Knowledge is power, but sometimes what you really need is Power

At least that is what retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, PhD told the House Armed Services Committee (.pdf) at a July 15, 2004 session entitled Army Transformation: Implications for the Future. (For more info on DoD transformation, check out the Office for Force Transformation.) Some excerpts (the emphasis is mine):

I will begin by examining two of the fundamental assumptions that are distorting Army transformation. The first of these distortions arises from the belief that information can substitute for armored protection, firepower and off-road mobility.

Situational awareness promises that information about the enemy and his intentions will always be available when it is needed. It also assumes that everyone inside the battlespace will create and exploit information in exactly the same way.

In terms of doctrine, tactics and organization, the Army views FCS [Future Combat System] as shaping the battle “out of contact,” assuming that perfect situational awareness will turn every actual engagement into an exploitation operation rather than a decisive battle. Of course, unless the network operates perfectly the FCS equipped force may not be powerful enough to shape the battle extensively, much less win an engagement in contact.

More important, the kind of thinking that underpins the FCS also denies the enemy a vote in how he will fight.

For most of us, failures in effective information/knowledge management do not usually result in the catastrophic consequences that can result in the heat of battle for military forces. This does give us an extreme example, though, of the importance of not relying exclusively on technology to gather and process information and make decisions.

People ARE important, no matter how much the technology vendors try to tell us differently.

UPDATE: Reading through some of the other testimony at the meeting mentioned above, I came across the following in the testimony of retired Army Major General Robert Scales (again, the emphasis is mine):

Yet the military still remains wedded to the premise that success in war is best achieved by creating an overwhelming technological advantage. Transformation has been interpreted exclusively as a technological challenge. So far we have spent billions to gain a few additional meters of precision, knots of speed or bits of bandwidth. Some of that money might be better spent in improving how well our military thinks and studies war in an effort to create a parallel transformational universe based on cognition and cultural awareness. War is a thinking man’s game. A military all too acculturated to solving warfighting problems with technology alone should begin now to recognize that wars must fought with intellect.

Clearly these imperatives place an increased premium on the ability of America’s

military to understand the nature and character of war as well as the cultural proclivities of the enemy. Yet increasingly military leaders subordinate the importance of learning about war to the practical and more pressing demands of routine day to day operations. In a word, today’s military has become so overstretched that it may become too busy to learn at a time when the value of learning has never been greater.

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