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Information Superiority

By LtGen Paul K. Van Riper

(LtGen Paul K. Van Riper appeared before the Procurement Subcommittee and Research and Development Subcommittee of the House National Security Committee in Congress on 20 March and made the following statement concerning information superiority.)


Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, let me begin by expressing my appreciation for having this opportunity to speak to you today. This may be my final visit to Capitol Hill to testify on future warfare requirements, since I plan to retire from the Marine Corps this summer after more than 40 years of Active and Reserve service. During these years, I have had many opportunities to consider the fundamental aspects of war. Some of this time I spent reflecting on warfare in the quiet solitude of a library. At other times, the sounds of the battlefield punctuated my "study" time. From these experiences, I have drawn a number of observations and conclusions that I want to leave with you. I realize that, given the distinguished Representatives present today, I do not have a monopoly on combat experience, but because I believe strongly that we are at a significant juncture in history, I welcome the chance to offer my comments for the record.

I would like to begin by providing my perspective on the so called Revolution in Military Affairs-or RMA-and then transition to an outline of the Marine Corps view on the nature of war. I will then discuss the Marine Corps' basic philosophy for command and control, which provides an overarching approach to the use of information systems and the technologies needed to win battles. Finally, I will finish with a brief description of the programs the Corps is pursuing, within a joint context, for future applications. With an appreciation for how the Corps looks at war today, you will be able to better understand how Marines intend to march ahead into the next century.

The Nature of Revolutions in Military Affairs

Our success in the Gulf War in 1991 and the explosive growth of information technologies over the past decade have resulted in a number of extraordinary claims about the future of war. Some of these claims have gone so far as to argue that technology will allow us to see and understand everything in the battlespaces of the future-even to eliminate the "fog" and "friction" of war. There are indeed great changes that are occurring with civilian and military technologies. But our view in the Marine Corps is that these changes will only allow us to improve our capabilities, they will not alter the fundamental nature of war. This is the argument that we insist should be central to any effort to provide effective military capabilities for the defense of our national interests.

I believe the current period is analogous to the interwar period of the 1920s and 1930s. That was an era where threats were uncertain, where technological advances occurred steadily, and where defense resources were limited. In that interregnum, military organizations matched a number of innovative operational concepts with new doctrines and emerging technologies. These efforts resulted in the development of carrier aviation, armored blitzkrieg, amphibious doctrine, air defense, and strategic bombing. What occurred was the culmination of a number of RMAs. They occurred simultaneously during a period very similar to our current situation. Today as then, we do not know whom we will fight, where we will fight, and how we will fight. To decide now that we know and understand the coming revolution (or revolutions) in military affairs will more than likely close down a number of potentially significant options.

There are important lessons to be gained from the interwar period that are relevant to thinking about RMAs. First, success in developing advantageous capabilities does not always go to those with the most sophisticated technology. History suggests that technology has played only a relatively small part in past RMAs. Success appears to be the result of the combination of different organizational structures and innovative operational concepts to solve specific problems. Second, success is the result of serious intellectual effort that focused, not on near-term, but long-term advantage. Finally, success follows those who have anchored their combat development on a solid and honest historical analysis and on realistic experimentation. Those who ignored history got lost. Those who followed narrow paths, espoused dogmas, or placed undue faith in ungrounded assumptionsthose who failed to use a painstaking process of experimentation-paid a harsh penalty in the early days of World War II. To protect U.S. national security interests in the 21st century, we should heed these lessons and plan accordingly.

During the interwar era the Marines saw opportunity in amphibious operations, where others, because of the disaster at Gallipoli, saw only failure and limitations. The Marines anticipated the upcoming changes in the strategic environment and envisioned a need to seize and defend advanced naval bases in the Pacific. They translated this vision into concepts that prepared the Corps for amphibious assaults to support the emerging Pacific strategy. Despite a lack of resources, the Marines worked through the problem. With serious study of history, they developed a number of innovative concepts and technical applications. These were eventually tested and refined in experiments with the Navy near the island of Culebra.

Getting the most out of revolutions in military affairs requires an approach perhaps best characterized by comparison with a set of automobile headlights. What the American military needs as it travels towards the next millennium is to use a set of high beams with halogen bulbs. Our Nation needs to extend its vision and peer far down the road into the future by asking the right questions. Driving too fast with only the limited illumination of parking lights is simply unsafe. Using too narrow a beam or insufficient visionary illumination will only limit how fast and how far we can travel. Above all, the military must conduct its preliminary moves in light of a study of history. The microchip has not made Thucydides, Clausewitz, or Mahan irrelevant. In fact, all the trends in modern science, evolutionary biology, nonlinear mathematics, and quantum physics underline that Clausewitz's fundamental belief that we do not live in a predictable universe was right on target.

The Nature of War in the 21st Century In addition to understanding the historical parameters of revolutions and military innovation, the American military must address the changing character of war. Unfortunately, the RMA debate has distracted some experts from an open-eyed assessment of the character of future conflict. Our national security cannot be preserved solely by being able to destroy targets from a great distance. Simply put, the destruction of greater quantities of things more efficiently will not help the United States accomplish its political objectives in the next millennium. Its Armed Forces must prepare for the complex, dynamic, and asymmetric threats of "the day after tomorrow," not simply create and field forces that can fight DESERT STORM more efficiently. In the next century, we will confront thinking and adaptive opponents who have studied our systems and configured their tactics to defeat ours. To address lethal and flexible adversaries, the American military must radically reduce its current vulnerabilities, those key nodes that make easy targets for an enemy possessing only limited technical capabilities. The United States has the time today to take advantage of the current "strategic pause" to explore and experiment, before rushing towards substantive investments.

Much of the RMA debate over the past few years has centered on investing in a set of platforms or in acquiring more information systems. There are valid modernization requirements among all the Services, but that should not be the focus today. Ultimately, national security is not about platforms, software, or hardware, but about the capabilities the United States needs in an uncertain world. A narrowly defined threat will result in an equally narrow set of defense capabilities. The real issue is far broader and more complex than measuring and quantifying our ability to strike a specific threat from great distances. The United States will confront a great number of threats from the high end of the spectrum to the low; consequently, it must prepare its forces to adapt against a wide variety of challenges. The forces designed this year for the day after tomorrow must be capable in a range of operating environments, from deserts to foliage, to densely populated urban centers with embedded antagonists. Not all of these environments are conducive to "information dominance."

Preparing to Fight in the 21st Century The Marine Corps efforts to prepare for the 21st century rest on a solid appreciation of the fundamental nature of war. This understanding has shaped our central philosophy about warfighting and is the basis for a cohesive doctrine that shapes all our combat development efforts. FMFM 1, Warfighting, our capstone doctrinal publication, sets out our basic understanding of war.

War possesses elements that are both timeless and ever changing. We view the basic nature of war as immutable. It is a violent clash between opposing wills to seek to impose their own will on the other. This interaction occurs cyclically in a series of actions and counteractions between two independent and irreconcilable forces. Our view of the nature of war captures a number of factors including friction, chance, and disorder. Because war is a clash between opposing human wills, the human dimension is central to our views about conflict. Fusing war with intangible factors beyond calculation, prediction, or rational analysis is an absolute necessity, for war is shaped by human nature, the complexities of human behavior, and the limitations of human mental and physical capabilities. These human and moral factors shape our understanding and preparation for combat. Any view of war that fails to consider fear, danger, and exhaustion is extremely suspect, if not irrelevant. Any doctrine or theory that neglects the human element neglects the central dimension of warfare.

Yet for all of its immutable nature, the means and methods used in war vary continuously. Changes in the way wars are fought can occur in an evolutionary manner or in rapid flashes. Technological advances can be a major catalyst of change. The employment of the stirrup, the longbow, the rifled musket, and the railroad had a measurable impact on warfare and induced changes in both organizational and operational terms. As the physical hardware of war improved through new developments, so did the tactical, operational, and strategic use of those means adapt to new capabilities offered by technological change.

War in the future will be characterized, as always, by friction and uncertainty and the ensuing chaos. Where, why, and how we fight will undoubtedly change. The epicenter of instability will be in the world's littorals where 70 percent of the world's population now lives. By 2010, that percentage will have increased. Unfortunately, this environment will negate much of our technological edge.

The conflicts of the future are not likely to have much in common. In all respects, goals, organizations, armaments, and tactics-conflict in the coming decades will be distinguished by its great variety. For that reason, it is imperative that the United States resist the temptation to prepare for only one type of conflict. To focus on one threat increases the danger that the American military will be surprised, and perhaps defeated, by another. The chaos of the future requires that the Nation maintain the capability to project power ashore for a variety of potential tasks, ranging from disaster relief to countering armed threats in high-intensity urban combat. In the future, such threats will not array themselves neatly on a chessboard or subject themselves to attrition from afar. Any examination of the revolution in military affairs must consider a wide array of threats and threat environments.

But we also have to be realistic about the nature of warfare and the limits of technology. I have in my military career commanded a platoon, a company, a battalion, a regiment, and a division; and some of those commands were on the terrifying and friction filled battlefield. I have also been the assistant chief of staff for the Command, Control, Communications, Computer, and Intelligence Department for the Marine Corps. Consequently, I have a combat commander's perspective on the issue of communications, information, and intelligence; but I also understand the technical side of the equation. Without a doubt information is important, but all the information in the world is useless unless it contributes to effective decisionmaking in battle. The U.S. military possesses a plethora of systems today to gather, store, and retrieve information. It has numerous programs in place to improve its capacity to manipulate and handle pixels and imagery. Yet information is not knowledge. Our command and control needs to focus, above all else, on providing the combat commander with understanding in a form that allows professional judgment and experience to be rapidly applied.

Given the pervasive nature of uncertainty, ambiguity, and friction on the battlefield, it is natural that the U.S. military focuses on command and control and information superiority. At the same time, however, we should temper our enthusiastic rush to embrace the Information Age. As Mahan once observed, "It will be better to offer certain considerations for reflection, rather than make sweeping dogmatic assertions." However, much of what one hears today is sweeping assertions and dogmatic platitudes. For example, a cursory review of recent comments in defense publications provides these examples:

* "If you see the battlefield, you win the war."

* "If we had today's sensors, we would have won in Vietnam."

* "In the near future, we will be able to find, fix, track, and target-in realtime-anything of consequence that moves or is located on the face of the earth."

* "Technology now provides the ability to identify virtually everything of military significance, in realtime, in any kind of weather, at any time."

These assertions do not square with the Marine understanding of the nature of warfare or my personal experience. In fact, they represent a considerable ignorance of war and a certain arrogance. Vietnam represents a failure of flawed strategy and operational concepts that no amount of sensor data could solve. "Seeing" things and designating targets is not the same as wisdom. Warfare is more than systems; it is fundamentally and ineluctably an interactive contest of human wills. Information superiority, as an enabling element in a command and control system that includes the appropriate doctrine and professional education, is vital. But information superiority in and of itself will not win any wars.

I think that a useful way to visualize this point is to look at a glass of water. You and I would both agree that this glass is half full. The difference between winning and losing battles is not in the half that is full, but in being able to deal with the half that is empty. There will always be uncertainty and ambiguity on the battlefield. We may be able to visualize 80 percent of the battlespace, and we might even believe that we can target everything that we think is militarily important. But the battle will be lost or won in the portion of the glass that is empty due to enemy deception or the limits of our own technology. Trying to fill the glass with more technology, more systems, and greater investment will not eliminate the existence of uncertainty or friction. Our approach to command and control addresses this critical factor and defines how we hope to function effectively despite the confusion, uncertainty, and ambiguity of war.

Command and Control

The Marine Corps published its fundamental command and control doctrine last year in Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 6, Command and Control (MCDP 6). It provides the authoritative basis for subsequent development of command and control technologies, procedures, organizations, facilities, training, and professional military education. The doctrine is descriptive rather than prescriptive; that is, it provides guidance in the form of principles and concepts rather than specific instructions. It requires broad judgment in application.

The Command and Control Environment

The two fundamental factors that drive the Marine Corps' approach to command and control are uncertainty and time. Of these, uncertainty is dominant. In the words of Clausewitz:

War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.

Simply put, uncertainty represents what we do not know or understand about a given situation. From a practical point of view, we can think of uncertainty as doubt which threatens to block action. It is not simply the result of gaps in information. It is a fundamental and inevitable attribute of war, and no amount of information technology, no matter how powerful, will eliminate it or even reduce it to the point that it becomes a materially easier problem.

Uncertainty is not merely an initial environmental condition resulting from a lack of data solved by gathering and processing more information. It is a natural and inevitable product of the dynamics of war. Any action in war-friendly, enemy, or neutral-necessarily generates uncertainty. Because there will always be a significant amount of uncertainty we cannot eliminate, the ultimate requirement is to operate effectively in spite of uncertainty.

The second factor that drives command and control is time. War is a tempo-based, interactive phenomenon. Theoretically, we can always reduce uncertainty by gaining better knowledge of the situation. However, to gain better knowledge takes time. We reduce uncertainty at the expense of time and so risk surrendering the initiative to the enemy. It is axiomatic that effective command must strive to generate a faster operating tempo than the enemy. This dual desire to operate effectively despite widespread uncertainty and to generate a higher operating tempo than the enemy is the fundamental conceptual basis for all aspects of Marine Corps command and control.

We view war as a highly complex interactive system characterized by friction, unpredictability, disorder, and fluidity. It is not a mechanistic system amenable to precise, positive control mechanisms or synchronized, centralized schemes. War has more in common with biological and ecological systems than with closed, mechanical systems. It is an open system interacting with its external environment (which includes the enemy) and characterized by complex feedback loops and nonlinear dynamics.

As a result, one cannot control a complex system like war. We should not think of command and control as a coercive form of mechanistic control-the way an operator operates a machine. The object of mechanistic command and control is for the top of the organization to be "in control" of the bottom, and for the bottom to be "under* the control of the top. The worst thing that can happen is for a commander to "lose" control of the situation. But given the reality of war, it is a delusion to believe that a commander can really control the enemy or the situation with certitude or precision.

The prevailing metaphor for military command and control is a chess player moving chess pieces. We are all familiar with the rules for moving chess pieces across the board. In fact it is a poor analogy for describing the potential range of options for military operations. The turbulence of modern war suggests a need for a looser form of influence, one that provides the necessary parameters for control in an uncertain, disorderly, time-competitive environment without sacrificing flexibility or stifling the initiative of subordinates.

Command and control should not impose precise domination over details because the details are inherently uncontrollable. Rather, it should aim to provide a broad, meaningful structure to the roiling chaos and complexity of the battlefield. War defies microscopic command and control and instead requires macroscopic command and control which "controls" the system by influencing the system parameters and boundary conditions. "Command" and "control" are not coercive measures imposed on the bottom of the organization by the top. Instead, "command and control" is a process of reciprocal influence-give and take-in which all parts of the organization contribute action and feedback.

The Purpose of Command and Control

Popular literature today is replete with talk about "dominance": command and control dominance, information dominance, dominant battlespace awareness, dominant battlefield knowledge, dominant maneuver, dominant fires, etc. Command and control is not fundamentally about dominance; information is not a medium anyone or any organization can dominate the way the air or sea can theoretically be dominated. Instead, in the Marine Corps' view, the fundamental purpose of command and control is, first, to recognize what needs to be done in a situation and, second, to see to it that appropriate actions are taken. Command and control is thus essentially about effective decisionmaking and effective execution. The sole measure of effectiveness of any command and control component-technology, organization, procedure, whatever-is whether it facilitates timely decisionmaking and execution. Stripped to its essentials, this is what command and control is all about.

The Command and Control Process: The Observation to Action Loop

We use a simple model to explain the Marine Corps view of the command and control process. Developed by the late Col John Boyd, USAF(Ret), it is known as the observation-orientation-decision-action (OODA) loop. The OODA loop essentially describes command and control as a continuous, cyclical process of adaptation to a changing situation. It applies to any conflict, whether the antagonists are individuals in hand-to-hand combat or large military formations.

Engaged in any conflict, we first observe the situation-take in information. Having observed the situation, we next orient to it-make certain assessments, estimates, and judgments about the situation and the possibilities. Based on our orientation, we decide what to do. Then we put the decision into action. Having acted we have changed the situation, and so the cycle begins again.

Importantly, the OODA loop reflects the significance of generating tempo. In any conflict, the antagonist who can cycle through the loop faster-who can maintain a higher operating tempo-gains an ever-increasing advantage with each cycle. The slower antagonist falls farther behind with each cycle and is increasingly unable to cope with the deteriorating situation. In short, speed is an essential element of effective command and control.

The Information Hierarchy

One way or another, command and control is about information: getting it, judging its value, processing it into useful form, sharing it with others, acting upon it. We view information not as a medium to be dominated but as a control parameter. It allows us to provide structure to our actions. But to be useful, information must be converted into knowledge, into an understanding of what the massive amounts of bits and bytes really mean.

MCDP 6 defines uncertainty as a function of the lack of knowledge or understanding rather than of data. The distinction is important because not all information is the same; there are different classes. The lowest class of information is data. Data are the most quantifiable and tangible class of information. They are the easiest to gain. However, they are the least useful as the basis for effective decisionmaking. Data must be turned into knowledge through the process of cognition, by which humans add meaning and value through analysis, evaluation, integration. Technology may assist, but cognition remains primarily a process of human intellect. The highest class of information is understanding-knowledge that has been synthesized and applied to a specific situation to gain a deeper level of awareness that allows us to make projections about the future. True situational awareness, what Napoleon would call coup d'oeil, is a function of understanding.

We should not confuse having masses of data with understanding what it represents or what to do with it. By nature, data are significantly easier to generate, identify, quantify, reproduce, and transmit than are knowledge and understanding. But commanders need knowledge and understanding to make effective decisions. Likewise, subordinates need not merely data, but knowledge and understanding of the commander's concept and intent. The goal in command and control should not be collecting, processing, and communicating vast amounts of data-and increasing the danger of information overload in the process-but approaching understanding as closely as possible. However, we cannot simply provide the commanders with readymade wisdom and understanding. They will have to make the final judgments themselves. Unfortunately, the "information revolution" is primarily a "data revolution." The Marine Corps believes that this emphasis on data is misplaced and that there is no substitute for the judgment and intuition of experienced and properly educated commanders.

Mission Command and Control

Marine Corps doctrine calls for mission command and control-a relative term which describes a loose, decentralized form of command and control based on deciding and acting out of an understanding of the requirements of overall mission rather than out of compliance with detailed, coercive direction from above. Every situation is different and some require greater control than others, but MCDP 6 calls for mission command and control to the extent that each situation permits. Mission command and control is preferable because through decentralization it:

* Provides greater flexibility for adapting rapidly to changing battlefield situations-to deal with unforeseen problems and exploit fleeting opportunities.

* Generates a higher operating tempo. Subordinates do not have to pass reports up the chain and wait for instructions to be passed down; they act on their own initiative.

* Deals better with the friction, uncertainty, and disorder that are pervasive in war.

In mission command and control, commanders assign missions and explain their underlying intent, but leave subordinates as free as possible to choose the manner of accomplishment. Commanders frame guidance in such a way as to provide subordinates sufficient understanding to act in consonance with their desires, while not restricting freedom of action. They reserve the use of close personal supervision for exceptional cases. And they use restrictive control measures and prescribe the manner of execution only to the degree required to provide coordination they cannot achieve by any other method.

Mission command and control relies on initiative from subordinates who must act on their own authority without waiting for instructions. Mission command and control requires a knowledge of the commander's intent so that when the situation changes subordinates can exercise initiative in consonance with the commander's desires. This intent is an essential device for providing harmony of effort in a decentralized and adaptive system. Finally, mission command and control rests on mutual trust throughout the organization, as well as a sense of implicit understanding and communication. This latter requirement describes the ability of people familiar with each other to understand one another and communicate with minimal information having to be expressed explicitly. It is essential in a decentralized system. Command and control based upon implicit understanding and communication is less vulnerable to disruption and attack than command and control relying on explicit communication.

Our philosophy provides a command and control doctrine that accepts war for what it is: an uncertain, tempo-driven, disorderly, and complex phenomenon. It seeks to provide a philosophy of command and control that will allow commanders to make and implement effective military decisions faster than the enemy in any type of conflict, in any setting, on any scale. It relies on mission command and control to provide the flexibility and responsiveness to deal with uncertainty and generate the tempo that is a key to success in war. It seeks to provide a workable balance among people, procedures, and technology, but recognizes that ultimately there is no substitute for human judgment and understanding.

Realizing Command and Control The preceding sections have described our vision of the future, our philosophy of maneuver warfare, and the profound impact that both have had on the Marine Corps doctrine of command and control. This final section will describe the intent, if not the methodology, behind our approaches to realize the elements of the command and control system. In doing so, many terms familiar to our warfighting concepts-balance, innovation, and jointness-have analogous representatives in the effort to transition command and control from concept to a reality.

Underpinning our approach is a single belief. It is the central thread which weaves throughout our efforts. Ultimately people, not machines, define success in war. Accordingly, we will equip our Marines, not man our equipment.


"Equipping Marines" is the fulcrum for a balanced approach to realizing effective command and control. By focusing in this way we establish the right mix of people, the doctrine, and technical systems. This balance ensures that the human dimension complements the technical element of information systems. Using this approach, our definition of a robust command and control system does not simply refer to spare equipment and alternate circuit paths, but also includes those training and education programs oriented toward enhancing rapid decisionmaking skills at all levels of command.

The Marine Corps uses this balanced approach in meeting command and control deficiencies identified through its Concept Based Requirements System. The process is not predisposed toward equipment solutions for command and control deficiencies. Rather it produces solutions involving new training procedures or updates to doctrinal publications as readily as it does acquiring new radios. With this approach, the Marine Corps pursues a balance of educational and equipment solutions for successful command and control.

Our command and control training and educational pursuits reflect the depth of commitment which the Corps makes towards its most valuable resource, the Marine. Our goal is to equip every Marine with the thinking ability to win on the battlefields of the 21st century, where the junior enlisted Marine may well need and use more information than a battalion commander does today. The changes are Corps-wide, from the transformation of recruit training to the many steps taken to improve the Corps' entire Professional Military Education Program. The entire Marine Corps University serves not only to educate Marines but also to interact with our operating forces and the Warfighting Lab so that real thinking and innovation take place. Some of this is accomplished by exposing our Marines to classic military theorists such as Clausewitz, as well as the unique writings of historians such as John Gaddis, Alan Beyerchen, and Williamson Murray. Other of our initiatives are literally on the "edge of chaos," involving the emerging nonlinear sciences such as chaos and complexity. These "new sciences" are the object of research at Quantico and are also being introduced into the curriculums of our schools.


The ability to generate and harness innovation is too important to be left to chance. We believe that innovation is best achieved through experimentation. This is particularly significant during a time when the United States-without a peer competitor-can effect a "strategic pause." The Marine Corps believes experimenting with command and control will support the innovation and agility necessary to recognize, respond, and adapt to fleeting opportunities. The Commandant's Warfighting Laboratory is our most visible indication of this approach.

Just as the Corps used its schools at Quantico and the fleet exercises to redefine the science and art of amphibious operations during the 1930s, so the Warfighting Laboratory now helps us chart our future course. At the forefront of this effort is the "Sea Dragon" process of experimentation, which reflects our commitment to innovation. It is a model for future thinking and exploring, where ideas are born, evaluated, bear fruit, or die.

While the Laboratory is our engine of change, we expect innovative ideas and approaches will come from many sources; from Marines throughout the Corps, from combat developers and defense academics, as well as industry. The seeds of innovation have been planted in our logistics community, our training and education establishment, in our personnel management programs, and in the operating forces. Many ideas are being brought forth to be evaluated by the Warfighting Laboratory. Some will be of immediate benefit to the Fleet Marine Force. Others will be tossed aside or taken back to the drawing board. Results from our most promising experiments will be fed into the Marine Corps Combat Development System at Quantico.

The Commandant's Warfighting Laboratory's recently completed Advanced Warfighting Experiment (AWE) HUNTER WARRIOR exemplifies Marine Corps command and control experimentation. The operational concept required the linking of individuals, teams, and information technology assets together in new organizational structures far different than the classic Napoleonic model. The objective for the command and control concept was to create an information management system that supported a reduction in decision process times from hours to minutes and a reduction in deliberate planning times from days to hours.

To support the operational concept, the experiment's command and control system supported parallel decisionmaking, rather than time-consuming and inflexible sequential decisionmaking. A new network with "expert agents" was employed for HUNTER WARRIOR to represent knowledge within the system as facts and relationships of these facts, thus providing a structure for organizing and accessing this knowledge. Communications was based on Internet technology, to support the new information flows and decision processes. Cellular communications extended the network from the Enhanced Combat Operations Center to dispersed Marine forces across the noncontiguous, extended battlefield.

The results of the AWE execution phase were exciting. While detailed analysis of the results will take time, the feedback from participants and observers thus far has supported continued commitment to command and control experimentation for the Marine Corps. Just after his visit to the HUNTER WARRIOR AWE, Dr. Marvin Langston, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Space Programs, commented:

I visited the Marine Corps/Navy HUNTER WARRIOR demonstration/experiment this Saturday and found myself completely overwhelmed by the significance of what was quietly taking place. This exercise (small dispersed force supported by remote fires opposing large force) says much about the extent to which we are actively searching for profound new ways to sustain our mission. I am not saying that this set of systems operated seamlessly or even close to flawlessly, but I am saying that by this one exercise we have proven that warfare can change dramatically.

This quote captures my own feelings about HUNTER WARRIOR and my enthusiasm for the work in which our young Marine and Navy warfighters are engaged. They are throwing the full weight of their creativity into this effort.

Joint Solutions

Critical to our approach to realizing command and control is to seek and support joint solutions for command and control. We recognize the Marine Corps will not retain its warfighting edge by simple product improvements of today's technology and thinking. Our commitment is to get the most out of equipment and at the same time integrate technology properly with related Marine Corps and joint systems. We are fully committed to a joint solution and the Chairman's vision, C41 for the Warrior. We will achieve it through implementation of the joint standards and common operating environments of the Defense Information Infrastructure.

We have mirrored our joint approach after the tenants outlined in the Defense Information Infrastructure Master Plan. From the perspective of command and control, we do not view ourselves as mere users of an external Defense Information Infrastructure. We consider the Marine Corps' command and control infrastructure, whether in garrison or deployed, as the Marine Corps segment of the infrastructure. While the benefits of jointness are most often described in terms of interoperability and integration, the Marine Corps views jointness as a means to leverage our limited resources. Each dollar we spend on joint command and control solutions opens up greater potential. Dollars spent otherwise run the risk of ending up in stovepipe systems.

One of our most significant efforts to date under this joint approach has involved the migration of legacy command and control systems to the Global Command and Control System's common operating environment. Ultimately, all our automated systems will transition or be developed to use the core services of the Global Command and Control System. This will provide commanders and their staffs the capability to send, receive, process, filter, and display data to aid their decisionmaking. With the first 15 of our legacy systems to migrate, we will reduce the associated code from 4.4 million source lines to an estimated 1.5 million lines.


The foregoing has provided a macro perspective of how the Marine Corps views revolutions in military affairs, the immutable and fundamental nature of war, and how the American military should approach the current age of uncertain threats and rapid technological change. Technology permeates every aspect of war, but the science of war cannot account for the dynamic interaction of the physical and moral elements that come into play, by design or by chance, in combat. War will remain predominantly an art, infused with human will, creativity, and judgment.

Technology will undoubtedly assist the commander faced with a massive variety of data in an environment of ambiguity. But to focus solely on the technological side of information superiority would be a major mistake. Effective command and control, as the Marines understand it, relies just as much on a shared understanding of the commander's intent, doctrine, teamwork and mutual trust, and extensive investment in professional military education. The use of mission command and control seeks to give subordinates sufficient understanding of the situation and the commander's intent before the battle, while encouraging initiative and creativity once the fight is joined.

The Marine Corps sees great opportunities and great challenges in the coming decades. We are working energetically in many places to address these challenges. The Commandant's Warfighting Laboratory is just one example of the Corps' interest in melding innovative concepts with appropriate technical capabilities. The Commandant has planted the seeds of innovation and encouraged fresh thinking throughout the Corps, and I can assure you that our speed of innovation will remain high. But experimentation and evidentiary-based processes should be preferred over unfounded assertions. We have the time today to explore across a broad range of solutions to tomorrow's problems.

I would like to leave you with a quote from a wonderful classicist on how the early Greeks thought about preparing for the future:

The early Greek imagination envisaged the past and the present as in front of us-we can see them. The future, invisible, is behind us . . . paradoxical though it may sound to the modern ear. This image of our journey through time may be truer to reality than the medieval and modern feeling that we face the future as we make our way forward into it.

As we in the American military make our way into the 21st century, we need to keep a solid anchor in the past to understand what is possible and what is not. One path leads from analysis and experimentation toward knowledge of the real world, the other toward ignorance and thus peril.


Gen Van Riper has been the commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command since July 1995. He gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Dr. Williamson Murray, LtCol F.G. Hoffman, USMCR, and Maj John F. Schmitt, USMCR, for their assistance in preparing this testimony.

Copyright Marine Corps Association Jun 1997

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