Peace Time: April 18, 2001


The U.S. Army continues testing it's new "Digital doctrine." This technology hooks up all vehicles, and some individual troops, with communications gear in such a way that everyone is using something of a battlefield internet. This includes cams and GPS devices that allows everyone to know where everyone else is. Work on this has been ongoing since the mid-1990s and, like any new technology, it's beginning to work. But now, things are really starting to get interesting. As with earlier breakthrough technologies (radio, tanks, aircraft), there is a period where commanders have to deal with old habits and new opportunities. The big problem is letting go. A major objective of digital combat technology to enable everyone to share information in real time. But an old problem, or rather one that goes back to the micromanagement that developed when telephones and radios first appeared on the battlefield nearly a century ago. Must be human nature, but senior commanders seem to think they understand what their subordinates are up against after getting a radio or telephone report. Many commanders then have this overwhelming urge to give detailed orders, often ignoring many details they didn't pick up, or didn't get, from their subordinate. Heated discussions sometimes ensue, although often the junior guy just assumes that the boss knows what he's doing and just does it. Often with disastrous results. The micromanagement problem got worse when commanders got helicopters. Now the big guy could see what his subordinates were doing, at least as much as one could see from several thousand feet up. Sometimes this was useful, but often the commanders vision and interpretation was not as accurate as was the guys on the ground. The better officers learned to use the helicopter, and radio, carefully. But the better officers were a minority. They still are. And the digital battlefield technology is bringing out all the micromanagement problems again. As a result, all the time, effort and money poured into digitalization has not shown up as better (simulated) battlefield performance. This is to be expected, it takes time to deal with new tools and to figure out how to use them effectively. The only problem is that if you have the digitalization installed before you've figured out how to use it, you find yourself no better off, and perhaps worse off, in combat.


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