Integrating deterrence across the gray — making it more than words

This article was co-authored by LTC Katie Crombe (’12) and appeared on

Much over the course of the past year has been said (and re-said) about “integrated deterrence.” From our point of view, deterrence is fundamentally about shaping adversary decision calculus which requires, inter alia, communication. Communication is about messaging and perceptions. Yet, in today’s discussions on integrated deterrence, we are losing sight of this important relationship. Integrating deterrence is not so much about developing the perfect strategy that incorporates allies or the interagency, and even less so about working across every military domain. This is nothing new. Instead, right now it is more about articulating what is missing — the political, cognitive, and irregular spaces of the gray zone where China, Russia, and Iran (among others) are actually advancing their interests. While we are not trailblazing a new idea here, it is important to revisit certain fundamentals. The gray zone was a side show during the counterterrorism era, and we cannot afford to let it fade another shade lighter now. The military must remain proactive in competition, and ready for crisis and conflict, not just one of them.