Smart Soldiers: Decentralization and War

By Stratton, Matt | Harvard International Review, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Smart Soldiers: Decentralization and War


Stratton, Matt, Harvard International Review


The nature of combat and command is about to be changed dramatically by advancements in information technology, which will allow the individual soldier, squad, or armored unit to become an independent decision-maker on the battlefield.

Soon the US Armed Forces will possess capabilities previously dismissed as science fiction: detailed physical knowledge of the battlefield along with an unprecedented amount of strategic information in the hands of even the most junior soldier. Many military leaders observe that tactical orders are often made irrelevant by rapidly changing circumstances common to combat situations. In modern warfare, the variables of combat can change at breathtaking speed: high-speed aircraft and ground vehicles coupled with increasingly accurate long-range missiles plague commanders' carefully crafted designs. Every officer's nightmare is sending well-prepared troops into combat only to watch the situation deteriorate due the unexpected. Low-ranking soldiers, trained under rigid decision-making hierarchies, face combat with specific orders made flexible only by permission. Traditionally, soldiers in unpredictable situations are incapable of rapid mission adjustment and suffer from slow reaction times, often converting a temporary setback into an unsalvageable disaster. However, with the widespread dissemination of essential information to even the most junior soldiers made possible by emerging communications technology, such past inefficiencies--and potential disasters--will likely disappear.

A fundamental problem in battlefield decision-making is that commanders are often removed from the scene of combat and therefore have limited ability to fully understand the situations facing their soldiers. Conversely, soldiers in the field have access to valuable tactical intelligence, but have historically been unable to convey it effectively to their superiors and are restrained from acting independently based on their information. Past decision-making structures have concentrated information into centralized command centers to formulate orders issued to their subordinates in the field. Commanders, with their superior training and access to theater-wide information, are thought to be best situated and qualified to give momentary orders. However, using new technologies, providing this theater-wide information directly to field soldiers and bypassing the cumbersome hierarchy seem increasingly feasible. Soldiers can combine their commander's information with their own localized circumstances to produce the best possible decisions. The current assumption among US military planners is that soldiers in the field can, with the proper education and training, make better decisions than their commanders who are removed from the battlefield itself. Only in recent years has communications technology advanced to the point where it is no longer practical for commanders to maintain a theater-wide information monopoly. With the capabilities of reliable satellite communications and compact, lightweight computers, all soldiers will have instant access to all relevant information. This could potentially eliminate the requisite and perilous delay in obtaining information or changing orders through a centralized location.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Smart Soldiers: Decentralization and War
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.