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Competing with China in the Grey Zone: An Operational Problem with a Theater Solution?

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[Technical Report, Research Paper]

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This paper highlights the need for an operational level response to grey zone activity at the theater level. It highlights the need to move past reactionary counter-grey zone actions and become proactive. It offers that this can be done by combining theater efforts into an integrated campaign and that this campaign will provide the theater commander opportunities to compete in the grey zone. These opportunities will come from theater-wide soft power targeting. Targeting will be achieved through deliberate campaigning, and it is recommended that this campaign is managed continuously. The recommendation to achieve this is a theater joint task force JTF, led by special operations. The JTF will manage the grey zone for the theater commander, the messaging designed to enhance effects and make recommendations for future operations. Additionally, this effort potentially nests with the soon-to-be-published National Defense Strategy concept of integrated deterrence. This argument is not designed to detract from the numerous shaping operations in the theater but rather to discuss how to optimize them to achieve additional effects across the broader spectrum of the competition continuum.

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[A, Approved For Public Release]