envisioned operational concepts (JCS, 2000). That is, achieving information superiority enables BLUE forces to outmaneuver RED forces (the Dominant Maneuver operational concept); to concentrate BLUE forces quickly and accurately on selected RED targets (Precision Engagement); to react opportunistically to attack newly discovered, prospective RED targets; and to rapidly repurpose resources (Focused Logistics) to protect BLUE forces from attacks by RED forces (Full Dimensional Protection).

Conversely, if an adversary can penetrate, infiltrate, contaminate, and/or neutralize the BLUE communications systems, computing systems, and/or the information that they contain, it can inflict serious damage on the BLUE force. This damage can range up to and including the defeat of the BLUE force that otherwise would have prevailed. Furthermore, the vulnerability of the BLUE force to significant reductions in its ability to operate effectively—as a result of disruptions in its ability to communicate and access information securely and in a timely manner—increases as the BLUE force implements new or significantly modified concepts of operation that increasingly depend on information superiority.


The information technology revolution is on par with the Industrial Revolution in terms of bringing in new and disruptive technologies that drive societal change through their ubiquity and pervasiveness. Since computing and communications go hand in hand, this confluence of technologies is often referred to as C&C.1

A current C&C vision would almost certainly include sensors (i.e., computing, communications, and sensors) because many existing and emerging commercial and military applications are critically dependent for their success and value on the availability of sensors that generate information needed for situational awareness. See, for example, the recent coverage in the popular press and in investment publications regarding the many applications of networked radio frequency identification (RFID) tags.

The Industrial Revolution began in the United Kingdom and Germany and gradually spread to the rest of the world. In contrast, the C&C revolution has taken root throughout vast areas of the world, and a number of the newest technologies of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s are commodity technologies of today. Examples that quickly come to mind are high-performance personal computers, personal digital assistants, two-way pagers, video-camera-enabled cellular telephones, virtual-reality-based multiplayer games, and high-bandwidth networking. The vast majority of these devices and systems were developed in the United States initially, under sponsorship of the Department of Defense (DOD) (largely the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA]). They then were sponsored through cross-agency Presidential Initiatives on High Performance Computing and Communications (now having become the National Coordination Office for Information Technology Research and Development).

It is not difficult to see that a variety of benefits resulted from the strategy of using national security “surprise prevention” priorities to seed and then nurture the C&C engine of economic productivity and growth in the late 1990s and early 21st century. The benefits include the following:

  • The level of current superiority in U.S. military systems incorporating information technology,

  • A very high societal return on investment (i.e., well beyond the domain of defense applications), and

  • A vibrant commercial sector, which can deliver systems to the DOD as commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products (and integrations thereof); these are much less expensive than traditional, one-

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement