Information Warfare: Protecting Force Sustainment
by Chief Warrant Officer TwoThomas M. ReardonUSA,
In the critically acclaimed book, The First
Information War, contributing editor Colonel Alan Campen USAF,
(Retired) emphasizes two key points in the book's preface:1
The outcome of the Persian Gulf War relied as much on the
superior management of knowledge as it did upon performance of
people or weapons.
History would overlook, misunderstand, misrepresent or
perhaps deprecate the key role played by information systems and
the people who built them.
Colonel Campen went on to state in his preface that
Western society and its military components have come to
regard information as a utility; ubiquitous, commonly shared,
commonly financed, uncommonly reliable, and always available or
almost always...forgotten are those infrequent but terrifying
moments when global finance or air traffic control networks are
halted by momentary lapses in computer or human behavior [emphasis
added by author].2
The technical accuracy of Colonel Campen's circa 1992 assertions
may be subject to some debate within the profession of arms and the
automation community. The spirit in which he offered them must be
considered as the Army (and the world) moves forward into the age
of information. Colonel Campen did not intend to downplay the vital
role of the combat soldier the warrior in the success of Operation
DESERT STORM. To the soldier or Marine on the ground, "war" has
only one meaning with very tangible consequences.
Predictions of warfare by exclusive use of computers to cripple
national or global economies and infrastructure in lieu of the
acquisition of ground by Joint Task Forces ("software over steel"3)
remains futuristic. This observation regarding the key role of
information systems may be subject to discussion since the
information support aspect of the Gulf war was viewed as a success.
This view may lead us into a false sense of security regarding
While understanding the human side of closing with the enemy by use
of fire-and-movement and fire-and-maneuver, we must take Colonel
Campen's words to heart as the "Third Wave"4 described by Alvin and
Heidi Toffler proceeds globally with the force of a virtual tidal
wave. Intellectually, this concept seems simple. Computers are here
and now, the Army will depend upon them more and more in the
future, and we have to account for this change, somehow, in our
doctrine and policy.
Information Operations Doctrine
TRADOC has recognized that the experiences of the Persian Gulf War
and the reality of the information age requires the development of
new doctrine. In an accelerated effort that has reduced timelines
from years to months, TRADOC has published FM 100-6, Information
Operations, dated 27 August 1996.
In the manual's introductory segment, TRADOC recognizes that the
embracing a new era (the so-called "Information Age")
characterized by the accelerating growth of information,
information sources, and information dissemination capabilities
supported by information technology.5
We identify this new era as "offering unique opportunities as well
as some formidable challenges."6 These challenges include the
"almost always" availability of information services mentioned by
Colonel Campen (instead of the "on demand or just in time"
assertions made by requirements documents) and the "terrifying
moments" described by Colonel Campen.
In addition to new doctrine, we must foster new attitudes and
beliefs. We focus attention on prosecuting the immediate battle on
the ground through the use of high-technology sensors and other
information systems in direct support of the warfighter. Perhaps
the most "terrifying moments" will occur in the logistics trail
that supports the Army's ability to sustain, maintain, and
transport the warfighters. "Steel on target" will remain a critical
element of modern warfare. Supply and logistics will remain an
equally critical element, as it was during the campaigns of
Alexander the Great. A special focus on this logistics "tail" must
occur during military planning in the age of information especially
during exercises and war games where far too often resupply is a
Automated Logistics and Supply Tracking
Using Operation DESERT STORM as an example, the Tofflers related in
their book, War and Anti-War, that the U.S. Army was able to track
via the use of computers and satellites the huge amounts of
logistics required to sustain the force. The numbers are staggering
from Operations DESERT SHIELD through DESERT FAREWELL where the
This tracking was done in a fashion similar to the method used by
large commercial shipping companies such as Federal Express and
United Parcel Service to keep tabs on hundreds of tons of freight
shipped each day all over the world. This success enabled
Lieutenant General William Pagonis to state that "...this (was) the
first war in modern times where every screwdriver, every nail (was)
Certainly one may view the accountability of individual tools and
nails as "overkill." The contextual meaning of the remarks by
General Schwartzkopf's logistics officer (J4) is both clear and
anticipated: computers make the monumental task of sustaining
warfighters in a power projection scenario workable and realistic
and anticipated. Without reliable automated information systems,
the concept of power would no doubt require a relook. Without a
doubt, our potential adversaries are not overlooking this
dependence on the "reliability" of U.S. automated information
systems. The objective of these adversaries is most certainly to
turn "reliable" into "not reliable," and thus order into chaos.
- Mobilized 550,000 soldiers.
- Shipped 7,000,000 tons of supplies.
- Served 122 million meals.
- Pumped 1.3 billion gallons of fuel.
- Drove 52 million miles.
- Maintained 12,575 aircraft.
- Delivered 32,000 tons of mail.
Threat to Information Systems
The term "reliable" goes beyond the context of efficient operation
according to standards, both mechanical and human. This term must
also account for reliable operation under the stress of information
warfare (IW) or "a large structured attack with strategic intent
against the United States could be prepared and exercised under the
guise of unstructured activities."9 Given that a significant amount
of U.S. Army communications (voice and data) travel over the public
switched network (to include commercial leased satellites), we
cannot discount national IW issues as being out of the Army's
"lane." More than 100 nations have an IW capability, and more than
50 are known to target the United States.10 For example, Chinese
military leaders have concluded that victory in any future war will
ultimately depend on the capability of the People's Liberation
Army's (PLA) to effectively wage IW in all phases of the conflict
(not limited to command and control (C2)).11 This lack of
limitations indicates an appreciation by the PLA (and certainly by
others) of the value that information systems add in addition to
those used to command and control lethal manuever forces are
high-value IW targets.
Traditional military thinking regarding protection of vital assets
focused on strong physical barriers to keep out traditional
battlefield threats and threats to rear area operations. In the
information age, "physical" (in the traditional and doctrinal
sense) alone is not adequate. An excellent example is a story cited
by Leonard Lee in his book The Day the Phones Stopped How People
Get Hurt When Computers Go Wrong.12 He discusses what happened to
the operations of American Airlines and that company's Sabre
reservation system in spite of strong physical barriers certainly
a "terrifying moment" (which lasted 12 hours). Despite
state-of-the-art physical security including retinal scans and a
bullet-proof entryway, the system was laid low. A software error
caused by the installation of a new memory disk drive fully
disabled the system for 12 hours. In an IW scenario, the "what
if's?" of an occurrence like this are endless.
The impact of technology has not been limited to military
applications. Most of the high technology needed to employ IW
techniques against U.S. Army operations is also readily accessible
to thugs, despots, and fanatics16 as well as foreign military and
commercial interests. The Department of Defense is required by
Congress (and common sense) to rely on commercial off-the-shelf
(COTS) software for a variety of sound fiscal reasons. While use of
COTS software is cheaper and sensible in one respect, we must weigh
the potential IW impact as well.
Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich posed an interesting and
thought-provoking question during a presentation at the National
Defense University in February 1995 when he asked "...what does it
mean that Madras, India, is the second largest center of software
development in the world?" The Speaker's remarks, of course, refer
to the potential impact foreign-origin software may have on U.S.
computers supporting military operations in an IW situation.
Information technology has made possible the compromise or
corruption of critical information and the disruption of
information services in a matter of seconds from the threat source
on the other side of the continent or the world. This is a far cry
from traditional frames of reference such as boundaries, lanes, and
ranges of weaponry, supplemented by biographical data on opposing
commanders, knowledge of enemy ground order of battle, and doctrine
to assist in battlefield success.
IW and the Sustaining Base
The Army is a member of the global information environment (GIE). The Army shares
this space with the national
and international news media, academia, commerce, drug cartels, industry, and more. The GIE is
pervasive in its presence and influence it has no real master. Current and emerging electronic
permit nearly any aspect of a military operation to be made known to a global audience in
near-real time. This
factor, coupled with the ready availability of IW techniques to foreign governments, terrorists,
elements, or anyone else willing to pay the bill, removes the ability to cripple armies from the
(and control) of the traditional warrior in uniform.
Given this "global reach" and the concept of Force XXI (which envisions the use of automation
to enable deployed
forces to reach back to depots in the continental United States), we must not overlook the data
networks carrying requisitions, manifests, orders and so forth, in the seemingly mundane area of
support. Protecting C2 on the battlefield is important, but the force has to be on the field to
to face the enemy. IW can delay that presence if the networks and systems supporting the critical
overlooked sustaining base are not incorporated into Army information operations planning.
impact of IW on such seemingly "automatic" chores as troop movement and sustainment can
lead to enemy success
without firing a shot. This planning process must include
History will no doubt verify again and again Colonel Campen's assessment that superior
management of knowledge
will dictate the winners of battles. Transformed into capabilities, information is the currency of
It is debatable whether information systems such as the Sustaining Base Information Services
Component Automated System will be recognized with the same reverence as the names Colt,
and Garand. What is not subject to debate is the fact that the Army's commitment to reliance
technology to support successors of Lieutenant General Pagonis (and, ultimately, the warfighter)
has gone way
past the point of no return. How history remembers information systems (and the people who
design, operate, and
maintain them) will depend upon how seriously we take the contemporary threats to these
- Knowledge and appreciation of the threat. Fortifications, in the traditional sense, are no real
barriers to this new threat. Familiar terms such as "thickness," "depth," "steel," and "armor"
thought-space with new terms such as "information systems security" and not-so-new terms like
- Appreciation that the Army is a member of the GIE with all its attendant risks. The
requirements of our warfighters and sustainers are but a mere speck in this "new universe" and
- Understanding that the automated information systems supporting the processes that
deploy, maintain, and sustain the force are choice IW targets. U.S. soldiers remain the best in the
However, their ever-growing reliance on automation that works through the GIE to provide
logistics and supply
makes this automated "tail" an obvious choice for IW activity. Such activity can come from any
spot on the globe
at the speed of a keystroke.
- Provision for exercising IW plans, tactics, and techniques to protect vital automated systems
supporting sustaining base activities. The axiom that we will fight as we train applies to those
will sustain our forces. That long line of communication through "cyberspace" presents awesome
opportunities for exercise planners to test our mettle in IW.
1. Colonel Alan Campen USAF, (Retired), Contributing Editor, The First Information War,
Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) Press, 1992.
2. Ibid, vii.
3. Alvin and Heidi Toffler, War and Anti-War, Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century, Little,
Brown, and Company, 1993, frontspiece. The agricultural age was first, followed by the
industrial age; the information age is the third wave.
4. Ibid, 9.
5. Doctrine Review Advisory Group (DRAG) Draft FM 100-6, Information Operations,
Headquarters, Department of the Army, October 1995, iii.
7. Lieutenant General William G. Pagonis with Jeffrey Cruikshank, Moving Mountains Lessons
Leadership from the Gulf War (Boston: Harvard University Press, 1992), frontspiece.
8. Toffler, 78.
9. Office the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, Report of the Defense
Science Board Summer Study Task Force on Information Architecture of the Battlefield, October
11. National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC), NGIC-1100-55D-96, China's Focus on
Developing Electronics Technology Applicable to IW (U), by Dr. E. McKenzie, 8 December
12. Leonard Lee, The Day the Phones Stopped--How People Get Hurt When Computers Go
Wrong (New York: Donald I. Fine, Inc., 1992), 134-135.
13. FM 100-6, iii.
Mr. Reardon is an Intelligence Operations Specialist with the Office of the Deputy
Chief of Staff
for Intelligence, U.S. Army Signal Command (formerly called the Information Systems
Command) at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He is a graduate of Chaminade University of Honolulu,
with a bachelor of arts degree in General Studies. Readers can contact him at (520) 538-6255,
DSN 879-6255, and via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.