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 of operation. 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. 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.

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