Academic journal article Military Review

"Seeing the Other Side of the Hill": The Art of Battle Command, Decisionmaking, Uncertainty, and the Information Superiority Complex

Academic journal article Military Review

"Seeing the Other Side of the Hill": The Art of Battle Command, Decisionmaking, Uncertainty, and the Information Superiority Complex

Article excerpt

I am convinced we are in a transition in battle command now with info technology as significant as back in the 1920s when we went from flag sets to wireless radios to combined arms to upbeat tempo.--General Frederick M. Franks, Jr. (1)

Much of battle command is inherently intellectual because people must transform data into information, then knowledge--and they must do it quickly. Mental acuity and the intellectual component of battle command will become critical as our future Army increasingly depends on the benefits of knowledge.--Brigadier General Huba Wass de Czege (2)


THE CURRENT GROWTH in military information technology and network-centric warfare (NCW) theory leads many military professionals and theorists to suggest that new technology will revolutionize the way commanders execute battle command by reducing uncertainty and friction, enhancing visualization and decisionmaking, and increasing the ability to gather and analyze information. Also, many believe network-centric operations will allow the commander and his forces to gain an information advantage or information superiority over an adversary by increasing situational understanding, enhancing information sharing, and increasing the speed of decisionmaking.

Military theorists, historians, and military professionals define battle command in terms of a commander's mental qualities and cognitive abilities. The mental process of battle command requires visualization and decisionmaking based on the commander's experience, knowledge, leadership, and ability to correctly request and analyze information. Although information technology will greatly enhance military operations, it will not alter the battle command process; therefore, mastering the art of battle command is still paramount to the commander's successful decisionmaking, creation of information superiority, and decisive military operations.

Commanders need information to make decisions, but the battle command process of changing information into knowledge to make a decision does not depend on information collection and dissemination. The ability to identify relevant information, create information superiority, and increase the speed of decisionmaking depends on the commander's intellect. Commanders focus information collection based on their cognitive process of understanding what they need to know to make a decision. Information collection is part of the art of battle command because commanders have to understand how to use limited collection assets to get the information they need and how to make decisions in conditions of uncertainty when they cannot collect all of the information they want.

The complexities of war will always create uncertainty and friction because war involves the human dimension, the enemy, and technology. Because of uncertainty and friction, even in network-centric warfare, the commander operates with erroneous, incomplete, overwhelming, or nonexistent information. Taking advantage of NCW capabilities puts a premium on a commander's ability to execute battle command. In the end, a commander's mastery of the art of battle command remains a key human dimension of network-centric warfare that will lead to decisive operations against a hostile, thinking enemy.

Defining Battle Command

Battle command is a relatively new term. In the past, military professionals, theorists, and historians defined it under various names: generalship, military genius, combat leadership, or the qualities of a Great Captain. Whatever the name, the qualities associated with battle command center on the mental qualities or cognitive abilities of commanders in combat. The Army's current definition of battle command--"the exercise of command in operations against a hostile, thinking enemy"--is further described as "principally an art" developed by "professional study, constant practice, and considered judgment." (3) Commanders who successfully execute the art of command in battle do so through visualization, decisionmaking, and leadership, where visualization and decisionmaking are based on judgment acquired from experience, training, study, and creative thinking. …

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