Support to Force XXI

Land Capability Spectrum Model

by Kent Schlussel, Ph.D., Ben A. Farmer, Jr., and Paul A. Zimmerman

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Ground Intelligence Center, the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

The world presents a dynamic and fluid situation with no single potential adversary or clear threat to the United States or its allies. This fluidity is attributable to communications technology and to the decreased ability of nations to control their borders, from both a physical and an intellectual perspective. Hence, there is now a trend toward increased flow of information, religions, and people across national borders. Drug cartels and crime syndicates are also spreading worldwide and forming cooperative agreements. Multinational corporations are establishing operations in countries where they would have been barred from doing so only a few years ago. Technology transfer, knowledge transfer, and materiel proliferation are on the rise. Conflict is increasing in frequency and intensity.

Global Threat Model

Thus, the Army intelligence community has been faced with its greatest challenge in more than 50 years capturing information, analyzing that information, and presenting the resultant analysis on all the countries of the world. With more than 200 land armies in the world, the job of staying current on all these armies is a challenge. In the summer of 1993, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (DCSINT) questioned how we could overcome this seemingly awesome task. Was there some way to measure each land army in order to give both the decisionmaker and the soldier in the field the information each desired at a glance? More important, could we develop a spectrum of armies that would allow comparison of each army to all the others of the world?
The decisionmaker needs condensed information at his fingertips and the background details when required. The planner needs something more so that he can determine appropriate force composition; the soldier in the field needs knowledge of the overall capability of the enemy. A further requirement is that all this information must be user-friendly and readily accessible on platforms with which the vast majority of the users are familiar.

Defining the Threat

In response to these challenges, the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) is developing an automated threat model called the Land Capabilities Spectrum Model (LCSM). It replaces the Cold War paradigm of threat analysis to capture the full spectrum of potential adversaries' military capabilities the future threats to Force XXI and the 21st century world. This model arrays potential threats across a spectrum ranging from simple to complex in scope, doctrine, organization, training, material, leadership, and soldiers. LCSM will aid the intelligence consumer in evaluating his situation regardless of the country, army, type of operation involved, or changes in circumstances. The LCSM model evaluates foreign ground force effectiveness and displays the result graphically.
The major assumption underlying the LCSM (previously called the Threat Spectrum Model) is that analysts can sort the armies of the world into a reasonable number of groups having similar properties. The basis for this assumption is the mathematical discipline of complexity. Key to understanding complexity is the notion that interactions between the entities composing a system dictate the behavior of a complex system, not the composition of the entities themselves. These interactions occur at the threshold of stability and chaos, the edge of chaos. Further, the interactions are nonlinear: the whole is not equal to the sum of the parts. A manifestation of nonlinear systems is that we can amplify small changes in initial conditions so that they markedly affect the behavior of the entire system across national borders and cause the system as a whole to exhibit what is termed "emergent behavior." Emergent behavior consists of unanticipated actions exhibited by the system; once observed, however, these actions become routine. There seems to be a fundamental characteristic of nature that systems composed of interacting elements naturally and inevitably evolve to a critical state the edge of chaos. This is the theory of self-organized criticality. Self-organized criticality is observable in many natural settings such as earthquakes, economic systems, and even biological systems. This implies that mathematically, we may observe emergent behavior.
The LCSM approaches the problem both from the top down and the bottom up. The overall construct provides a view of the relative capabilities of the world's ground forces at a glance (top down), while its underlying structure leading to self-consistency, in accordance with the principle of self-organized criticality, is seen from the bottom up. This approach transforms information about ground forces into knowledge-at-a-glance.
Terms of reference (TORs) have been developed to define and normalize the exact definition of a certain level of capability,which serves to standardize the rating system. The LCSM breaks down the TORs into various factors.
Analysts define each factor and establish 10 levels within each factor (with 10 representing the greatest capability and 1 the least capability). The TOR not only defines each term and level but also constitutes a useful tutorial document that explains what it means to have certain levels of capability. (Figure 2 shows a sample LCSM computer screen defining capability levels.) With more than 200 land armies in the world, the job of staying current on all these armies is difficult and the documentation sets a de facto standard as the focus changes from country to country. In the process of building the inputs to the LCSM, the analyst rates each country against the TORs. For each factor, the analyst must to write a short explanation of why a country received a rating at a particular level within each factor of the TOR.
The LCSM developers then consolidated raw ratings from the 14 factors of the TOR and applied them against the mathematical model. This produces a military capability potential (MCP) value. This nonlinear value allows one to rank the countries by their composite capabilities. It should be noted that analysts weighted the various factors of the TOR relative to each other; the user can change the weighting if deemed necessary. The MCP comprises 10 levels, and the levels place the rated countries along the spectrum by level (see Figure 3 for a capability and complexity spectrum). In essence, the LCSM allows one to take seemingly independent factors and integrate them into an aggregate military capability. At the present time, the 14 TOR factors allow us to measure the MCP at a single slice of time. A predictive capability is under development.
The LCSM provides a user-friendly way to identify military capability potential around the globe. The model gives the user analytic evaluations, charts, and a color-coded world map showing overall military capability, troop strengths, and a selection of the 14 critical factors in a nation's military posture. The LCSM runs on a laptop computer and gives users full access to documentation on all of the features, mathematics, and terms of reference used in the model. It also provides validated country assessments and lets the user make what if changes to see the impact of changing conditions on a given country or the balance of power in a region or across the globe.

Depicting the Threat

The LCSM provides a number of graphs and charts to assist decisionmakers in analyzing change. Charts include two-country comparisons of historic timelines and two-country raw-capability comparisons. There are also graphs showing, among other things, the propensity for disorder within a country and a visual comparison of military capability potential with the size of the force. All the graphs and charts automatically detect user changes to the ratings and give warnings when modified data have been used in a chart or calculation.
The graphics provide an easy-to-understand visualization of each country's MCP while the ready access to the terms of reference provides a yardstick for assessing change in a dynamic world. The LCSM is the first tool that visually demonstrates the effect of technology-base upgrades, changing economic conditions, perceived threats, and military acquisitions on the global balance of power. The LCSM gives a powerful new capability to strategic planners and others who need quick updates on a rapidly changing world.

Future Development

We will expand the LCSM in the future to include additional factors such as stability and support operations (non-war military operations), non-state factors (international terrorism, international crime, and drug cartels), and factors of national culture, and even phenomenology. The LCSM will include these because it considers scenario-dependent factors. In addition, there is great interest in developing air and naval models for eventual incorporation in a joint model.


The LCSM tightly combines technical intelligence and general military intelligence assessments into a single model that provides a broad, integrated view of the world. U.S. forces must be ready to deal with a richness and variety of threats that in the past either did not exist or were of less importance than the traditional monolithic threat. Understanding this new world order requires a different perspective. The LCSM is the frontrunner in dealing with this new paradigm by evaluating ground force effectiveness and graphically displaying the resultant data for answers at a glance.
Dr. Schlussel is Chief of the Battlefield Electronics Division in the NGIC (formerly Foreign Science and Technology Center or FSTC). He is a certified manufacturing engineer in the field of robotics. He serves in the Air Force Reserves, teaching at the Joint Military Intelligence College. Dr. Schlussel has a bachelor of science (BS) degree from the Virginia Military Institute, a master of Applied Mathematics from the University of Virginia, a master of science (MS) in Engineering Management from the University of Dayton, and a doctor of philosopy (Ph.D.) degree in Applied Mathematics. He has been a Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Exceptional Analyst and received the FSTC Commander's Award for Leadership. Readers can reach Dr. Schlussel at (804) 980-7442 or DSN 934-7442.
Mr. Farmer is currently a physical scientist in the NGIC Battlefield Electronics Division and works directly with development of the LCSM; previously he worked as a chemical officer and chemical analyst. He has a BS in Chemistry from Marshall University and an MS in Organic Chemistry from West Virginia University. He has also been a DCI Exceptional Analyst. You can contact him at (804) 980-7883, DSN 934-7883, or E-mail
Mr. Zimmerman is an NGIC intelligence research specialist specializing in command, control, and communications. He is a military retiree and has worked in imagery analysis, technical intelligence, and computer-aided drawing. He has a BS in Behavioral Science from the University of Maryland and is a graduate of the Senior Enlisted Intelligence Program. Readers can communicate with Mr. Zimmerman at (804) 980-7848, DSN 934-7848, or E-mail