Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 30

Hurtling Toward Failure Complexity in Army Operations Maj. Donald L. Kingston Jr., U.S. Army Maj. Donald L. Kingston Jr. is serving as the executive officer for 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He holds a B.S. and an M.S.E. in chemical engineering from the University of Rochester. Maj. Kingston has previously served with the 25th Infantry Division, the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 1st Battalion, the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. F or years, soldiers, military researchers, theorists, and writers have discussed the need for the Army’s planning and decision-making models to account for complexity. Army doctrine on operational art, for instance, incorporates creative ways to manage military forces effectively as part of complex situations. According to Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 3-0, operational art is a cognitive approach to developing strategies, campaigns, and operations that tries to account for the complex relationships between tactical actions and strategic objectives.1 Commanders and staffs can use this approach to visualize and understand a complex operational environment (OE). Commanders and staffs use information systems to support shared understanding. Information systems designed to support mission command are supposed to help a commander and staff visualize their OE by collecting, collating, and displaying information. However, in the drive to obtain more and more information through technology, we have magnified the complexity of military operations more than we have improved our ability to understand an OE. The increased complexity—which is of our own making—increases the risk of a catastrophic failure during any given mission regardless of a commander’s approach to understanding an OE. 28 Army Mission Command Systems This paper describes employment of Army information systems in the context of operational art and the complexity of military operations. The discussion uses the phrase mission command systems (plural) as it is commonly used—to refer to the information systems that support mission command. Army doctrine in ADRP 6-0, however, uses the term mission command system (singular) to include personnel, networks, information systems, processes and procedures, and facilities and equipment.2 Doctrinally, an information system consists of equipment that collects, processes, stores, displays, and disseminates information. It includes hardware, software, communications, policies and procedures.3 In addition, for the purposes of this discussion, the meanings of the terms data and information sometimes overlap. The mission command systems assembled to support an operation form a complex system of systems somewhat similar to the complex information systems used by large commercial aircraft. The commanders of Army operations and the captains of large commercial July-August 2014  MILITARY REVIEW