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Military

CHAPTER 6

Materiel

Chapter 5:  Organization
Table of Contents
Chapter 7:  Myths of Digital Technology

It is important to first discuss the degree to which changes in Materiel affect all of the other imperatives. They are all intertwined. The key to successful transformation lies in the co-evolution of doctrine, training, leader development, soldiers, organizations and materiel. It isn't just about materiel.

There are believers in simple fixes: give a unit a new piece of kit, a new "widget" that will solve a problem in this particular area. The new piece of kit supposedly will become the panacea for poor training and poor leader development. All wrong. That new widget now affects everything the unit does.

First, soldiers and leaders must be comfortable with the widget. They have to understand its capabilities and limitations. They have to have an idea how to employ it, how to fix it, how to sustain it. This can only be accomplished by a detailed individual soldier and leader development program.

Next, leaders having a basic understanding of the technology must be able to develop a plan to train individuals and units on how to employ, fix, and sustain the widget. This training will be in addition to all the other training the unit already must perform to maintain its combat readiness. These requirements didn't go away because the new widget appeared.

The unit's organizational structure must be revisited. Will modifications in current organizational design do a better job of employing this new widget? And if the decision is yes? We must modify organizations, which is a major effort. Soldiers have to move, perform the "duffle bag drag," if you will. Equipment has to be moved, inventoried, and stored. Efficiency reports must be completed.

Once the unit has had an opportunity to use the new widget, changes in doctrine and TTPs will become evident and will need to be captured and institutionalized. SOPs will have to be revisited. As we learn to effectively use new widgets, we truly "learn by doing." Much of the evolution of doctrine and TTPs is trial and error: what worked and what didn't?

As we develop systems, or improve the ones we currently have, we must focus on the integration of their capabilities. Developing stand-alone, stovepiped systems isn't useful. A perfect example is the current lack of integration of the ABCS. Every one of the boxes has some piece of information that the commander needs. The problem is, these boxes aren't integrated: all integration has to take place in the minds of the staff officers or in the mind of the commander himself. Just as important is the seamless integration of FBCB2 with the ABCSs. For example, Blue information that is resident in FBCB2 must be ported automatically to MCS. This will enhance the credibility of the Blue icon. Red information, generated by FBCB2 spot reports, must automatically populate the All-Source Analysis System (ASAS). Next, ASAS populates MCS with Red icons and now we have what the commander needs--an integrated Red-Blue picture.

We have acknowledged that we as an Army will fight on a joint and combined battlefield. Therefore, it is imperative that we design systems that are interoperable. For example, the Marine Corps has its own set of digital command and control (C2) devices, all different than those of the U.S. Army. The only "box" that is the same is the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) box. The intelligence box, the operations box, the air defense box, and the combat service support box are all different. They don't talk to each other, nor do they understand each other. Because we will fight on a joint and combined battlefield, we must work to resolve this deficiency.

One of the critical enablers in using information technology to enhance lethality, survivability, and the ability to manage the tempo of the battlefield is adaptive C2. What elements of materiel can we interject to facilitate C2on a digital battlefield?

First, we must be hesitant to impose too much standardization on commanders. How does he arrange his TOC? How does he work information flow in his organization? It is critical to give him the information in a format and a presentation that he can use and feel comfortable with--or else he won't use it.

Remember, we are dealing with human beings as we work the application of the technology. If we don't take into consideration the human dimension, in this case the personal needs of the commander, we won't realize the full utility of the new materiel.

We must also acknowledge that even though Moore's Law is in effect, and that the speed of processors will double every 18 months, the human being on the battlefield tomorrow will look a lot like the human being that was on yesterday's and today's battlefield. His processing capacity didn't double. The human-computer interface must be considered.

Nothing has, or ever will, preclude the need for the commander to go forward, to fight from the front. He must be in a position to see first hand what's happening at the critical point in the battlefield. His subordinates want to see him forward, being part of the action at hand. He must smell the cordite, share the hardships--all the things that extremely effective commanders have done over the past centuries. While in the pursuit of information technology, we must emphasize how to get the information to the commander, and not force commanders to be wedded to their TOCs.

We must concentrate on developing mobile C2platforms. Commanders must constantly have access to critical information, and they must be able to move freely around the battlefield. Mobile C2is the critical enabler. There is a requirement for the digital unit commander to be able to command and control from both ground and air platforms. Currently, two ongoing programs address this requirement: the Command and Control Vehicle (CCV) and the Army Airborne Command and Control System (AACCS).

We must continue to work to get the commander what he needs at the location he is, and not require the commander to return to his TOC to get that information. The essence of what the commander needs is simple:

  • First and most important, he must have the status of the answers to the information requirements he articulated, both enemy and friendly.
  • Then, he must be able to see on a single screen an integrated Red and Blue picture. Where are the enemy and friendly units in his battlespace?
  • In addition, he must have visibility on all those things that influence his scheme of maneuver in his area of operation. Where are the natural obstacles, chokepoints, enemy minefields, and enemy chemical strikes? This must be one screen, tailorable to the size of the battlespace so the commander can choose to focus on any point in time.

We must avoid the tendency to "filter information" before it gets to the commander. If the piece of information addresses specifically what the commander has asked for in his information requirements, then we must get it to him in the format he desires. We must get expert agents that help us manage information. We must develop systems within our software that help package bits of information into useable groups. In addition, we must pursue agents that, given a historical database of what the enemy has done in the past, will help us "think like the enemy." Expert agents can capture pieces of information that aren't of use right now but will probably be important very soon (when the enemy does something you didn't expect him to do).

We must focus on collaborative planning tools. Collaborative planning tools allow commanders (or staff officers) at all levels to simultaneously share thoughts and ideas about ongoing or anticipated missions. The Division Commander, for example, can use a "John Madden Whiteboard" capability to sketch out his commander's intent and scheme of maneuver for all the brigade commanders to hear simultaneously while staying at their distant location. The subordinate commanders can then review for the group the current situation in their areas of the battlefield, and highlight issues from their perspective with the upcoming operation. This is, undoubtedly, powerful stuff.

In addition, we must develop tools to help the commander visualize the battle. This could come in the form of mission planning and rehearsal tools, as well as tools that allow the commander to share his vision with his subordinate commanders. Currently, we still are fixated on sand-table rehearsals. Groups are gathered around large terrain boards, and we walk them through the battle as it progresses. Modern technology can provide us visualization tools. We must develop systems that help us visualize the battle, and then share the visualization with our subordinates. We must be able to carefully show them what's in our "mind's eye."

We must design our systems so that our soldiers can use, maintain, and fix them. I found that routinely our 74B (automation specialists) and 31U (communication specialists) could fix the high-tech systems, given the parts. We must avoid designing our systems so that everywhere we go, we deploy with "contractor battalions."

We must retain an analog capability in our TOCs for two primary reasons. First we must remember Murphy's Law as it applies to technology: It isn't IF the technology will fail but WHEN it will fail. When it does fail, there must be an analog backup capability. In addition, for the foreseeable future, units will consist of a combination of subordinate units, some with a digital capability and some without. There is still a requirement for both FM radios and ABCS boxes. There is still a requirement for both digital screens and map boards. And, as a result of the preceding requirement, there is still a need to provide a sufficient number of soldiers to conduct both analog and digital operations in C2centers.

We must have a built-in redundancy in our C2nodes. We must give the enemy credit: he is smart enough to look at us and determine what our capabilities and vulnerabilities are. He knows that he must disrupt our ability to command and control digitally; and as a result, he is going to focus his assets to disrupt our C2. He is going to consider our command posts to be high payoff targets; our command posts will be extremely vulnerable. I would propose designing two identical TOCs for 1BCT operations--a "hot" command post and a "cold" command post, if you will. Each command post would have the same capabilities. The command post where the commander is located the closest would be designated the hot command post. The cold command post would shift to the place on the battlefield where the commander would most likely need to be next.

And we mustn't forget the importance of eavesdropping. The advantage of FM communications is our ability to "eavesdrop" on other folk's nets to understand what's going on in their part of the battle. Current ABCSs don't allow you to do that. This is all part of the critical aspect of information technology: information sharing. Some people believe that the end-state is a "quiet TOC," an environment where everyone is wearing headsets and staring at computer screens. The problem is that no one shares information when they are wedded to their particular box.

Very soon we must work through all programs (Department of Defense, academia, and industry) and sort out the ones that aren't bearing fruit. I use the flower garden analogy. When a gardener wants to grow flowers, he ensures that he has enough fertilizer to make them all grow. If he has too many flowers, and not enough fertilizer, all the flowers will wither and die. None of them will get enough fertilizer to flourish. What the gardener must do is pull those flowers that aren't flourishing. This allows the limited amount of fertilizer he does have to concentrate on the other flowers.

Chapter 5:  Organization
Table of Contents
Chapter 7:  Myths of Digital Technology



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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias