Information Age changes warfare rules

Conducting warfare in the Information Age requires the Defense Department to operate under a new set of rules, with a greater focus on "ascending" technologies that aid cognitive tasks and less spent on tools in the physical domain, according to the head of DOD's transformation office.

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, director of the Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation, said the resources available now — and those being developed — in the cognitive and information domains are "ascending." He characterized tools in the physical realm as being in a "devolution," and DOD's focus and funding must support the new paradigm.

"The movement from the Industrial Age to the Information Age is the driver of transformation," Cebrowski said during a July 9 conference at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. "All other things flow from that."

New rules for combat accompany transformation and network-centric warfare — which seeks to make data available to those who need it across the organization or on the battlefield. Such rules include a greater focus on managing and speeding information to commanders, increased and offensive use of sensors, and less attention on earlier assumptions that future wars would include long-range weapons on sparsely populated battlefields, he said.

"As we move deeper and deeper into the Information Age, the new rules sets will become clearer, and we must respond to them," Cebrowski said.

Edward Smith Jr., senior analyst for network-centric and effects-based operations at Boeing Co., agreed and said effects-based operations, which focus on "stimulus and response" as opposed to targets and damage infliction, should be the successful end to network-centric means.

Smith, a retired Navy captain with about 20 years of intelligence experience, said the transition will not be easy because it relies heavily on human information, which can be wrong and difficult to verify. But combining that with information technology and sensors to get knowledge to the commanders who need it is essential, he said.

"It's more an organizational than a technological problem," Smith said, adding that at the rate technology has been improving, it should be there to support the new capabilities. "If you're looking for [artificial intelligence] with answers to the human mind than the answer is 'no.' But if it's an intelligence tool to tap expertise and the knowledge databases that use them, that's probably doable."

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