Leadership: Big Generals Get Big Screens and Live Feeds

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January 23, 2008: South Korea's military fired up its new electronic information system, KJCCS (Korea Joint Command Control System) this month. It took three years of effort, and about $30 million, to develop. What it basically does is pull in electronic information from all military sources, and presents it in headquarters, in a format easily understood by commanders. This includes stuff from radars, electronic monitoring gear, UAVs, military units all over the country, and satellites.

The purpose is to enable the senior commanders to make decisions more quickly. Knowing that the North Koreans have nothing like this, and take much longer to sort out what it going on and make a decision, the South Koreans expect KJCCS to provide quite an edge in wartime. There's also the need to be able to match American command and control systems, because South Korea will take over supreme command of armed forces in South Korea in 2012, 62 years after the U.S. was given that power by the UN, in order to repel a North Korea invasion. The U.S. has a system similar to KJCCS, which South Korea officers have used during joint exercises. Gradually, KJCCS will become the main command and control system, which U.S. forces will have to plug into.

The KJCCS also supports a generational shift in the South Korea high command. For decades, the South Korea military had operated in traditional East Asian fashion. That is, it was strictly top down. Subordinates kept silent and simply followed orders from above. But two generations of officers who had studied at American military schools, and worked with U.S. commanders in South Korea, created a growing demand for a more "American" command style (subordinates that can talk back, with different opinions and interpretations of battlefield situations). KCCCS makes this possible, as this flood of information enables subordinates to provide feedback that does not break any of the ancient taboos about embarrassing the boss, but does clearly spotlight rapidly developing bad news. Hey, it's just a bunch of stuff on a big flat screen display. The boss will know what to do.

 


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