Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 32

ADRP 3-0, commanders pursue strategic objectives through tactical actions. They combine their “skill, knowledge, experience, and judgment to overcome the ambiguity and intricacies of a complex, ever changing, and uncertain operational environment to better understand the problem or problems at hand. Operational art … integrates ends, ways, and means, while accounting for risk.”8 The Air France crew experienced a sudden torrent of information—a sort of data avalanche. … They could not analyze all of it effectively, and they lost their lives. Decisions depend on understanding, understanding depends on information, and information depends on data and analysis. As technology has evolved, the Army has explored various means to provide timely and relevant information to the commander and staff. For example, in Vietnam the Army used airborne command and control helicopters.9 Beginning in the 1980s, the Army began to incorporate information technology and computer networks. Mission command systems are an amalgamation of computer networks, sensor systems, radio networks, and satellite communications. Recent efforts in the mission command systems community (referring to all developers, users, and stakeholders of Army information systems) have focused on increasing the sensors and collection networks and their horizontal and vertical information sharing. As the systems and networks have grown in size and capacity, they have also grown in complexity. For example, one major system that supports mission command is known as Command Post of the Future (CPOF). This complex computer network comprises over nine subordinate networks each with its own sensor or collection network.10 One could argue that CPOF is a complex system-of-systems by itself. However, it is 30 only one part of any overall systems architecture in support of mission command—and the systems differ for every mission because every commander selects and employs systems based on the mission. The complexity introduced by such systems is not limited to their structure. They add to the complexity faced by commanders due to the volume of data and information they provide. The Army routinely uses information systems in experiments, rotations at combat training centers, and real-world operations. In numerous experiments, training events, and operations, data and information inundate the staff and commanders—much of it unimportant, inaccurate, conflicting, or irrelevant. This phenomenon is not unique to the military. Technology blogger Anukool Lakhina discusses concerns about businesses losing key insights in a “big data avalanche” (meaning a rapid or sudden arrival of big data) coming from information systems while analytics technology remains inadequate for making the data meaningful.11 Department of Defense (DOD) and Army networks are greater in size and scope than even the largest corporate computer networks in terms of inputs and nodes. If business leaders worry about this problem, perhaps military leaders should be worried, too, because the military’s problem is far bigger. The Air France crew experienced a sudden torrent of information—a sort of data avalanche. They were unable to make the decisions that might have saved their airplane due, in part, to an overwhelming amount of relevant, irrelevant, conflicting, and inaccurate information. They could not analyze all of it effectively, and they lost their lives. No doubt Army units using information systems intended to support mission command have found themselves in a similar state of paralysis due to excess information. Proponents of the of Army’s mission command systems claim their systems allow units to integrate information vertically and horizontally, share it quickly, and make faster decisions.12 As championed by Stanley McChrystal, rapid information sharing should help soldiers and leaders at each level develop a holistic understanding, gain key insights, and act decisively on the battlefield.13 All of this is supposed to reduce uncertainty. McChrystal pioneered ways to improve information sharing during operations, but it was the adaptive leaders trained to receive, process, and act on the July-August 2014  MILITARY REVIEW