Command and control must become command and feedback, says NATO commander

Mattis urges training, teamwork

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – In military operations, command and control (C2) has been considered the foundation of mission success. But as the military and its culture evolves in an era instantaneous information sharing and coalition forces, so too must the notion of command and control evolve, said Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.

“The C2 of the future is command and feedback,” Mattis said at the LandWarNet 2009 conference today.

At the same time, as “the glue that puts together the joint force,” C2 must be malleable enough to meet modern demands while keeping intact the “human factor,” Mattis said.

“A leader-centric, network-enabled approach creates unity of effort if done right, and creates harmony in the fog and friction of war,” he said.

Mattis emphasized the need for a sea change that values reward and initiative.

And though developing technologies contribute greatly in modern operations, members of the military need to avoid becoming dependant on the real-time information sharing that defines the lives of the forces’ youngest generation, Mattis said. “We shouldn’t have to fight based on the limitations of the networks.”

Fast, on-the-spot decision-making capabilities depend not only on the quick thinking that develops through independent functionality, but also on a decentralized command that doesn’t require a lot of red tape in the way of green lights, he added.

“The military force that is most reliant on technology and network systems is also the most vulnerable – and we know what force that is,” Mattis said, referring to the Army. “We need to be able to act fast in a complex, chaotic and degraded environment."

Mattis asserted that headquarters have become so large, that they are suffocating the initiative of the best field officers. “We must not proceduralize what is best left to an artful mode.”

To achieve these goals, Mattis stressed the importance of training and education to help maximize the so-called human factor in battlefield decision-making. Within that human factor, he said, must remain the service philosophies and unique strengths inherent to each of the forces.

“There’s no value in a joint ethos that subverts force culture. Each force culture has value because the different ways of approaching problem-solving confounds the enemy,” he said.

Still, in today’s warfare, coalition efforts are no longer an option but a requirement. Going without a joint strategy is “obsolete,” Mattis said. “No nation on its own can keep its people safe. We need to learn to work together.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

Reader Comments

Thu, Aug 20, 2009 Pronto Major Virginia

We have a situation where leadership is dependant on C2 but whereas leadership is human judgment, C2 is based on computer systems performing in logical and predictable ways. Peacetime training, especially computer assisted, can lull commanders to believe that information from their C2 is accurate and complete whereas it is not. These systems take no account of enemy intent, do not provide a full picture of enemy disposition and in mission command, particularly coalition operations, they do not provide a complete picture of own forces. Moreover they can take no account of vital aspects of decision making, the ability of a particular commander in a particular situation, the state of morale, etc. This situation is exacerbated by C2 being poor at conveying the commander’s intent leading to lack of consistency in the action being taken between capability areas and, perhaps more significantly, different direction being delivered from different parts of a headquarters. This problem is set to become worse in Web 3.0 where the commander will be further separated to those that will act on their decisions and where the accuracy and completeness of information will be more difficult for a commander to test. C2 systems provide tools without which the modern commander cannot perform but these support decision-making. If they dominate the decision making processes then they move from being force multiplier to denying the commander the ability to use surprise.

Thu, Aug 20, 2009 Tom Keeley

Agree: C2 requires rapid interpretation, feedback and balancing of alternatives

KEEL® (Knowledge Enhanced Electronic Logic) Technology was developed by Compsim to package policies for interpreting complex information sources and defining appropriate decisions and actions. KEEL Technology is available now. KEEL is supported with a “Dynamic Graphical Language” that is suitable for policy makers (not mathematicians or software engineers) such that 100% explainable and auditable policies can be created and deployed in C2 systems. Adaptive policies created with the KEEL language can be deployed (as KEEL cognitive engines) at any level of the C2 hierarchy and provide expert guidance to field commanders and autonomous and semi-autonomous systems. In cases where communication links may be lost, KEEL-based policies can be integrated into the autonomous subsystems. KEEL is platform and architecture independent so it can be added to almost any existing system. In asynchronous warfare, strategies and tactics will be constantly changing, and new data sources and new weapons will become available. This means that the policies will have to evolve over time to meet changing needs. The simplicity and visibility of the adaptive policies created and executed with KEEL Technology can be easily modified, corrected, extended, repackaged and redeployed in a very short time: hours, not weeks or months (or years). The US Government should investigate this approach to C4ISR!

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