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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW MARCH /APRIL
JOHN ARQUILLA EXPLAINS WHY
NEW MILITARY TECHNOLOGIES
REQUIRE NEW ORGANIZATIONS.
FOR DECADES, the U.S. military has
been working to move information ever
more swiftly from "sensor to shooter."
The more quickly targeting data is
relayed, it is thought, the more likely our
weapons are to hit the enemy. Making
this process smoother and faster has
been a fundamental aim of the advocates
of "network-centric warfare," a concept
many consider crucial to the "revolution
in military a airs."
This movement, champi-
oned most ardently by the
late Vice Admiral Arthur
Cebrowski, who was direc-
tor of the O ce of Force
Transformation in the U.S.
Department of Defense
from 2001 to 2005, has
attracted support well beyond his aco-
lytes. That's because warfare has shifted
away from massed, set-piece battles
between similar forces. Instead, nearly
all conflicts since the end of the Cold
War can be described in terms of swarm-
ing "hiders and finders." Combatants
stay hidden, pop up to strike, and then
disappear until they attack again.
This change has been most apparent in
the rise of anticolonial guerrilla wars over
the past half-century. In these conflicts,
insurgents remain hidden---swimming
in "the sea of the people," as Mao put it.
Conventional militaries have lost most of
their wars against such enemies.
Today, this hider-and-finder dynamic
has become even more dominant, and
the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan,
as well as the global hunt for al-Qaeda
operatives, place an extraordinary pre-
mium on knowing where the enemy is
and what he is doing. This realization has
spurred increased emphasis on rapid col-
lection and dissemination of timely, tar-
geted information about the enemy (s e e
"A Technology Surges," p. 70).
The years since September 11, 2001,
have seen remarkable technical advances
in information systems, from sensors
and communications links to weapons-
guidance packages. For example, I par-
ticipated in creating a "surveillance and
target acquisition network" that allowed
real-time sharing of voice, video, and text
between ground forces,
pilots, and unmanned aer-
ial vehicles like the Preda-
tor. Today, new systems are
being fielded to allow sol-
diers to enter data on the
spot---even during battle.
are wonders, but gener-
ally they have not been accompanied by
shifts in military doctrine and organiza-
tion. The result: a tidal wave of data is
being created that can swamp systems
still organized around large units (such
as army divisions, naval strike groups, or
air force wings) whose goal is to apply
"overwhelming force" at some mythi-
cal "decisive point." Generally speaking,
these large units cannot quickly dis-
seminate the information they collect
throughout their networks and then
allow smaller constituent parts to swarm
This disjunction between technology
and organization was one reason we
floundered in Iraq from 2003 to 2006.
But a shift began last year, away from
big units on supersized forward operat-
ing bases to a network of small outposts.
The latter's tiny but well-informed gar-
risons put a dent in the insurgency with
a multitude of small-scale swarming
raids on terrorist cells. At last, tactics and
organizations had emerged to exploit the
possibilities implied by advanced tech-
But this process has indeed only just
begun. We face the risks of overempha-
sizing technology and leaving the hard-
learned lessons of Iraq behind---just as
our knowledge of unconventional war-
fare withered after Vietnam because we
preferred to prepare for large, set-piece
battles. Then, we fell in thrall to the allure
of precision-guided weapons systems.
Now a similar enchantment accompa-
nies a range of information technologies.
It is a spell that can be broken only by
remembering that new organizational
forms and practices must develop along
with new tools.
JOHN ARQUILLA IS PROFESSOR OF DEFENSE ANALY
SIS AT THE NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL. HIS
NEXT BOOK, WORST ENEMY: THE RELUCTANT TRANS
FORMATION OF THE AMERICAN MILITARY, WILL BE
PUBLISHED IN APRIL.
with the Kindle
JASON EPSTEIN SUSPECTS THAT
THE MARKET FOR ELECTRONIC
READERS WILL BE LIMITED.
NO ONE CAN doubt that digitization
and the Internet, together with vari-
ous factors intrinsic to the publishing
industry, will radically transform the
distribution of books: books can now
be transmitted directly from writer to
reader, eliminating much of the tradi-
tional publishing supply chain. Research,
technical data, and the contents of dic-
tionaries, manuals, certain journals, and
encyclopedias of all kinds can now be
sent to users' screens, item by item, on
demand. This largely ephemeral material
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