office Technology Fellow in 2005 and has significant experience working within the intelligence community.

A final report is expected to be released in 2020.