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Network centric warfare transforming the u. S. Army

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Implications for Army Transformation

As we prepare for the future, we must think differently and develop the kinds of forces and capabilities that can adapt quickly to new challenges and unexpected circumstances. We must transform not only the capabilities at our disposal, but also the way we think, the way we train, the way we exercise and the way we fight.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld89

The Army Transformation Roadmap states that Army transformation is about “changing the way we deploy, fight, sustain, and use information that will make us more strategically responsive and dominant across the spectrum of operations.”90 As such, the ultimate goal of the Army’s transformation strategy is to “provide relevant and ready current and future forces organized, trained and equipped for joint, interagency and multi-national full spectrum operations.”91 Transformation involves “more than technologies – it requires deep cultural shifts from traditional practices to collaboration, teamwork, and innovations; from information hording to knowledge sharing; from stovepipe to enterprise processes; and from traditional skills to internet-age competencies.” 92 Applying the NCW operational construct yields insight into some of the implications this new concept will have on the Army’s transformation strategy concerning doctrine, organizations, and training.

The first implication is the impact on the doctrinal application of decision making. Achieving NCW objectives necessitates doctrinal shifts from centralized decision making to a more distributed process where each entity on the battlefield is “empowered to make decisions based on command intent and high quality situational awareness.”93 Joint Vision 2020 states that “decision superiority does not automatically result from information superiority. Organizational and doctrinal adaptation…and the proper command and control mechanisms and tools are equally necessary.”94 As such, the Army must radically transform current command and control doctrine to create the environment necessary to translate information into decision superiority and support empowerment. Table 4 offered by David Alberts highlights some doctrinal changes in decision making evidenced in a net-centric force. 95 This listing is not exhaustive, but summarizes some of new doctrinal realities gained through application of NCW concepts and subsequent changes in doctrine as compared to current doctrinal conceptions.

Decision Making Requirements

Platform Centric

(Industrial Age)

Network Centric

(Information Age)

Dealing with the Future

  • Predict/Plan

  • Perfect Tasks

Developing Capabilities

  • Define Requirements

  • Engineer

  • Insert Technology

  • Test Systems

  • Experiment

  • Grow

  • Co-evolve capabilities

  • Assess operations

Command and Control

  • Do what I tell you

  • Synchronize

  • Control

  • Constrain subordinates

  • Staff

Dealing with Information

  • Push

  • Use and distribute

  • Server-client

  • Clear people

Table 4: Comparison of Decision Making Requirements

Applying the NCW concept similarly necessitates a paradigm shift in how and when we apply information technology (IT) to existing doctrinal processes to achieve a competitive advantage across the full spectrum of operations. Some suggest that the Army transformation strategy is “all about accelerated processes.”96 The military routinely leverages IT as a means to gain efficiencies and accelerate processes. Unfortunately, the focus of IT application is on automating existing processes without substantially changing them.

A case in point is the doctrinal targeting process used at theater level and below to synchronize and de-conflict the application of air, sea and ground-based weapons platforms.97 Although application of IT to automate this process has enhanced it effectiveness and reduced latency, the underlying process remain fairly linear and unchanged. Transforming to a network centric force requires a complete reengineering of the targeting process and many other existing tactics, techniques and procedures to achieve measurable results. Additionally, IT resource application must be consistent with the overall reengineering effort in order to gain measurable mission enhancements through IT and C4ISR investments.

The second implication for Army transformation is the potential impact NCW will have on the organizational structure of the force. A networked environment, by design, exists without significant regard to existing organizational hierarchy or institutional boundaries. As such, Army organizations will need to “co-evolve to take full advantage of the enhanced capabilities”98 provided through the application of NCW concepts. The Army’s transformation plan recognizes that “as platforms, units, and headquarters at all levels become information enabled, operations at both the tactical and operational levels will change.”99

Some NCW advocates postulate that “as information moves down echelon, so does combat power, meaning smaller joint force packages wield greater combat power.”100 This point implies that transformed Army units must co-evolve into smaller, joint force package entities that can provide capabilities equal to the larger current force. It supports the premise that our future organization will be “fully joint: intellectually, operationally, organizationally and technically.”101

A related implication is the impact NCW will have on the existing concept of the levels of war. Networking distributed entities that exist at all levels of command may generate fundamental changes to the current concept of the tactical, operational and strategic levels of war. Because NCW provides the ability to move information rapidly between all levels of command, some contend that it will “collapse the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war.”102 Although this claim may be somewhat overstated, NCW clearly provides the ways to compress strategic, operational and tactical levels of war through radically improved situational awareness and understanding, knowledge management and self-synchronization.

The final implication is the impact NCW will have on Army training and leader development programs. An article published in Armor magazine suggests that the Army’s transformation to a network enabled force requires a “deliberate front-end analysis that will define the doctrine, training, and personnel implications for the Army. This analysis…is critical for focusing resources and accelerating the U.S. Army's transition”103 to an information superior force. Application of NCW concepts clearly implicates the need for potentially intensive systems training as well as radically new approach to leader development.

Operating in an NCW environment requires a new combination of technical and conceptual skills that exceed current Army training skill sets. Experience gained by the Army Transformation Task Force suggests that “digital skills are neither easily acquired nor retained and require a steep learning curve for both soldiers and leaders.”104 Other reports indicate that “it takes a long time for human crews to learn how to intuitively operate” these complex systems-of-systems.105 These statements imply the need for radically different training regimes as a means to achieve Army’s transformation objectives throughout a networked enabled force. Additionally, future training strategies and programs must be inherently joint to identify and mitigate interoperability issues that exist between services.

The training strategy necessary to support doctrinal changes to decision making, C2 and other processes implicate the need for greater emphasis on innovation and collaboration in our leader development programs. Information superiority, by itself, does not achieve desired effects on the battlefield. Rather, it requires the ability of leaders at all levels to translate information superiority into decision superiority through collaboration and the innovative application of all capabilities in the battle space. Similarly, empowering smaller, geographically dispersed units to decide and act without the control mechanism current in place requires a new level of risk tolerance. As such, our leader development programs must emphasize a paradigm shift away from risk aversion.

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