OP-ED: Senators Kelly and Graham Press DOD to Execute Vision of McCain Irregular Warfare Center 

In case you missed it, today, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly, a Navy combat veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) penned an opinion column in Defense One pressing the Department of Defense to execute the critical vision for the John S. McCain III Center for Security Studies in Irregular Warfare.   

Kelly and Graham emphasized the national security threats posed by the unique nature of irregular warfare and urged the DOD to follow Congress’s intent to establish the Center as an independent source of knowledge which can draw on universities, scholars, and civilian experts to improve national defense strategies.   

In 2021, Congress authorized the creation of the Center to explore new forms of irregular warfare being weaponized by hostile foreign powers, including Iran, China, and Russia and inform the U.S. strategy to counter these. However, today, the Center operates as a provisional office within the Department of Defense, undermining its intended purpose. 

Read key excerpts from Kelly and Graham’s op-ed below: 

On the urgency of better understanding irregular warfare:  

John [McCain] recognized a reality that now stares us all in the face, that in order to outcompete our adversaries in the 21st century, it’s not enough to just have more and better missiles, ships, and aircraft. We must also compete before the war, in the gray zone of irregular warfare. We all talk a lot about great power competition, but the practical details of what that means and how we engage in it are less understood. […]  

On the threat of irregular warfare: 

 […] Often without a shot fired, our adversaries are trying to build their influence in a way that can displace our own critical relationships around the globe and put our troops at a disadvantage if a conflict ever came to pass.  

How we understand cultures, use information, and shape relationships in competitive spaces is critical to achieving our national security goals against these adversaries, without starting a war. […]  

On the vision for the McCain Irregular Warfare Center 

[…] The vision was a center that would synthesize our recent learnings on irregular warfare and improve upon them as a whole-of-society effort. 

To accomplish this, the center would draw upon critical national expertise in our civilian universities, non-defense agencies, and our partners and allies around the world. 

The point is not to have another think tank that publishes high-minded reports no one reads. The McCain Irregular Warfare Center will synthesize learnings across a vast network of partners and build them back into our own defense policy to our military’s advantage. […] 

Read Kelly and Graham’s full op-ed here.