AUGUST 17, 1998
Defense strategy should mirror IT advances
By Ronald D. Elliott
Modern warfare concepts emphasize the effects of
"information dominance" or "superiority" on maneuvers, logistics,
precision weapons and "force protection." Information dominance is reflected in
the Joint Staff's command, control, communications, computers and intelligence for the
Warrior concept, Joint Vision 2010, the Advanced Battlespace Information System study, the
Military Technical Revolution Report of the Center for Strategic and International
Studies, and the Clinton administration's National Performance Review report.
However, it is no great revelation that success in warfare depends to a high degree
upon accurate and timely information. The military can use information, for example, to
support two or more concurrent activities to gain an advantage over an adversary that may
not have similar capabilities.
Critical information elements in warfare include data about the resources and locations
of adversary forces, precision guidance services for targeting munitions, stealthy weapons
platforms to deny information to the adversary and telecommunications services by which to
exchange this information among operating units and facilities.
From an offensive perspective, good visibility and sensitive controls of the situation
enable the information advantage. Information management can be conceived as a logistics
problem: Get the right information to the right place, in the right form and expressed in
the appropriate context for rapid assimilation and application to gain an advantage in
battle. For example, a smart bomb requires detailed information about the location of its
target and its surroundings, including information about friendly or allied forces.
A telecommunications network will be key to controlling and using information -- but
not just any telecommunications network. Modern operations require seamless and robust
networks that link operating forces in near-real time. The challenge to provide this
capability is not to produce more technology. To the contrary, the challenge is in
managing and integrating the systems that we have in accordance with fundamental concepts
This is the basis for the recent attention to the need for seamless communications,
command, control and computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR)
systems to streamline activity from sensors to shooters.
However, the challenge lies not only in managing the systems but also in enhancing
capabilities to manage information and its availability.
Information alone does not guarantee victory, nor does it provide the means to counter
an attack. Information must be combined with a coherent strategy, consistent organization
and proper management of resources. The information revolution requires the Pentagon to
change the way it plans and conducts operations so that it can fully exploit the
Information is not a weapon; it is an enabler of knowledge by which weapons can be used
to the advantage of one force over another. The advantage is gained not by technology but
from its efficient and effective use. Information provides additional knowledge that can
go along with the training, education and experience of the user.
Effective use of new technologies requires similarly modernized operational concepts.
In warfare, the concepts may involve interrupting an opponent's information systems and
services and disabling the enemy's command and control or force-management processes.
Decoys and stealthy maneuvers may also deceive or cause the enemy to lose confidence in
information that may be available.
These operational concepts can expedite success while potentially minimizing
casualties, especially if the concepts are matched by reduced concentrations of
traditional and smart weapons.
Superior information can increase the chances of victory with fewer forces and
resources. Small, agile units can be more effective than large masses of forces when
information is employed about the electromagnetic spectrum, climate, geography, economy,
population and culture of an area.
Such use of information is not unique to warfare operations; it also applies to other
enterprises, including commercial activities. An example is the "just-in-time"
resource management of manufacturing operations. However, in defense operations, the right
information and the ability to influence an adversary's perception of a situation may have
the secondary effect of promoting confusion and undercutting his will to fight.
Completely disabling an adversary's information services is not necessary.
Misinformation and the disruption of access to information can eliminate an opponent's
confidence in the information and related services available to him. This can be
particularly effective when applied to an enemy's nonmilitary service infrastructure.
However, if simple subversion is inadequate, destruction of the enemy's primary
infrastructure, such as telecommunications, can be a viable alternative, provided that the
related effects on services needed by friendly elements are acceptable.
The result of using the Internet or cyberspace to disseminate misinformation is not
clear and may backfire. Information warfare currently is an art, not a science, and it has
been said that it "involves more the heart and mind than the arms and eyes."
Even the most advanced and best-integrated technology will not ensure military victory.
Misuse of technology restricts, rather than enhances, communications. Organization,
doctrine, tactics and related operational concepts also must be integrated.
A coherent information architecture that matches the operational concept and
organizational structure is essential. The systems must be designed to be adaptive to the
operation. Capabilities to protect C4ISR systems and services from deception, disruption
and destruction are mandatory.
-- Elliott is a recently retired federal government executive with more than 30
years in the national security arena. Most recently, Elliott was director of the
Intelligence Systems Secretariat, an organization with responsibilities spanning several
executive departments and agencies. He served on the federal CIO Council, the Military
Intelligence Board and the Military Communications-Electronics Board.