MARK W. MAIER
The Aerospace Corporation Chantilly, Virginia
Battlefield managementis the modern term for the thousands-of-years-old practice of controlling men and weapons on the battlefield—what we used to call “command and control.” “Battlefield management” is partially a euphemism (an antiseptic take on a violent act) and partially an admission of reality (modern battles are balancing acts of objectives much more complex than “surrender or die”). It is an especially important topic for the United States, because the interaction of technology and national security policy has led to an exceptionally complex real-time control problem on the battlefield. The problem is not at all “classical,” in the sense of corresponding to a well-structured optimal control or communications problem; instead, it contains all of the pragmatic and important complexities of most interesting, real problems. It is fundamentally a systems problem—spanning the domains of computer science, operations research, aerospace engineering, and communications engineering.
At the most basic level, there are two battle management architectures (in the sense of organizing structures): (1) hierarchically decentralized and (2) centralized. The hierarchically decentralized structure is the traditional command and control pattern. Commanders give operational orders to their subordinates, each responsible for an overall mission in a given area. As orders pass down, each unit is responsible for finding and engaging enemy targets in its area of responsibility. This system works well for land combat and integrated air/land operations, but much less well for air combat, especially strategic combat over whole theaters. In contrast, large-scale air campaigns are now run in a centralized way, through the air tasking order (ATO). The air campaign commander lays out the targeting plan, and much of the operational planning remains at air campaign headquarters. This is particularly necessary since targets are attacked
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Page 10 Battlefield Management MARK W. MAIER The Aerospace Corporation Chantilly, Virginia Battlefield managementis the modern term for the thousands-of-years-old practice of controlling men and weapons on the battlefield—what we used to call “command and control.” “Battlefield management” is partially a euphemism (an antiseptic take on a violent act) and partially an admission of reality (modern battles are balancing acts of objectives much more complex than “surrender or die”). It is an especially important topic for the United States, because the interaction of technology and national security policy has led to an exceptionally complex real-time control problem on the battlefield. The problem is not at all “classical,” in the sense of corresponding to a well-structured optimal control or communications problem; instead, it contains all of the pragmatic and important complexities of most interesting, real problems. It is fundamentally a systems problem—spanning the domains of computer science, operations research, aerospace engineering, and communications engineering. At the most basic level, there are two battle management architectures (in the sense of organizing structures): (1) hierarchically decentralized and (2) centralized. The hierarchically decentralized structure is the traditional command and control pattern. Commanders give operational orders to their subordinates, each responsible for an overall mission in a given area. As orders pass down, each unit is responsible for finding and engaging enemy targets in its area of responsibility. This system works well for land combat and integrated air/land operations, but much less well for air combat, especially strategic combat over whole theaters. In contrast, large-scale air campaigns are now run in a centralized way, through the air tasking order (ATO). The air campaign commander lays out the targeting plan, and much of the operational planning remains at air campaign headquarters. This is particularly necessary since targets are attacked
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Page 11 with complex arrays of weapons (aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles) that are launched by different services from widely separated locations, and everything must be synchronized with complex combat support. One way to break this overall systems challenge into smaller, technically meaningful areas is to look at it in terms of driving realities and representative challenges. Here I discuss the five operational realities and five representative technical challenges. 1 FIVE OPERATIONAL REALITIES The nature of military conflict has changed considerably in the last 20 years and is likely to change more in the next 20. The United States gained much of the military leadership it enjoys today through the superiority of its systems engineering. One illustration of this is the extent to which major systems achievements of the 1960s either have not been replicated or have been replicated only in a limited way by other nations, even though the underlying technology has become relatively well known (e.g., the Minuteman ICBM system, submarinelaunched ballistic missiles, and global command and control). This is in contrast to what was assumed at the time, when it seemed that whatever had been done by us would be done by others (see, for example, Kahn, 1967). The five operational realities of modern warfare for the United States are 1. strategic air warfare with precision conventional weapons as a primary element of U.S. war policy; 2. the likelihood of high-intensity warfare becoming standoff warfare, with decision time lines becoming shorter than weapon/platform flight times; 3. the political significance of “hide-and-seek” warfare; 4. the primacy of peace enforcement and other prolonged, low-intensity conflicts; and 5. the central place of collaborative systems (systems no one explicitly designs or owns) in military operations. The 1991 Gulf War (and its continuing military conflict) and the 1999 Kosovo/Serbia conflict share an unexpected characteristic: both were dominantly strategic air wars. A strategic air war is one in which one side attempts to produce a political effect (acquiescence to demands) by attacking the other side's societal infrastructure instead of the immediately adjacent military forces in the field. The Gulf War air campaign was a mixture of strategic and tactical: strategic strikes on political, energy, and industrial targets, mixed with tactical attacks 1 The opinions expressed herein are solely mine and do not represent the position of The Aerospace Corporation, the United States Air Force, or other agencies of the U.S. government.
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Page 12 on the armies deployed in Kuwait and southern Iraq. The Kosovo/Serbia campaign was even more a strategic campaign; most observers credit attacks on the economic infrastructure of Serbia and the resulting threat to the Serbian leaders' political power as the decisive element. In the Gulf War the air campaign was concluded by a classic air/land campaign. In the Kosovo/Serbia conflict no ground forces were even prepared to conduct such a campaign. The strategic campaigns conducted by the United States are “effects based.” That is, they are used to produce specific and complex effects, such as political acquiescence. These campaigns differ from the older theories of strategic warfare in that the goal of the campaign is not to destroy the enemy nation's capacity to go to war but only to cause a politically determined effect. The challenge, as we will see, is that conducting such a campaign poses complex cognitive problems to intelligence gathering and, thus, greatly complicates the engineering problem of designing intelligence systems. The reality is that strategic air campaigns are back to stay, but they now must be conducted in a carefully measured fashion to produce effects at a degree removed from their direct military effects. Battle management is commonly associated with high-intensity tactical warfare and missile defense. The critical changes are in the time lines and ranges of engagement. Time lines are not only shorter but are likely to pass through a critical inversion, when the targeting and decision cycle must be less than weapon flight times. The normal method of employing heavy weapons is to find the target and then launch the weapon. But when the weapon flies several hundred kilometers from launch, perhaps launched from an aircraft operating from the continental United States, the find-and-launch strategy can work only against fixed or nearly immobile targets. This is still feasible in forms of strategic warfare, as in the point above, but it becomes impossible in a high-intensity armored campaign or in hide-and-seek warfare. The third new reality is what can be called “hide-and-seek” warfare. Until the second day of the Gulf War, the basic strategy of a military facing a large air assault had been to directly defend against that assault—that is, the air defense system sought to destroy a sufficient fraction of attacking aircraft so that the air assault could not be sustained long enough to do serious damage to the defending country. In both Iraq and Kosovo, this would have meant expending as many surface-to-air missiles as possible while defending critical targets and keeping the air force in the air, fighting, until shot down. In both cases, at least after the first day, the defending military largely curtailed its attempt to actually stop the air assault and concentrated instead on taking the occasional potshot at moments favorable for downing an attacking aircraft. The Iraqi Scud missile campaign was similar. The missiles were not fired for military effect (e.g., salvoed at the air bases supporting the attacking fighters) but were, instead, shot in small numbers, spread over weeks, at targets (e.g., Israeli and Saudi cities) intended to produce political effects. There are some similarities between this style of air-ground hide-and-seek and classic guerilla
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Page 13 warfare. The challenge to battlefield management is clear. In a classic air/land battle targets may be mobile, but they are out and engaged. The reality of hide-and-seek warfare is that targets are mobile and fleeting, every loss or mis-strike is of large political significance, and both sides are seeking to use their weapons for political effects as much as military. The fourth new reality is peace enforcement and low-intensity warfare. It is entirely possible that the Gulf War will be the last high-intensity air/land battle for decades. Whether or not high-intensity warfare returns, it seems very likely that long-duration, low-intensity conflicts like Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, and Iraq will continue and will be the major focus of engaged U.S. forces. These conflicts have a low but ever-present violence level, are conducted in urban and interurban terrain, have complex rules of engagement, resemble police operations as much as military operations, and are conducted by international coalitions. The last new reality is that the United States rarely fights alone, and the mix of allies in any given conflict is unpredictable. This means that the management system running the battle comes into existence only when the alliance is formed. No single organization planned it in advance, no unified program office acquired it, and no single commander runs it. It is a collaborative system, in the sense that it is composed of autonomous elements that collaborate voluntarily with retained autonomous management. Using a phrase coined for intelligent transportation systems, they are “systems that no one owns.” We need to account for this reality explicitly in future systems. FIVE TECHNICAL CHALLENGES If the preceding are the realities, how can they be cast in technical terms? Five representative technical challenges are 1. making a two-orders-of-magnitude reduction in the planning and execution time line of conventional air operations; 2. replicating small unit operational concepts, including an extension to air operations, to thousand-kilometer theaters of war; 3. building combat target identification systems adequate for hide-and-seek warfare; 4. designing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems that can meaningfully support effects-based strategic campaigns; and 5. creating automated management systems without centralized control over either acquisition or operation. The centerpiece of U.S. air operations has been the ATO, which has been developed on a 72-hour time cycle. The cycle includes the selection of targets and the vetting of them through intelligence processes, the collection of reconnaissance imagery and its dissemination to operational units, detailed flight plan-
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Page 14 ning (including ingress synchronization, defense suppression support, and mission support), the briefing of pilots or other weapon operators, platform/weapon flight, and battle damage assessment. The problem is that 72 hours is much too long on a mobile battlefield. In fact, it is easy to create scenarios in which the decision-to-execution time line needs to be 1 hour. This implies a two-orders-of-magnitude reduction in the ATO process, at least for some targets and scenarios. One reduction approach would be to thoroughly reengineer the existing processes, which would mean automating everything possible and cutting communications delays to near zero. This in itself would pose a very complex systems and software engineering challenge—building a distributed computing system that spanned the globe, had an assurance level acceptable for life-critical operations, was dynamically assembled from multinational components, and was robust against deliberate attack. Unfortunately, even if it were possible, it is unlikely that this reengineering would effectively achieve the desired cycle-time reduction, for some parts of the current cycle, like flight time, simply cannot be cut very far. Instead, we need to rethink how the process is organized. One alternative command and control architecture is that of small unit operations, both ground and air. For example, close air support operations have never been run on multiday time cycles. They must react to the pace of infantry ground combat, which is rarely longer than hours and is often only minutes. Instead of the elaborate preplanning structure of the ATO, close air support operations use forward air controllers to direct weapon-carrying aircraft, which are launched into holding patterns with very wide target boxes. Reengineering the ATO process is a good example of the technological problem of systems integration. We want to compose complex information systems from large components (computers, operating systems, existing protocol stacks, object libraries, and so forth) that will possess systemwide properties of security, robustness, time boundedness, and so on. But our engineering methods are not up to the task. We define and can analyze security and real-time behaviors only for relatively simple systems. Our methods do not, as far as we know, scale multimillion lines of code compositions of black box products. Even when we abandon the desire for properties by proof and go for a pragmatic risk management approach, we are not in much better shape. The heuristics for building such systems are limited, and the analytical backing for understanding risk is much less. If we look at it another way, this is an exceptionally complicated distributed optimization problem. We really desire some assignment of weapons to targets (and reconnaissance resources and combat support resources) that is “optimal.” But the assignment problem is distributed in time (varying windows for weapons flyout and target vulnerability) and is stochastic (targets appear and disappear, and things do or do not hit what they were aimed at). The centralized ATO
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Page 15 process tries to examine the whole problem in a time window and come up with a block solution. The local control process makes rolling assignments and reassignments divided on geographic control regions. It is probably hopeless to strive for an optimal solution, but we should examine what heuristic and analytic guidance can be given to the designers beyond simulation and trial. The challenge of hide-and-seek warfare concerns both time lines and identification. The players in these battles may expose themselves anywhere from hours to only a few minutes. Even when operating they are likely to be camouflaged, and the field of battle will often be strewn with decoys and noncombatants that resemble legitimate targets. In “old-fashioned” warfare one often dealt with uncertainty by hitting anything that might be a target and by using area weapons when not exactly sure where to shoot. Hopefully, this will remain unacceptable in future wars. Targeting intelligence and assessing battle damage concentrate on the things that can be observed: buildings, tanks, or missiles destroyed. But the goal of the conflict typically is not to destroy facilities, tanks, or missiles. Rather, the goal is to induce a political change. So, how do we close the cognitive gap between physical observables and political action? It is here that we really arrive at the divide between technology and politics. Force is still a political tool (indeed, it is more of a political tool now than it perhaps ever was). The goal in building technical systems that support military operations is fundamentally political. Recognizing that we really need to close a cognitive gap is simply recognizing the real purposes to which the technology is being put. This is the challenge of putting technology to human ends. Lastly, the acquisition and operational problem of systems without owners is also a technological problem. We have successful examples of such systems in everyday operation (e.g. the Internet, open source software), but how can the technical and social mechanisms that make them successful be adapted to multinational military systems? Is it even sensible to try and transfer the lessons over? This problem—the problem of architecting collaborative systems—is not unique to software or military battle management. It occurs in many other applications and must be faced aggressively (Maier, 1998). CONCLUSIONS Future battlefield management poses both familiar and unfamiliar challenges in systems engineering. On the familiar side, our development process must produce systems that are acceptably robust, secure, usable, and effective. Less familiar are the complexity and functional richness of the components we must now integrate. Architecturally, we face the problem of coordinated technical, doctrinal, and organizational change. Our technology has changed the ways we fight, and our doctrine is beginning to codify new ways of fighting. This, in turn, demands new organizations to fully exploit. The change to technology,
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Page 16 doctrine, and organization should go hand in hand. But their coordination is not a matter of chance—it is a matter of design. At this higher level we must architect organizations and systems at the same time. REFERENCES Kahn, H. 1967. The Year 2000: A Framework for Speculation on the Next Thirty-Three Years. New York: Macmillan. Maier, M. W. 1998. Architecting principles for systems-of-systems. Systems Engineering ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READINGS Air Force Science Advisory Board. Report on the Joint Battlespace Infosphere. [Online]. Available: www.sab.hq.af.mil. Alberts, D., J. Gartska, and F. Stein. 1999. Network Centric Warfare. DOD C4ISR Cooperative Research Program. [Online]. Available: www.dodccrp.org. Krygiel, A. 1999. Behind the Wizard's Curtain: An Integration Environment for a System of Systems. DOD C4ISR Cooperative Research Program. [Online]. Available: www.dodccrp.org. Maier, M. W., and E. Rechtin. 2000. The Art of Systems Architecting. Second edition. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press. Rechtin, E. 1999. Systems Architecting of Organizations: Why Eagles Can't Swim. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press.