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Air University Student Research Paper 1996

[2025] Information Operations: A New War-Fighting Capability

Subject: A future study on concepts and technologies to exploit air and space in the year 2025 and beyond.

Author(s): Scott A. Bethel; Nolen R. Chew; James B. Near (Faculty Advisor); Philip M. Nostrand; YuLin G. Whitehead


Abstract: In its most basic form, commanders have always performed the functions of observe, orient, decide, and act (OODA Loop) to prosecute military operations. As with Alexander the Great, history shows the military commander who best analyzes, decides, and controls the speed of the engagement prevails in nearly every conflict. To master the OODA Loop, military leaders have pushed technology to obtain more information. Ironically, this now leads to the requirement to solve two fundamental challenges if the United States expects to maintain air and space dominance in 2025. First, the proliferation of unintegrated military warfighting architectures gives the commander potentially conflicting perspectives of the battlespace. Second, the explosion of available information creates an environment of mental overload leading to flawed decision making. Failure to master these challenges critically weakens the military instrument of power. This paper presents a solution to these challenges confronting commanders as they employ future airpower forces.

Regarding the first challenge, the large number of specialized warfighting architectures makes information integration supporting overall coordination and control more important and more difficult. Simultaneously, the speed and the range of modern weapons drastically reduces the time commanders have to integrate conflicting information and decide on a course of action.

The second challenge is to harness the information explosion to combat mental overload, thus improving decision making. Recent exercises reveal an alarming number of unread messages because of information overload. As the quantity of data rises, the difficulty of preparing and interpreting it for decision making grows. Traditionally, the military attempted to solve this problem by increasing the number of communications nodes. These past solutions only injected additional inputs and information without improving decision making capability. The optimum solution must integrate the functions within the OODA Loop and allow the commander to control the momentum of the cycle. This paper describes how a system called the Cyber Situation can do just that, thus optimizing commanders' ability to operate air and space systems. The Cyber Situation will enable commanders and decision makers to have in-time access to the battlespace, characterize the nature of the engagement, determine the calculated probabilities of success from the various authorized lethal or nonlethal options, decide what to do, employ the weapons chosen, and receive in-time feedback on the result of the engagement.

The Cyber Situation system includes five major components. First, all-source information collectors will transmit raw data to the Information Integration Center (IIC), discussed below. Second, archival databases, linked to the IIC, will be used for historical analysis to fill information gaps if the data is not available for collection. Third, the IIC, an integrated and interconnected constellation of "smart" satellites will analyze, correlate, fuse, and deconflict all relayed data. Fourth, implanted microscopic chips link users to the IIC and create computer-generated mental visualizations. The visualization encompasses the individual and allows the user to place himself into the selected battlespace. Fifth, lethal and nonlethal weapons will be linked to the IIC allowing authorized users to employ them from the Cyber Situation.

Implied in the Cyber Situation are five key technologies evolving on separate paths that will synergize by 2025 to achieve this goal. They are collection platforms, communications infrastructure, computing power, intelligent software, and human systems and biotechnology. Most of these technologies will evolve through the commercial community, but the military must focus research and development efforts on biological and computational intelligent software and biotechnology breakthroughs to allow mental visualization.

Once realized, these new capabilities will give commanders a new way to prosecute warfare. New technology alone does not revolutionize warfare. Rather, technology's impact on systems evolution, operational tactics, and organizational structure is its true advantage. This fuels necessary and complementary changes in doctrine and organizational structure.

Organizations and doctrine will need to adapt to a streamlined, decentralized environment. The traditional emphasis on command and control will give way to an emphasis on consultation and control. This organizational structure permits the Cyber Situation to operate at maximum efficiency. This allows commander's at all levels to operate with a greater degree of latitude and autonomy as part of an integrated joint operation--a truly combined arms.

Airpower in 2025 must make optimum use of information technology to operate inside an opponent's decision cycle. This requires unequivocal dominance of cyberspace. In addition to enabling all military pursuits, information-related activities will transcend all air and space operations. To be sure, the Cyber Situation proposed in this paper will certainly not eliminate all the command problems facing airpower forces in 2025. However, it may well shed light on the main factors involved and indicate the direction any reform efforts should move. The challenge now is for airpower strategists to develop the warfighting doctrine to turn the vision of a true battlespace execution capability into reality.

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