cance to the Army. First, that better situational awareness and communication in combat situations will result in higher combat effectiveness. This implies facile and high-bandwidth communications between elements of all the services in combat operations as well as shared information in a common format. Second, it is assumed that better situational awareness will make forces more mobile by virtue of allowing heavy armor to be replaced by agility. These assumptions underlie the notion of a transformation of U.S. military forces by bringing them from the Industrial Age into the Information Age. They are captured in the strategic concept of network-centric warfare (NCW), which has four main tenets (Garstka and Alberts, 2004):

  • A robustly networked force improves information sharing and collaboration.

  • Such sharing and collaboration enhance the quality of information and shared situational awareness.

  • This enhancement, in turn, enables further self-synchronization and improves the sustainability and speed of command.

  • The combination dramatically increases mission effectiveness.

In DOD today, the network is seen as perhaps the most potent aspect of this change. It captures the essence of the ongoing transformation and is a central element in improving combat effectiveness. According to LTG Steve Boutelle, U.S. Army Chief Information Officer, the Secretary of Defense has said that the single most transforming thing in our force will not be a weapons system, but a set of interconnections (Military Information Technology, 2003). Thus, early in its deliberations the committee developed

Finding 3-1. DOD and all the military services have a vision of the future in which networks play a fundamental role.

Definition and implementation of the concept of NCW is the goal of the DOD Office of Force Transformation (OFT). Information about the initiative may be found on the OFT Web site,1 where the concept is described as “an emerging theory of war in the Information Age” that “broadly describes the combination of strategies, emerging tactics, techniques, and procedures, and organizations that a networked force can employ to create a decisive war fighting advantage.” It is said to have “applicability for the three levels of warfare—strategic, operational, and tactical—and across the full range of military operations from major combat operations to stability and peacekeeping operations.” But the devil is in the details. Defining and implementing the concept has proven to be a huge challenge.

As DOD has worked to come to grips with the definition of NCW, the concept has evolved into a more encompassing notion, “network-centric operations” (NCO). The latter is also described on the OFT Web site.2 NCO is based on revised tenets that are designed so that the hypotheses underlying them can be tested experimentally based on field data acquired in case studies. Relative to the tenets of NCW, the tenets of NCO emphasize the use of shared information by social networks. This evolution is documented in Network Centric Operations Conceptual Framework Version 2.0 (Garstka and Alberts, 2004) posted on the Web site, which contains the most current definitions of both NCW and NCO.

NCW encompasses three domains of activity: physical, information, and cognitive. NCO adds a fourth, the social domain, and in addition emphasizes policies and procedures in the cognitive and social domains that lead to effective use of the information provided by the physical and information domains (Garstka and Alberts, 2004).

Finding 3-2. DOD has recognized the value of cognitive and social domains in NCO.

“The physical domain is where strike, protect and maneuver take place across the environments of sea, air and space. It is where the physical infrastructure that supports force elements exists. The key elements of the physical domain are (1) the network and (2) net-ready nodes” (Garstka and Alberts, 2004, p. 49). “The information domain is where information is created, manipulated, value-added and shared. It can be considered the ‘cyberspace’ of military operations. The key elements of the information domain are (1) data and (2) information” (Garstka and Alberts, 2004, p. 49).

“The cognitive domain is where the perceptions, awareness, understanding, decisions, beliefs, and values of the participants are located” (Garstka and Alberts, 2004, p. 23). A key process in this domain is “sensemaking,” which requires the participants to construct effective mental models of a situation in which they find themselves. The military has formulated a model of how sensemaking occurs and how it can be influenced by information technology (Gartska and Alberts, 2004, pp. 29–37).

Finally, “the social domain is where people, organizations, practices and cultures intersect” (Garstka and Alberts, 2004, p. 26). Conceptual Framework Version 2.0 identifies the attributes of networked structures and cultures, of network-centric people, and of how they collaborate, heavily emphasizing the dependence of combat effectiveness on performance in the cognitive and social domains.

Finding 3-3. Current DOD investments in network research include no activity in the cognitive and social dimensions of NCO, specifically in the vital area of decision making in an information-rich environment.


At Accessed September 1, 2005.


At Accessed September 1, 2005.

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