• Two decades of decay

    A little dated at this point, but still a timely issue that has not gone away. It may be one of the first times that I have agreed with a piece I\’ve read by Loren Thompson. I think he\’s right on target with this one, though. The Air Force was getting flak, but not modernization dollars, from both sides: Hardcore NCW advocates, though they saw the value of airpower, focused on networks instead of platforms. But they could do so only by taking platforms for granted, as a given. Increasingly, though, in the Air Force they are not givens. Second, the boots-on-the-ground, counterinsurgency, 4GW types often seemed to have no use for airpower at all. And since they often argued that what we\’re doing now is all we\’ll even be doing, they also did not support Air Force modernization.

    tags: airpower, air_force

    • The Air Force begins its sixth decade in circumstances that aviators elsewhere might consider enviable: unrivaled for global air dominance. But that is not the way Air Force leaders view their situation. They see a decrepit air fleet in which the average aircraft is older than the average Navy warship and which is rapidly approaching a breaking point as a result of continuous use in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Every category of airframe operating in Iraq and Afghanistan is suffering from metal fatigue, corrosion, parts obsolescence and other age-related maladies that diminish readiness and raise safety concerns. And yet, timely replacement is not assured.

      How did the air fleet fall into such a state of disrepair that only 60 percent of the planes could be airborne quickly in a national emergency?

    • The problem, it seems, is that at precisely the moment when fleet modernization became urgent, a new crop of policymakers appeared who didn\’t share Air Force views about the future of warfare.
    • For example, an unnoticed structural defect in the 500 KC-135 tankers that comprise 90 percent of the aerial refueling fleet could preclude Air Force and Navy aircraft from supporting U.S troops in remote locations.

      After 20 years of depressed investment, Air Force leaders aren\’t optimistic about finding all the money they need to keep necessary modernization efforts on track.

    • If legislators insist on retaining aircraft past their prime or buying replacement aircraft inefficiently, the day is not far off when the decline of American air power will have fatal consequences for the men and women who fight America\’s wars.
  • The nonlinear futureAnnotated

    Though the thinking here seems sloppy, and though there are a number of inaccuracies, it is yet another example of bringing concepts from nonlinear science together with ideas about networks. And from a Lockheed Martin big whig no less!

    tags: ncw, nonlinear_science

    • The network metaphor dominates current thinking about national security. Network centricity carried to its logical conclusion, however, portends an environment that becomes increasingly biological over time. Biological environments lend themselves to nonlinear effects and outcomes. The path toward biological transformation in defense may express itself in a number of ways. It may impact the nature of system development, the operational concepts that leverage these systems and the business models that will be used by industry and government to field these new capabilities.
      • I\’ve read more of this kind of stuff that I can even mention. But this is one of the more incoherent pieces I\’ve seen, substituting buzzwords and catch phrases for real thought more often than most other, similar pieces. The \”environment\” will become \”increasingly biological over time\”? What does that even mean? The \”environment\” is not \”biological\” now? And biological systems are more prone to nonlinearity than nonbiological ones, huh? But doesn\’t that undercut the dominant argument that nonlinearity is a universal phenonmemon? Or, is there circular reasoning at work here? If it\’s biological, then it will have nonlinearity; and, it\’s biological because it has nonlinearity? – post by TransTracker
    • The exponential growth patterns of foundational technologies (processing power, bandwidth and storage) and the interconnectivity of nodes availing themselves of this growth is what drives emergent effects.
      • Certainly, these are important phenomena with profound impacts. But exponential growth is not an example of mathematical nonlinearity. Just because the plot on a graph is a curve and not a straight line, that doesn\’t make it a nonlinear equation. – post by TransTracker
    • The geometrically expansive profile of processors, bandwidth and storage are the explosive ingredients resident in or available to every node in the network, be it a weapon, platform, sensor, software code module or human being. More importantly, the nodes themselves are also exponentially multiplying in number and in connectivity with each other. Taken together, the combinatorial inflation of these different dimensions of growth creates the makings of a biological transformation that will impact the defense industry in ways not fully understood or appreciated.
      • Again, very important phenomena, but not nonlinearity. And yet again, \”biological transformation\” is not explained. – post by TransTracker
  • Read differentAnnotated

    This latest piece by T.X. Hammes, a \”fourth generation warfare\” theorist and follower of Boyd\’s teachings, provides a list of 12 recommended readings said to be helpful in allowing the defense community to think differently about the technologicl and social changes affecting the world. The list is an interesting mix of popular press works on nonlinear science and new media.

    tags: nonlinear_science, new_media, 4gw

    • Since the early 1990s, the defense industry has been talking about the revolutionary technological changes taking place across society. It has worked hard to ensure we know what those changes are and how they are affecting national security. Yet, the industry rarely talks about the fundamental requirement to change the way we think in order to understand the implications of the technological and social c
      hanges we face.

      Although the wider academic and business communities are coming to grips with the fact that many of these advances are changing the way we understand the world, the defense industry does not seem to see this as an issue. We still tend to view the world as responding to linear approaches applied by bureaucratic entities.

      Fortunately, over the past couple of decades, a number of books have provided thought-provoking new theories of how the world works. Unfortunately, these theories do not align with the planning processes we use in the defense industry. The first step in fixing our planning processes is to examine how science’s understanding of reality is changing.

      • In my dissertation, I wrote about military theory as \”articulation.\” That is the idea that military theory seeks to define and link certain elements in the world in a way that makes sense. Especially in the twenttieth century, military theory has often served to define and link military understandings of science, technology, society, military, and war. These efforts often begin with the assumption that changes in any one of these areas should mirror/be mirrored by changes in the others. The elements either are or should be in sync or congruent, should change in a \”coperiodized\” way. Elements out of sync are typically identified as a problem in need of solution.\n\nThis is exactly the reasoning we see in Hammes\’ introduction to his recommended reading list. His three short paragraphs provide one of the most concise renderings of this narrative. In effect, he is saying that there have been changes in technology and science that have led to changes in society and war. Unfortunately, he says, the U.S. military has not kept pace, has not changed its \”internal\” thinking in a way that is in sync with changes in these other elements of the world. Another common piece of this narrative is the claim that others (e.g. businesses, terrorists, insurgents, etc.) have recognized changes and adapted themselves appropriately while the U.S. military has not. Thus, the need for action, the need to \”read different\” so as to think differently and, ultimately, act differently, in a way that is congruent with the world \”out there.\” – post by TransTracker
    • The authors of these works highlight aspects of how the world has changed. This forces us to change how we frame problems, how we organize to deal with them and even how to get the best out of our people.
      • Assumption: Epistemological and organizational changes in the world \”out there\” should be mirrored by the same kinds of changes \”within\” the military. – post by TransTracker
    • Chaos

      By James Gleick

    • Linked

      By Albert-Laszlo Barabasi

    • Commander’s Appreciation and Campaign Design

      Army Pamphlet 525-5-500

    • Emergence

      By Steven Johnson

    • The Innovator’s Dilemma

      By Clayton M. Christensen

    • The Wisdom of Crowds

      By James Surowiecki

    • The Geography of Thought

      By Richard E. Nisbett

    • Hidden Order

      By John H. Holland

    • The Starfish and the Spider

      By Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom

    • The Black Swan

      By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

    • Wikinomics

      By Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams

    • The Singularity is Near

      By Ray Kurzweil