Academic journal article Military Review

Technology: Achilles' Heel or Strategic Vision?

Academic journal article Military Review

Technology: Achilles' Heel or Strategic Vision?

Article excerpt

THE VICTORIOUS strategist seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined for defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory."1 Sun Tzu's wisdom applies equally on the battlefield; in new system research, development and acquisition; and in the development of a viable joint warfighting doctrine that optimizes each service's unique capabilities. The US military stands at a significant juncture in the evolution of the conduct of war-a change significant enough to be called a revolution in military affairs (RMA) encompassing information, sensing and precision-strike technologies integrated with doctrinal innovations.2 This revolution is under way as the US military moves from industrial to information age warfare. By carefully assessing its capabilities and limitations, the US Army will secure victory on future battlefields and continue to significantly contribute to preserving America's security well into the 21 st century.

With the Warsaw Pact's dissolution and the Cold War's end, the Army must anticipate and adapt to the challenges of tomorrow's battlefields and the nation's needs. The Army has already changed from a forward-deployed Cold War force focused on the Soviet threat to a Continental United States (CONUS)-based power-projection force that is actively shaping the future battlefield as it modernizes its systems, institutions and doctrine. Challenged by former Army Chief of Staff General Gordon R. Sullivan, the US Army is evolving into Force XXI, a power-projection instrument for the 21st century.3 Force XXI's strategic goal is to become "a force for the 21st century that is more lethal, survivable, capable of sustained operations, deployable, versatile and sustainable, with increased joint and combined connectivity.4 Force XXI will significantly change the way the Army operates while maintaining the fundamental principles essential to success in combat and operations other than war (OOTW). As Alfred Thayer Mahan said of advanced technology's impact on naval tactics in The Influence of Seapower on History, "From time to time, the superstructure of tactics has to be altered or torn down, but the old foundations of strategy so far remain, as though laid upon a rock."5

The Issue

While Force XXI's capabilities will be significantly greater than those of Industrial Age forces, forecasts of its capabilities may be overly optimistic. For example, US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Pamphlet (Pam) 525-5, Force XI Operations, predicts that "21st century commanders will have the capability to see the entire battlefield in depth, identify key targets-and attack with a wide choice of joint, as well as Army systems, whenever and wherever the commander desires."6 While this may be the case in most situations, it probably will not be the norm as the statement implies. Army leaders must understand Force XXI's limitations and exploit its capabilities to achieve success in 21st-century operations.

This article's intent is to point out that the US Army must thoroughly anticipate and compensate for the inherent limitations of Force XXI and its joint and combined counterparts. Leaders should not focus too much on technological solutions, especially to nontechnological problems. Force XXI is not an end state. As Sullivan stated, "Force XXI is not a destination but a journey." It is a process, a mechanism allowing the Army to continuously learn. Thus, attempting to draw conclusions about the force's effectiveness on the future battlefield is pure speculation. As the eminent historian Sir Michael Howard said, "The best that even the best historians can do, on the basis of their knowledge of the past, is to pose questions and issue warnings about the future."7 The military must continue to ask the right questions and not arbitrarily accept old solutions for new challenges.

Andrew W. Marshall, director, office of Net Assessment, Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), has been at the forefront of the US military's approach to RMA. …

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