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Appendix A

Thoughts on Rapid Dominance

by Admiral Bud Edney, USN (Ret.)

Why the need for a concept of Rapid Dominance? The answer lies in the combined realities of modern technology, economics, and politics.


The evolution or revolution of information technology is impacting everything we do and how we do it on a worldwide basis. The far-reaching effects of the resulting information highway that crosses all boundaries are already impacting the strategic decisions, economics, and politics of the world of nation states. Borders are no defense for the penetration of information even in highly controlled or authoritarian societies. Similarly, the exploration and use of high technology in space, together with the advent of sophisticated highly accurate ballistic and cruise missiles, means borders between states are not as important for strategic and impenetrable defenses in depth as they used to be. The rapid advancements in telecommunications technology, combined with the exploration and use of space vehicles to saturate a world hungry for information, means that leaders can no longer shield their people from the outside world. Thus information will penetrate whatever curtain or wall that is erected in a futile attempt to block it out. New centers of gravity are being created as are new vulnerability choke points. The country or power structure that harnesses the capabilities and dimensions of the information revolution as it applies to issues of national security will remain in control of its own destiny. The United States possesses a qualitative and quantitative lead that, when combined with a properly focused and coordinated (harmonized) industry, defense, and national security policy, should ensure success for the foreseeable future. Harnessing information technology and applying it to new strategic and doctrinal thought in application of military force is the essence of Rapid Dominance.


With the end of the Cold War and the dismantling of the Soviet Union, there is no major power capable of destroying the U.S. mainland. Given this absence of devastating threat, defense expenditures will continue to be squeezed to address more pressing domestic priorities. Voter demands for a balanced budget, national health care, social security reform, educational reform, family values, crime and drug use reduction, lower taxes, etc., will combine to put increasing pressure on the defense bottom line in the out years. The result will be a steady decline in war fighting readiness and force structure that will place our security interests at risk unless we leverage our technology leadership to achieve military advantage with lower force levels but increased war fighting effectiveness. This is also the essence of Rapid Dominance.


The reality of current politics is that the trauma of Vietnam, the results of the Gulf War, and our status as the only remaining superpower after the Cold War equate to some new constraints (real or perceived) on the application of military force to support our foreign policy. These political sensitivities need to be understood up front and include the following:

  • The U.S. is not the world's policeman
  • Involvement of U.S. Forces must be justified as essential to vital U.S. security interests
  • Support of Congress and People is a necessary prerequisite
  • Avoid commitment of ground forces
  • Offer instead U.S. intelligence, air lift, sea lift, logistics support, etc.
  • Avoid risk of loss of U.S. lives at almost all costs
  • Ensure decisive force applied for mission assigned
  • Rules of Engagement allow U.S. forces to defend themselves aggressively
  • Minimize civilian casualties, loss of life, and collateral damage
  • Specify achievable mission objectives up front with an end in the not-too-distant future sight before committing
  • U.S. led coalition force preferred—U.S. Forces remain under U.S. Command. These political restraints may limit the application of Rapid Dominance to Major and Minor Regional Conflicts. This is an issue that needs further exploration and analysis.

What is Rapid Dominance?

Rapid Dominance is the full use of capabilities within a system of systems that can decisively impact events requiring the application of military/defense resources through affecting the adversary's will. Rapid Dominance envisions execution in real or near real time to counter actions or intentions deemed detrimental to U.S. interests. On one end of the spectrum, Rapid Dominance would introduce a regime of Shock and Awe in areas of high value to the threatening individual, group, or state. In many cases the prior knowledge of credible U.S. Rapid Dominance capabilities would act as a deterrent. Rapid Dominance would ensure favorable early resolution of issues at minimal loss of lives and collateral damage. The concept ideally should be able to impact adversarial situations that apply across the board, addressing high-, mid-, low-, and no-technology threats. Some of these aims may not be achievable given the political and technology constraints, but need to be explored.

Rapid Dominance expands the art of joint combined arms war fighting capabilities to a new level. Rapid Dominance requires a sophisticated, interconnected, and interoperable grid of netted intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, communications systems, and data analysis to deliver in real time, actionable information to the shooter. This network must provide total situational awareness and nodal analysis that enables U.S. forces to act inside the adversary's decision loop in a manner that on the high end produces Shock and Awe among the threat parties. Properly detailed nodal analysis of this grid of knowledge and vulnerability will enable the shutting down of specific or all essential functions nearly simultaneously. We expect that through these netted pieces of data, often, the sum of the parts will yield profound battlefield advantages to the possessor. The "Rapid" part of the equation becomes the ability to get real time actionable targeting information to the shooter, whether the shooter is a tank division, an individual tank, an artillery battery, an individual rifleman, a naval battle group, an individual ship, an air wing/squadron, or an aircraft in flight. At whatever unit level, Shock and Awe are magnified by the speed and effectiveness of targeting. The ability to achieve Rapid Dominance simultaneously throughout the battlefield will create strategic Shock and Awe on the opposing forces, their leadership, and society. When the video results of these attacks are broadcast real time worldwide on CNN, the positive impact on coalition support and negative impact on potential threat support can be decisive.

The top priority of Rapid Dominance should be to deter, alter, or affect those actions that are either unacceptable to U.S. national security interests or endanger the democratic community of states and access to free markets. These political objectives are generally those envisioned in the major and lesser regional conflict scenarios (MRC & LRC). Should deterrence fail, the application of Rapid Dominance should create sufficient Shock and Awe to intimidate the enemy forces and leadership as well as provide a clear message for other potential aggressors. Rapid Dominance would not be limited to MRC and LRC scenarios. It has application in a variety of areas, including countering WMD, terrorism, and other political problems. The challenge is that should deterrence fail, the execution of a response based on Rapid Dominance must be proportional to the threat yet decisive enough to convey the appropriate degree of Shock and Awe. Rapid Dominance cannot solve all or even most of the world's problems. It initially appears that Rapid Dominance should be applied sparingly for egregious threats or violations of international law, such as:

  • Blatant aggression involving a large state crushing a small state
  • Rogue leader/state sponsored terrorism/use of WMD
  • Egregious violations of human rights on a large scale
  • Threat to essential world markets

Clearly the Information Highway is crossing all sovereign borders and penetrating even the most closed societies. The inequities and benefits in closed societies are becoming known to both the public as well as the bosses. The requirement for Rapid Dominance to develop sophisticated capabilities to penetrate the Information Highway and create road blocks as well as control input/outputs to the highway both overtly and covertly is fundamental to the concept.

These same techniques also apply to law enforcement agencies targeting international crime and drug cartels using the highway. Closer interagency cooperation and coordination between military and law enforcement activities and capabilities must be established. Experience with the military involvement in the drug war revealed considerable cultural differences between these organizations. Overcoming these cultural differences is not easy. The required trust and confidence for sharing sensitive information and support between these agencies and the military needs to be developed further. Interagency coordination and cooperation must be raised to a new level of sophistication. Some laws may need to be changed. War in Cyberspace does not recognize domestic versus foreign boundaries. In this environment the subjects of Information Warfare and Information In Warfare take on new meaning and require focused development. We must become proficient within this environment.

This breakdown of traditional boundaries requires a great deal more thought with regard to the issues of security, vulnerabilities (their's and our's), and the concept of Rapid Dominance. Does Rapid Dominance apply only or mostly to the high end of the spectrum, involving more traditional applications of force to achieve political objectives as envisioned in the MRC and LRC scenarios? Yet to be explored is the degree to which a concept of Rapid Dominance applies to OOTW, countering terrorism against U.S. interests, controlling rogue states/leaders, etc. What are the political and military prerequisites to apply Rapid Dominance? Are they applicable and realistically achievable in the increasingly complex interaction of national governments/law enforcement organizations and international as well as local private venture or non-government organizations (PVOs/NGOs) present worldwide to provide health and humanitarian care to refugees and other disenfranchised people? Would the concept of Rapid Dominance offend and generate a counterproductive public relations backlash from those who believe force should only be used as a last resort and then with a measurable degree of proportionality?

At this point, one can only raise these types of issues to be addressed at a later date. This line of questions, concerns, and issues, as well as a host of others, needs to be raised up front during the concept development phase of the development of specific Mission Capability Package concepts. We must be careful that we do not overvisualize Rapid Dominance versus the reality of credible/affordable capabilities to execute the concept. Rapid Dominance does not eliminate the fog of war. Decisions will still be made on the leader's judgment and confidence in the intelligence provided, the estimate of threat intentions, knowledge of true center of gravity targets, and confidence in our own force capabilities to inflict Shock and Awe. In fact, the ability to penetrate this fog is the key to Rapid Dominance. Complicating the issue is the fact that the U.S. has not clearly defined its role in the post-Cold War era. As the world's only credible superpower, the U.S. can not avoid a leadership role, but neither can it avoid the focused criticism applied to all leaders. We are in the classical "damned if we do and damned if we don't" syndrome. One of the serious side effects of Rapid Dominance could be that if you adapt a strategy of Rapid Dominance and succeed, you may now own the problem and be responsible for the solution. Do we know the funding tail to such a policy and are we as a nation ready to accept this cost when/if Rapid Dominance is applied in situations that are less than of vital interest? This subject needs further development beyond the limitations of this book.

Rapid Dominance and The Future Battlefield

What will the battlefield of the future really look like? The Desert Storm conflict indicated to many who analyzed it that the real focus of battle will no longer be force on force as we have traditionally considered it. By the time the Allied Forces engaged the opposing Iraq forces, the enemy force for all practical purposes had already been demoralized and smashed. This was accomplished by establishing air superiority followed by a carefully orchestrated campaign of precision air strikes (including Tomahawk missiles). The Iraqi ground forces were isolated by cutting off logistic support, severing communications with its leadership, and stinging them with the Shock and Awe achieved by B-52 strikes on the entrenched Iraqi forces in the open desert. Shock and awe were introduced in the manner that stealth aircraft penetrated enemy air defenses and surgically attacked center of gravity targets with impunity. Shock and awe were also present in the degree that coalition forces owned the night and could rapidly maneuver large units in terrain thought to be foreign, imposing, and unforgiving for the predominantly U.S. forces. Instead, as Colin Powell noted, the Coalition Forces cut off the head and life lines to the Iraqi Army in the field and then set about killing it. The fact that a democratically led coalition could choose not to massacre the remnants of Iraq's army during its panic-induced retreat underscores that we knew how much power we had and could employ restraint. The impact of real-time video media coverage of these events, beamed simultaneously into government headquarters and civilian living rooms worldwide, is a phenomenon that impacted events on the battlefield and further highlighted the compassion of that decision. In dealing with a "butcher" we could not fall to that level.

The battlefield of the future will not be a neat 200x200 mile box where you will know everything that is going on inside the box (although that would be an extremely helpful first step). The battlefield of the future will encompass every pressure point that controls or influences the elements of the battle. In examining this battlefield and the application of force and Shock and Awe, we seek to mass devastatingly accurate and simultaneous firepower on critical nodes/targets that count for the mission at hand, rather than necessarily having to mass large armies in the field to engage one another. Clearly, the Gulf War raised warfare to a new level with the demonstrated effectiveness and application of air to ground/water and surface to ground/water launched precision guided weapons. No longer will commanders count sorties and tonnage of ordnance dropped, but rather targets destroyed per sortie! Note: there may well be an issue of affordability here. We may not be able to get 1) high tech, 2) MRC/OOTW, and 3) large armies. This does not eliminate the requirement for sufficient force in the field to defend against an all-out assault or eject another force and occupy the contested land to ensure the objectives of conflict are carried out. Air power can punish, simultaneously destroy center of gravity targets, and so demoralize the opposing forces that land campaign objectives can be achieved with smaller forces. In some cases, the Shock and Awe achieved by the air campaign may result in an early cessation of conflict before the land campaign is necessary. This is more likely against a modernized, developed state than an underdeveloped government.

The confluence of several technologies, including all aspects of stealth aircraft, satellite global positioning, improved weapon targeting and terminal guidance, cruise missile technology, space relayed command & control, real-time surveillance from space, the introduction of JSTARS, and massive application of night vision techniques, are the first phase of these changes. With elements of this technology now more and more on the open market to whomever has the cash or friends, the advantage of obtaining greater situational awareness and real-time processing of available data cannot be taken for granted.

In future environments, and short of all-out war, it is clear that political and military decision making will have to establish close control of the actionable information distributed to shooters in the field. It is legitimate to ask why Israeli forces that had air superiority, UAV surveillance, and extremely accurate firepower capabilities in the most recent incursion into Southern Lebanon against Hezbolla terrorist attacks had to respond with an artillery barrage to one Kaytusha rocket fired from close to a known UN encampment. When this artillery response resulted in killing more than 100 refugees fleeing the Israeli operation, the result was a public relations disaster and mission failure for the stated limited Israeli objectives. This represents a case of ill-conceived application of Rapid Dominance that resulted in counter-productive Shock and Awe generating adverse public opinion focused against Israel. This was also a case of applying high technology and state controlled Rapid Dominance against a low-technology guerrilla warfare force. Clearly the Hezbolla appeared to win more than they lost in this exchange. The lessons learned from this tragic incident as well as the applicability of Rapid Dominance techniques in this environment need further study. The massing and movement of refugees in large numbers is a reality and a planning factor that must be dealt with up front. The fact that the value of life itself is viewed differently by warring factions must also be considered. If one side willingly uses refugees as a shield and the other is trying to protect their lives, then operations to achieve Rapid Dominance require clear (and perhaps restrictive) rules of engagement in the field. The rapidity of response may not always be the right tactic and an escalation of targeting different centers of gravity rather than responding directly to events in the field promises to be more effective. The theory of Rapid Dominance clearly needs further development, gaming, and simulation. Each decision to apply Rapid Dominance will be unique, complex, risky, and different than the previous one. Knowledge and information on the battlefield as well as that concerning center of gravity targets will be incomplete even with a goal of total situational awareness.

Instruments to Achieve Shock and Awe

Shock and awe are actions that create fears, dangers, and destruction that are incompre-hensible to the people at large, specific elements/sectors of the threat society, or the leadership. Nature in the form of tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, uncontrolled fires, famine, and disease can engender Shock and Awe. The ultimate military application of Shock and Awe was the use of two atomic weapons against Japan in WWII. The Shock and Awe that resulted from the use of these weapons not only brought an abrupt end to the war with Japan (through unconditional surrender), but have deterred the further use of these weapons for over 50 years. Not unexpectedly, these events did not stop the proliferation or increase in the destructive power of these weapons by a factor of ten. The holocaust was a state policy of Shock and Awe that stunned the world in its brutality and inhumanity. Yet it has not deterred the world from executing or tolerating atrocities of equal brutality and inhumanity (Cambodia, Syria, Rwanda, etc.). Similar applications of Shock and Awe have differing toleration levels and impacts depending on the environment and political system against which it is applied. As an example, the massive bombing raids of WWII by Germany and the U.S. did not result in a sufficient level of Shock and Awe to end the fighting. The fear of the unknown created by the atomic attacks rather than their actual destruction was the deciding factor in that theater. The B-52 raids in Vietnam provided localized elements of Shock and Awe, but until applied to the capital city of Hanoi, had no impact toward war termination. When applied in concentrated repetitive strikes in November/December of 1972 under Operation Rolling Thunder III, the cease fire followed in short order. In fact, throughout history there have been weapons and tactics designed to create varying degrees of Shock and Awe. While there has always been shock, awe, and fear associated with warfare, unless the fear or losses are focused and great enough, a quick cessation of hostilities under favorable terms is not certain. How to apply elements of Shock and Awe against rogue states, terrorist elements, international drug and crime cartels, as well as in the more traditional MRCs and LRCs needs much further study and analysis. Shock and awe, to reach the level required to achieve Rapid Dominance, must also bring fear to those who are in charge. It must be applied quickly, decisively, and preferably with impunity (such as stealth bombing with air superiority). The element of impunity, that is the other side is powerless to stop the damage, is a key element of this strategy. If on the other hand attacks are directed at the general public a backlash could be unleased because of the excessive and brutal losses of innocent civilians.

Much more study and analysis is needed to identify and examine the pros and cons of a policy that initiates a doctrine of Shock and Awe for limited objectives rather than responds in kind to a provocation. What are the limits of the doctrine of Shock and Awe? What circumstances merit the application? Can Shock and Awe be used to achieve limited objectives with little or no risk of life to allied forces or innocent civilians? Can true center of gravity targets be identified for ideological/terrorist groups? Can levels of Shock and Awe be categorized by effectiveness and priority of weapons systems? If so, what are the key enabling technologies? What types of Shock and Awe would be both impressive and generate high returns? A few desirable capabilities from a former CINC's perspective are listed below:

  • Blow up an entire mine field simultaneously in its entirety immediately after it had been laid.
  • Destroy the mine laden mine-laying vehicles at their loading point.
  • Destroy in real time terrorist training camps or publicity generating threats such as the recent display of 70 bomb laden suicide terrorists pledging to wreak havoc worldwide. (This probably requires inside penetration of the targeted organization).
  • Destroy simultaneously all/selective WMD launchers, storage/production facilities of a rogue state.
  • Selectively target rogue terrorist leaders as was apparently done by the Russians in Chechnya recently when they killed the top rebel leader by detecting and homing in on his satellite phone conversation (helicopter rocket attack).
  • Stop, divert, capture the cash flow to terrorist elements.

Thoughts on Applications of Shock and Awe

It is the use of Shock and Awe to achieve Rapid Dominance that is so fascinating and has the greatest potential for leverage if it can be harnessed in a variety of situations. This basis for Rapid Dominance requires a clearer under-standing of what our end objectives are than we usually have when we stumble into the use of military force, often it seems by default and at the last possible minute. At this point, I have more questions than answers. How does Rapid Dominance differ by the goals and missions assigned? What are the key elements to apply Rapid Dominance for each envisioned threat? What are the most likely threats for the next 20 years? Is Rapid Dominance applicable to all these threats? Can we separate Rapid Dominance into categories with and without Shock and Awe?

In addition to answering these and other questions, it seems to me it would be helpful to generate a list of desirable capabilities that would help me select a response option. This list of capabilities would be useful to focus (1) scarce R&D dollars to fill in the holes with technology, (2) intelligence and surveillance collection priorities, (3) innovative thought to further develop the concept (War College papers and Wargaming series), and (4) development of CINC plans and requirements to meet these capabilities. Examples of such capabilities are:

  • Deploying highly effective TBMD and Cruise Missile Defense.
  • Severing all/selective communications between leadership and field as well as selective elements by call in the field.
  • Intercepting and transmitting revised orders to selective threat field units.
  • Projecting false radar pictures on selective key threat scopes.
  • Inserting fouled fuel in threat storage facilities that generates engine failures.
  • Inserting metal/material fatigue to failure attachments on key threat systems.
  • Identifying specific location and determining strength and material of protected targets of value.
  • Developing dial a setting ordnance capable of destroying all hardened targets.
  • Detecting and tracting (destroying at will) all targets of value including mobile targets.
  • Detecting and targeting key threat launch systems before launch.
  • Detecting plot and simultaneously destroying an employed mine field (land & sea).
  • Making threat submarine movements transparent to targeting at will.

Obviously, such a wish list should be prioritized and tailored to the limits of achievable near/mid-term technology and affordability. This may not even be the right type of capabilities one might want. That is, we may need a totally non-standard list. My judgment is that we should develop one or two black "silver bullet" capabilities, if we get too far afield, the system will not be able to digest the recommendations. However, the concept of Rapid Dominance requires stepping to a new level of getting inside the opposition's decision loop. Rapid Dominance at the ultimate level would enable stopping, diverting, or changing the decision process and decision executing machinery/systems either preemptively or reactively in time to ensure core U.S. security requirements are met.

Rapid Dominance Infrastructure

The current direction and speed of downsizing and acquisition reform is adequate for the type of forces and capabilities necessary to implement a Rapid Dominance strategy. I would like to reserve comments in this area until the project is further developed. We do not need to raise reasons to discard the concept as too hard before it is sufficiently defined. I have the feeling that bringing these conceptual capabilities to realities within a system of systems is neither cheap nor easy. There is still too much waste and inefficiency in our defense acquisition process as well as in the overlap between service requirements and capabilities. Rapid Dominance will not be service-unique and requires a synergistic approach from planning to execution.

Final Thoughts

The implications of the ongoing revolution in telecommunications and information processing as it applies to our national security interests dictate that we need new imaginative concepts of operation to ensure the efficacy of our international leadership in a multipolar world. With technology upgrading capabilities by factors of 10 or more every 18 months, we can no longer afford to have concepts of operations wait for the technology to reach the field. The concept of Rapid Dominance requires innovative thought and different directions than that imbedded in our military hierarchy. We need to introduce the concept at all levels of military professional education and training. The best results of this effort will be generated from the younger minds brought up on the leading edge of the information revolution. The challenge is to engage those minds in the solution and to take the risks required to fund priorities enabling the development of this capability now. Such a cultural change is not easy. One thing is certain—business as usual will not get us there. The window of opportunity will close faster than we think.

Appendix B. Defense Alternatives: Forces Required

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