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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2008 Symposium Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction: Translating Strategic Guidance into Actionable Solutions CHARLES L. BEAMES Space and Intelligence Office Under Secretary of Defense Washington, D.C. Soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001, which shattered the sense of domestic security of Americans living in the United States, individual and national security attention was drawn to the question of what else might happen. Quickly, people began to realize that a significant vulnerability of the free and open society we enjoy is the risk from “weapons of mass destruction,” or WMDs, in the hands of vengeful terrorists like those who attacked us on 9/11. Along with that realization was a renewed and refocused emphasis on both the nonproliferation and counter-proliferation of WMDs, which are nothing more than the next turning in a long history of innovation trumping innovation in man’s quest to outmaneuver and subdue his enemy. THE IMPORTANCE OF MANEUVER Aptitude for maneuver is the supreme skill in a general; it is the most useful and rarest of gifts by which genius is estimated. – Napoleon Bonaparte
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2008 Symposium “Maneuver,” usually listed second after “Mass” in a list of the Principles of War, is defined in joint doctrine as placing the enemy in the most vulnerable position for the optimal application of force. Today, this 20th-century definition of maneuver must be broadened to include gaining dimensional advantage over an enemy, whether by sea, land, air, space, or cyberspace. Viewing the history of warfare through the prism of technology development and its impact on maneuver brings to light the critical nature of technology in the evolution of warfare. From the continuous lengthening of standoff range to the introduction of the railroad for logistical resupply, historians have often heralded the successful introduction of a new technology as a turning point in military history, the point at which one side gains an advantage over the other. The stirrup ushered in the age of cavalry, dramatically changing the tempo of war and giving the advantage, at least temporarily, to the land forces that were best able to use it. The same can be said of the internal combustion engine and its application to the tank, which ushered in Blitzkrieg strategies and tactics. Is there any doubt that the successful integration of airpower over the last 100 years, from a largely observational platform with fighter escort in WWI to precision “Shock and Awe” in Operation Iraqi Freedom, has been critical to U.S. strategic dominance in maneuver warfare? The introduction of space-based capabilities in communication, surveillance, and navigation are examples of technologies that have provided significant early warning of enemy positions, movements, and intentions. In the 21st century, technological development is increasing at unprecedented levels. Unclassified briefings at the highest levels of our national intelligence community indicate that their gravest concern is the combination of technology acceleration (Moore’s law in computing power, custom-designed DNA bacteria for the cost of a new car, etc.) and technological leveling through the instantaneous diffusion of information over the Internet and material via overnight shipping. INNOVATION, THE HISTORICAL PIVOT POINT IN MANEUVER WARFARE What becomes clear through a study of maneuver warfare is that more often than not, the most significant and abrupt changes in a combatant’s ability to “gain the dimensional advantage through movement” coincides with the successful application of a new technology. Placing an adversary in a disadvantageous posture can be accomplished in one of two ways. First, one can reposition oneself into a position that leaves the opposing military forces in a relatively weaker posture. Second, one can lure the enemy into such a position that he is left with no choice but to move into a disadvantageous position (the classic “horns of a dilemma”). Throughout history, a classic method of the former has been relentless pursuit by military technologists to lengthen standoff range, which enables a force to maintain its strike advantage while making its opponent’s force much weaker and less effective.
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2008 Symposium The original standoff range, when the balled fist was the major weapon, was very likely arm’s length. Over the millennia, besides making weapons more lethal, man has sought to lengthen the range of rocks, spears, and so on, culminating in the airplane, the long-range missile, and software viruses, each giving him the ability to outmaneuver his opponent and strike him at will. I say this not to lessen the importance of other factors, such as skill, courage, and reflex, but all else being equal, the first military to adapt a “lengthened knife” or spear to its warfighting apparatus gained a clear advantage over its enemies. THE GLOBALIZED THREAT The time when only a few states had access to the most dangerous technologies has been over for many years. Dual-use technologies circulate easily in our globalized economy, as do the scientific personnel who design and use them. As a consequence, it is more difficult for us to track efforts to acquire, for nefarious purposes, these components and technologies. –Annual Threat Assessment of the Director of National Intelligence for the Senate Armed Services Committee, 27 February 2007 According to the director of national intelligence, the biggest threat is technology invention and diffusion and the ability of our adversaries to “live on the exponential technology curve,” unlike the U.S. military, which is encumbered by the weight and drag of its bureaucracy and infrastructure. Nimble adversaries can leapfrog a century of science thanks to the diffusion of technological knowledge and access to weapons and materials largely as a result of the Internet and the explosive growth of the Google and eBay economies. Ominously, unanticipated changes in the character of war can be major pivot points in political history as well. Richard Hellie, in his book Warfare, Changing Military Technology, and the Evolution of Muscovite Society, describes how migrating from the bow and arrow to the musket not only led to victory in warfare, but also resulted in a reordering of political power. From 1450 to 1725, Russia experienced two revolutions as a direct result of military threats made possible largely by the full-scale introduction of technological advances. The first threat was from the Tatar light cavalry, and the second was from the Swedish infantry. The replacement of the light bow and arrow with the musket changed the nature of warfare from resource control to territorial control. Russia quickly reordered its society into a very rigid, caste-like system and was able to defend itself against threats from Lithuania, Poland, and Sweden. We live in an epoch unparalleled in human history, when “virtually anything of value is offered in today’s global marketplace—including illegal drugs … machine guns and rocket launchers, and centrifuges and precursor chemicals
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2008 Symposium used in nuclear weapons development” (Naim, 2005). The shift to a global arms market means a “massive transfer of goods and equipment once under the exclusive control of national armies into private hands released into the market products ranging from rockets launchers to SCUD missiles and nuclear designs and machinery” (Naim, 2005). MANEUVER, ADVANTAGE, INNOVATION, AND UNCERTAINTY It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. – Yogi Berra Clearly, in warfare, as in the commercial marketplace, the inventor of a technology doesn’t always “win.” The winner is the successful innovator. Whether in standoff range or logistics, reconnaissance or precise navigation, the military that most successfully applies the invention to the art of war gains the advantage and wins, all other instruments of political power being equal. INNOVATION IN THE COMMERCIAL MARKETPLACE As part of a thesis for the National War College, this author conducted comparative case studies in innovation in three industry leaders, Google, Apple, and IBM, to determine their common cultural characteristics that could be applied to the defense world to improve the nation’s ability to innovate solutions to counter the asymmetric technologies being used to significantly degrade U.S. military power. The studies were conducted using the framework devised by Jim Collins in his treatise, Good to Great, and the results are summarized below. The 11 Cultural Lessons of Innovation People Recruit the best people you can possibly afford, and avoid the worst at all costs. Establish a culture of recognizing the problems to be solved. Direct a sizable and conscious amount of work time and effort to fostering creativity. Organize around small work groups of three or four people to encourage the highest level of innovation. The most important leadership trait is credibility; a leader should be technically skilled and perceived as such.
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2008 Symposium Thinking A commitment should be made at all levels to “radical honesty.” The starting point of all relevant innovation is solving a real problem. The essence of creative, innovative thinking is accomplished by individuals. Actions Ensure that there is disciplined, rational, but audacious movement at all levels. Vision and raison d’être should be internalized by all members of the organization at every level. Everyone must have hands-on skills related to the work they oversee or are involved with. NONPROLIFERATION AND COUNTERPROLIFERATION OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION Few propositions are more fraught with disaster than the suggestion that the military be run like a business. The goals, motivations, necessity, and reasons for existence of companies and the military often run in opposite directions. Nevertheless, the confluence of history at which this nation finds itself is unique. Scientific and technological know-how and invention are at their highest rate in the history of the world, and, at the same time, the world is becoming a technologically level playing field. This “flattening” leads to a rise in productivity and living standards for people around the world, but it is also one of the factors that leads to technological advantage. For that reason, the national security apparatus responsible for combating WMDs ought to consider these factors as it develops and devises organizations for to control and counter the spread of WMDs. The Internet is the engine that drives leveling and advancement. Although most technologists argue that the Web-enabled world is still in its infancy, sufficient time has elapsed that a highly inventive and competitive economy has formed around it. Because of the lower capital costs associated with entering this market, it is likely to remain highly competitive. The intellectual property associated with it is predominantly in software, and the economic rewards can be asymmetric. As a result, the Web-based world is a highly dynamic, competitive, and innovative environment. The cultural attributes that characterize innovative organizations also apply to terrorist organizations trying to obtain WMDs. Thus, we must call into question some general assumptions of the culture on which our highly bureaucratic national security establishment is based. Even though this culture, organization, and tradition is in some ways contrary to conventional wisdom, our nation is dealing with
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2008 Symposium a new distribution of power based on technological leveling, and we ignore this shift at our peril. We need further studies of this situation, but they must be done soon. As Napoleon said, “Given the same amount of intelligence, timidity will do a thousand times more damage in war than audacity.” Philip Howard says in his book, The Death of Common Sense, that very little gets done in mature bureaucracies because processes put in place over the years have stripped responsibility from bureaucrats leaving them unaccountable and not apt to display the three attributes most necessary to solving problems and getting things done: effort, courage, and leadership. Without rethinking the reward structure of our military and beginning to move away from a highly bureaucratized, static organization toward a flattened, empowered, versatile, and highly innovative culture, there is significant risk that we will be caught by surprise by grave threats to our national survival, much as our army was caught by surprise by the evolution of improvised explosive devices in Iraq. CONCLUSION The only limiting factor for military application of technology is the imagination of a certain percentage of the 6.5 billion people who would rejoice in seeing the United States humiliated for its perceived hubristic behavior. The question that ought to be haunting the nonproliferation and counterproliferation establishment is how we can be ready for a 21st-century “Mongol” (the one who applied the stirrup to cavalry warfare and changed the world), who at this moment may recognize the military utility of something that no one else sees and that can bring down the most powerful nation the world has ever known. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Books Angevine, R.G. 2004. The Railroad and the State: War, Politics, and Technology in 19th Century America. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. Berry, F.C., Jr. 1993. Inventing the Future: How Science and Technology Transform Our World. New York: Macmillan. Biddle, S.D. 2004. Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Clausewitz, C. von. 1976. On War. Translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Collins, J.C. 2001. Good to Great. New York: Harper Collins. Greene, R. 2006. The 33 Strategies of War. New York: Penguin Group. Hellie, Richard. 1990. Warfare, Changing Military Technology, and the Evolution of Muscovite Society. Pp. 74-99 in Tools of War, Instruments, Ideas, and the Institutions of Warfare, 1445-1871, edited by John A. Lynn. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press. Howard, P.K. 1994. The Death of Common Sense. New York: Random House.
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2008 Symposium Leonhard, R.R. 1998. The Principles of War for the Information Age. Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press. Leonhard, R.R. 1994. Fighting by Minutes: Time and the Art of War. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. Lieber, K.A. 2005. War and the Engineers: The Primacy of Politics over Technology. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. Lynn, J.A. 1990. Tools of War: Instruments, Ideas, and Institutions of Warfare, 1445–1871. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press. Naim, M. 2005. Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy. New York: Doubleday. Porter, M.E. 1990. The Competitive Advantage of Nations. New York: Free Press. Sun Tzu. 1963. The Art of War, translated by Samuel B. Griffith. New York: Oxford University Press. Weigley, R.F. 1973. The American Way of War. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press. Government Publications Joint Chiefs of Staff. 2000. Joint Publication 1: Joint Warfare of the Armed Forces of the United States. 14 November 2000. Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff. Joint Chiefs of Staff. 2006. Joint Publication 3-0, Joint Operations. 17 September 2006. Washington, D.C.: Ft. Belvoir Defense Technical Information Center. Nixon, S. 2006. Living in a World of Rapid Change: The IC S&T Transformation Imperative. Briefing to Congress, August 18, 2006. Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 2007. Annual Threat Assessment of the Director of National Intelligence for the Senate Armed Services Committee, February 27, 2007. Online Sources McGregor, J., M. Arndt, R. Berner, I. Rowley, K. Hall, G. Edmondson, S. Hamm, M. Ihlwan, and A. Reinhardt. 2006. Innovation: The World’s Most Innovative Companies. <http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_17/b3981401.htm>. Negroponte, N. 2003. Creating a Culture of Ideas. <http://www.technologyreview.com/Biztech/13074/>. The Quotations Page. Yogi Berra. <http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Yogi_Berra/>.
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