The folks over at DefenseTech had this to say (28 July 2005) about complexity and the battlespace:

"In general, a more complex force prevails over a less complex force."
Arthur Cerbrowski, Director, Office of Force
Transformation, Department of Defense

The first time I read this, I didn’t like it, perhaps because of the old Army adage KISS. Then I thought that Admiral Cerbrowski probably had a different definition of complex in mind. What he might mean is that a complex force is one that is able to create more and different options for action against an opponent.

If this is right, a complex force would do better in a complex battle space. Complex battle space is a dignified way of saying messy. Battlefields have always been messy, but the geographic scope of battle, the rapid pace at which it occurs, and the increase in the number of actors make the conflicts since the ’91 Gulf War (with combat mainly between two opposing forces, in uniform, in a mostly uninhabited desert) very different. Now, civilians don’t always have time to get out of the way, and there are other agencies, NGOs, the UN, press, private security contractors as well as insurgents and local security forces. Instead of two sides, there may be nine or ten that are often indistinguishable from each other.

Complex battlespace also involves extending the scope for combat, to include ground, air, space, naval and information (or cyber). We might want to amend the statement to say that a force that is better at managing complexity will do better than a force that still tries to keep it simple.

 

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