We are faced with something new and profoundly different. . . . The world is changing in ways both fundamental and, from our perspective, almost incomprehensible.
|William R. Brody, President, Johns Hopkins University|
EMINENT SCHOLARS AND FUTURISTS hold that the entire world, particularly the United States, is in an era of rapid and radical change, profound and thoroughgoing change that has never before been quite so rapid and radical as it is now. Take a good look around: sober reflection indicates that the prophets of change are right.
Many of these pundits see the previous transition from agricultural to industrial societies as a slow-motion example of what the world is currently going through. The development of the Industrial Age started very slowly, accelerated to a rapid pace during the nineteenth century, then eased to a more measured pace in the twentieth century. Now another transition is taking place as the world hastens from an industrial to a trans- or post-industrial era, known popularly as the "Information Age." The present shift began slowly, but is moving quickly today, far more quickly than the former transition.
Our intellects and our institutions (e.g., schools, churches, businesses, governments, armed services) have developed and matured in the late Industrial Age, the twentieth-century period of gradually increasing industrial complexity. We perceive the world around us through Industrial Age lenses. We think and speak in Industrial Age terms. We educate, organize, and govern ourselves on the basis of Industrial Age patterns. We fight with Industrial Age weapons in Industrial Age ways. But now Industrial Age institutions, concepts, and terms are rapidly becoming or are already outmoded and irrelevant, while different organizations, ideas, and vocabularies are speedily developing to handle the realities of the new era. Like the movement from the agricultural era to the Industrial Age, but to a greater degree and at a faster rate, the trans-industrial period is transforming almost every area of human endeavor, including agriculture, industry, communications, commerce, government . . . and war.
This "jump-shift," this "radical bend," this "new age" is leading to wholly new ways of fighting (new ways of producing wealth lead to new ways of destroying it). Warfare systems based on old ways and concepts can be outmaneuvered and neutralized by systems based on new ways and concepts. Bravery and speed and surprise will be just as important as they were at Trafalgar and Midway, but the weapons and tactics will be different.
The urgent question is this: How is the mighty United States Navy, with its minds and organizations deeply rooted in the mature Industrial Age, to change quickly and efficiently into a Navy that can fight and win in a dynamic, trans-industrial age?
Aye, mates, there's the rub.
Incremental programmatic and organizational adjustments, more money, and improved Industrial Age weapon systems and platforms will not be enough to ensure that the U.S. Navy remains the preeminent navy. The usual responses (no matter how sophisticated) to variations in the late Industrial Age environment will not suffice, because the world has profoundly changed and is changing still. A new age calls for a new change machine. Metaphorically speaking, a fulcrum and lever, and the wisdom to use them effectively, are needed to move the Navy into the next era. (Should fulcrum and lever prove to be too slow, then powder and shot should not be spared.)
The fulcrum consists of the mission and mission-related tasks. What must the Navy be able to do, and how swiftly? In what environment, against what threats? What tasks must be accomplished to execute the mission in the time required? The Navy must answer those questions, then continually and rapidly update the answers.
The lever is data. There was a time when enough resources were available to satisfy nearly every national military need and most national military desires. It used to be that service-specific arguments, decorated with soft numbers and buttressed by personal experience and well-earned reputation, carried the day in budgetary debates. No longer. Now the Navy needs other, more cogent arguments, built upon hard, objectively measured, incontrovertible data. Credible, accurate data that is relevant to warfare missions and tasks constitutes the lever with which the Navy can be moved into the new age. Indeed, such data is the only workable lever for the present and future world.
Yet it is not enough simply to possess the tools for change. To use the lever and fulcrum correctly, wisdom is needed wisdom which stems from a thorough understanding of the Navy's missions, mission-related tasks, capabilities, and readiness. From this wisdom must flow appropriate warfare concepts and theory. With this wisdom the Navy can determine what it requires to accomplish its missions quicker, better, and cheaper. Clearly, missions and mission-related tasks, and the concepts for accomplishing them, must drivethe requirements process. And, in turn, defining the missions and tasks requires an understanding f the Navy's environment and the threats the Navy can expect in that environment.
People often talk about shaping environments, but it is an inescapable fact that the technological environment shapes people and their societies (Karl Marx was right on that score).1It is doing so today, probably faster and more thoroughly than even the most astute observers realize. Computer technology is transforming commerce, finance, social relations, and the armed services, to name just a few, at an incredible pace. And the transformation is just beginning, steadily accelerating with no slowdown in sight.
Information can now be acquired with astonishing ease: an individual can effortlessly, cheaply, and quickly gather information that had previously been difficult to access, or had not been available at all. Information can also be distributed and analyzed much faster than before, and it can be manipulated and used in ways never before imagined, to accomplish tasks not thought possible. The World Wide Web is a case in point. Growing at an exponential rate and evolving rapidly in complexity, the Web is remolding whole sectors of society: commerce, finance, communications, education the list goes on.
These new information capabilities catalyze the development and refinement of other capabilities, rendering older ones unnecessary or irrelevant. With regard to the Navy, the information technology explosion makes possible (list not exhaustive):
All of the foregoing sounds wonderful; however, lest the Navy be dazzled by the promise of technology, certain caveats must be kept in mind to maintain clarity of vision. The technology sword cuts both ways: technology and information are widely distributed and easily accessible, worldwide. With the increase in technological distribution and diversity, uncertainty likewise increases. The Navy must learn to deal with greater levels of tactical, operational, and strategic uncertainty. Furthermore, new technologies bring new vulnerabilities, usually unknown or unanticipated. The double-edged sword of information availability obliges the Navy to reexamine its plans and tactics continually in order to identify and then eliminate or minimize its vulnerabilities. Lastly, the increasing speed of change makes it necessary for the Navy to quicken its response cycle radically in all its activities and functions, else it runs the risk of being outmaneuvered, frustrated, and defeated.
Developments in the technological environment are profoundly affecting the international environment. New technologies are altering the ways in which wealth is produced and distributed, which in turn is causing rapid (and potentially dangerous) social, economic, and political change. International friction, fragmentation, shifting alliances, and new power relationships ensue. Economic competition is intensifying on a global scale, accompanied by the emergence of multinational companies having no firm commitments to any one nation and exerting considerable influence on world trade.
Particularly relevant to the Navy is the growing vulnerability of free use of the seas. While growing more vital with increasing worldwide dependence on international trade, free navigation of the seas, already made vulnerable by cheap and low-technology weapons, is becoming even more vulnerable with the appearance of new and dispersed technology that enables the swift development of new weapons and ways of using them.
For reasons related to the impacts of technology, the political complexion of the world changed radically in the 1980s. The history has been recounted before, but it bears review. The world in which most Americans matured was polarized by the United States and the Soviet Union. De jure or de facto, most other countries aligned themselves with one superpower or the other, as their national interests dictated. The Soviet Union and the United States used cultural ties, economic ties, diplomacy, and raw power (more or less gently applied) to gain and retain the commitment of these countries. Friendly persuasion was usually used with those countries who were in positions affording some semblance of neutrality and who could play one pole against the other.
That world no longer exists. The Soviet Union is gone and has not yet been replaced by a major power that has the ability and desire to compete with the United States in a traditional (Industrial Age) military sense. American popular culture (not to be confused with values and mores) is spreading throughout the world and, aided by modern communications, is rapidly becoming the dominant and pervasive world culture, even in countries whose leadership would strongly prefer otherwise. Most emerging and developing economies depend very much on access to the American market, relying on sales in that market to provide cash needed to fund modernization. For speedy development, often facilitated by ways to leapfrog expensive Industrial Age infrastructure, such economies also turn to technologies that are most highly advanced and available in the United States.
In short, the Cold War situation, in which the United States needed the good will and cooperation of other nations more than they needed that of the United States, has been reversed. Over time, the United States will probably adjust its international relationships accordingly. However, it is judicious to realize that the current situation is just as transient as the Cold War was history confirms the impermanence of political arrangements.
On the domestic front: although the people of the United States support a defense establishment sufficient for current needs, changes in relative economic strength and in domestic political and economic priorities may lead to erosion of support in the future. That handwriting is already on the wall and has been for many years. Rapid changes in technology, international politics, and international economics will lead to much greater uncertainty (and political wrangling) in determining how best to provide for the national defense. Changing and widely varying social and educational standards, combined with economic demands for trained and disciplined workers in the civilian workplace, will render it difficult for the armed forces of the United States to attract as many qualified people as they do now.
This is not the place for a detailed listing of destabilizing forces in the world, but it is worth noting that rapid change frequently causes social, economic, and political instability. Instability is not a necessary consequence of rapid change, but it is a likely outcome. Traditional social structures, including family and religious structures, are often severely traumatized by sudden, swift change. The ensuing shock and aftershocks those structures undergo can be extremely stressful for the members of any nation or organization. Extreme social stress leads often in turn to extreme (radical) behavior. In the current state of affairs, all states and organizations, however modern, are subject to the risk of change-induced instability. Moreover, the international situation is becoming so fluid that any state or organization can become an ally, and any can become an enemy (or an unhelpful neutral).
It would be dangerously imprudent for the military and political leaders of the United States to think that because American armed forces appear to be stronger than any others, they are also smarter than others are and have no critical vulnerabilities. Such arrogant opinion can become fatal delusion, for there are many asymmetric threats, and more are coming. Low-tech, self-sacrificial, asymmetric, unconventional (including but not limited to chemical and biological weapons) these adjectives describe the kinds of threats that U.S. forces are unaccustomed to countering. Dangerous already in themselves, such threats are actually more sinister because they are stealthy: they do not appear on late Industrial Age mental or institutional radar screens. As an institution, the Navy tends not to see these kinds of threats because they are hidden by ingrained paradigms of cognition and thought.
It is unlikely that any hostile organization or state will challenge the U.S. Navy with aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, or amphibious task forces. That course would be foolishly playing to American strengths. Rather, it is far more likely that enemies will look for, find, and exploit vulnerabilities. Yet and this may seem intuitively obvious, but is worth stating plainly U.S. forces are well prepared to counter expected threats, unprepared to counter unexpected or unimagined threats. Preparedness of that kind is not enough. The list of real threats which the next Navy and the Navy-after-next must be ready to meet should be expanded to include all those present and future threats for which today's Navy was not built.
Weapons of mass destruction rank high on the list of threats to be addressed. Some WMD, such as nuclear weapons, can be developed only by advanced industrial economies; nonetheless, these WMD can still be wielded by anyone able to buy or steal them and move them to a target area (a difficult task, but not impossible). Other WMD do not require a highly evolved industrial base for their development, and they are relatively easy to transport. These include chemical and, especially, biological weapons. If the methods of their acquisition and employment are imaginative enough, weapons of mass destruction may constitute asymmetric threats, circumventing defenses devised against them. Moreover, although WMD are reserved primarily for use against very expensive, massive, or massed targets, they can also be used against discrete (point) targets.
One asymmetry difficult to account for is the non-state. The United States normally considers other states as potential enemies. However, given the wide distribution of technology and knowledge, and the capabilities of well-honed terrorist and smuggling organizations, future enemies may not be other states and nations. Troublesome questions then arise: How is the United States to counter non-state threats? Can a state declare war against a non-state? What if the non-state is sheltered within the territory of another state? The rise of sophisticated, powerful, and hostile non-states suggests that finding answers to these and related questions should become a paramount national priority.
Adding further complexity to the issue of asymmetric threats is the changing status of the rules of war. Some parties seek new rules (e.g., the prohibition of land mines), others recognize no rules. New or newly radicalized states may not observe the rules of war, claiming that the old rules unfairly put them at a disadvantage or that the rules of war do not apply to them because their situation is unique and merits exception. That has happened many times in the twentieth century; it would be unwise not to expect it to occur in the twenty-first. Even more vexing is the fact that non-states are not parties to the Geneva Conventions nor are they members of the United Nations. Hence they usually do not regard international law or the rules of war as obligatory.
The question is, What to do? What are the concepts for protecting the nation against the threats discussed above? What will the Navy's tactics be? No one knows. What will the Rules of Engagement be? No one knows. Do the United States and the other nations of the world need new rules? Probably, but even the U.S. in its leadership role has not given that matter adequate constructive thought.
In a nutshell, the problem is unpredictability. The Navy and the nation must recognize and face the existence of exceedingly high, and rising, levels of uncertainty. In the period from 1947 through 1990, the crystal ball was relatively clear; now it is distressingly cloudy. It is just not at all easy today to peer into the future and make reliable predictions. The litany of unknowns is daunting:
No one knows. But inaction is not an option, especially for the Navy. Ways must be found to deal with chronic and extreme uncertainty; with the inability to predict anything in the long term; with radical, rapid, pervasive change; and with much more limited budgets. It is necessary that this be done, and the sooner the better, for later is likely to be too late.
The United States struggled for forty-five years to create a defense establishment that could effectively and efficiently prepare for and wage a conflict such as World War II or a possible global clash with the Soviets. Hopefully the Pentagon will not take as long to reorganize for the security challenges of the post-Cold War era, in which organizational adaptability and quickness are major assets.
|Senator Sam Nunn|
A dynamic world requires a defense organization that can prepare quickly for a wide range of challenges.
|Senator Sam Nunn|
The new strategic imperative is quickness. Survival of the fittest is now survival of the fleetest Jack Tar be nimble, Jack Tar be quick. To become quicker, three things are required: flexibility, agility, and speed.
Flexibility is the ability to respond to change. Maximizing flexibility demands distributed information, a decentralized decision structure, simple decision rules, and mission-based orders. The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is a perfect small-scale example of a flexible organization. Its crew is composed of well-trained, sharply focused, mutually supporting personnel. It is a supple, highly responsive, flat organization. Information is widely distributed, and there are redundant methods of distribution. The flight deck operates on the basis of simple decision rules, with authority for action placed at action levels, dependent upon position, skill, and information rather than rank.
Agility involves alertness, the ability to move swiftly and easily in any direction, and the capacity to change direction on short notice. The agile organization is flat: it has no tall, vertical, thick-walled "stovepipes." The agile, flat, broadly dispersed organization is quick to aggregate whatever forces are needed for emergent missions. In such an organization, decision making is decentralized, with decisions made quickly by the persons at the point of the spear they have the most to gain or lose. Information is widely distributed and accessible, not tightly controlled and compartmented, with all necessary andrelevant information (not all information, merely) passed in digestible form to decision makers at the cutting edge of mission execution.
As to speed, fighter pilots have it right: speed is life. The Navy must be able to move faster than any potential enemy, and not just in its fighter aircraft. It must be the fastest in developing and fielding new technology; in developing the tactics that use new technology; and in developing measures to protect new vulnerabilities. The Navy must be able to redirect its effort and direction much more rapidly than anyone else. The Navy's cycle times and combat decision time must be made so short that no one can turn within the Navy's wake its information and decision loops must be too fast and tight to counter. Operational security must come primarily from speed of action (which includes speed of decision) rather than from information classification systems.
The Navy must not only become quicker, it must also do things cheaper. The days of plenty are long gone, and yearning after them or trying to recover them is futile. Expanding entitlement expenditures, economic dislocations due to forces of change, increasing global competitiveness, and the absence of clear and present danger will all serve to decrease the share of American resources allocated to defense. Certainly the Navy will save money by becoming quicker, for time is money (spent in salaries, fuel usage, wear and tear, inventory storage, lost opportunities, inefficient use of capital investment). One conspicuous imperative is the reduction of waste: wasted time, wasted talent, wasted people, wasted opportunities, wasted capital investments, and wasted fuel, parts, food, etc. A related task is the removal of unnecessary duplication in mission-tasking and organizational structure.
Everything the Navy does must and can be done faster and cheaper but not shoddily. Faster and cheaper do not necessarily imply worse, and the times demand that the Navy do things better; quality of performance must improve, continuously. The Navy is justly proud of its ability to do things well. That is good. However, in naval technology and warfare the Navy has been so much better than its competitors that it expects the margin of excellence to continue. That is bad. Those who have been at sea on the ships of other excellent navies know that in some regards the preeminence of the U.S. Navy is already being challenged in quality though not (yet) in quantity. Given the worldwide free flow of information and rapid rates of technological and economic change, the Navy cannot assume that it will remain the undisputed heavyweight naval champion. It must instead work constantly to stay in shape, learn new moves, and become quicker than all contenders. The Navy must keep its focus on the correct missions and on the ability to adapt and change.
While the Navy grows quicker, cheaper, and better, it ought also to become more dispersed. Weapons of mass destruction are the ultimate Industrial Age weapons, and the Navy must be able to deal with them. One method of countering WMD is to eliminate or hide concentrations of wealth or power which would invite their attention. To that end, the effectiveness of WMD may be greatly reduced by segmenting and dispersing naval forces. Modern technology facilitates that task and also enables the control and assembly ("mix-and-match") of dispersed forces and weaponry as the situation demands.
A final thought: Homeports are indeed homes. Despite rumors to the contrary, the Navy and the other armed forces are not isolated societies. In fact, military and civilian communities are becoming more closely intertwined, to the extent that dispersed units of the armed forces take on the complexions of their host communities, in varying degrees. The armed forces need more effective representation in civilian communities to enhance the mutual benefits of close military-civilian relationships. The military is already relying very much on the material and human resources of civilian communities; increasingly it is drawing its ideas from them.
Gone are the days when the military led civilian society in technology and organizational ability. The military now has more to learn than it has to teach. It can learn valuable lessons from successful American companies in many areas, including:
Many citizens in the civilian sector are ready, willing, and able to teach the Navy. They share the sentiment expressed by the director of human resources at Solar Turbines: "It's our Navy too, you know."
Many different terms are used to describe the "new age," such as "post-industrial age," "information age," "Third Wave," and "knowledge age." There are objections to each. This Paper seeks to avoid those objections by coining and using a new term, "trans-industrial age," which refers to an age in transition from the Industrial Age to something else. It is left to a future generation to find a more precise name for the present era of change. return.
By data is meant something more precise than what has usually been called "data" namely, mere numbers generated by analyses of questionable relevance and rigor, supported by authoritative voices of experience. Data is real information, derived from accurate, verifiable measurements based on well-defined, meaningful standards. Numbers are fluff, often prettily dressed up as "data." return.
Readiness again raises the issue of data. Evaluation of the Navy's readiness must be based on meaningful, consistently applied, quantifiable measures of effectiveness. Current assessments of readiness are too often inadequate, inaccurate, misleading, or irrelevant. return.
The other way around is illogical and foolish. return.
The histories of medicine and physical science are replete with examples of how deeply rooted, authoritative patterns of thought concealed and were later changed or discredited by realities later confirmed by experiment. The histories of naval and land warfare are no different. return.
That is, targets inviting targeting by weapons of mass destruction. return.
The last two sentences of this paragraph identify the hallmarks of "flat organization" in the context of this paper: namely, decentralized decision making and timely flow of relevant information. return.
1. Karl Marx, Das Kapital, vol. 1 (1867). Also, letter of 28 December 1846 to P.V. Arrenkov, quoted in Robert C. Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd ed. (New York and London: W.W. Norton, 1978), pp, 136 142. return.