Self-Jamming Behavior --- The Information Explosion, Systems Engineering, and Information Warfare


Dr. Stephen R. Woodall, President and CEO, Strategic Synthesis, Ltd.

In the past decade, military systems have become increasingly complex. From the development of defenses against "theater" ballistic missiles to modern combat direction systems, such as the Aegis Weapons System, the system complexity, in terms of the amount of information required for decision making, as well as the numbers of lines of computer code and numbers of components in decision support and combat direction systems, has grown exponentially. As overall system complexity has grown, within each Service, and as force levels have decreased, the need for interoperability between and among the Services, at the Joint force level, has steadily increased. The issue we face is that, as the complexity of all systems grow, the technical difficulty of achieving true interoperability has markedly exploded. In a sense, when we try to exchange massive amounts of data --- to inter-operate --- without the right approach to systems engineering, at the right level, we exhibit "self-jamming behavior." Our combat direction systems cannot communicate cleanly with each other, and we inundate decision makers with masses of unprocessed data.

As a consequence, we are increasingly in a situation where the incompatibility of our warfighting systems could serve to decrease our warfighting effectiveness in future conflicts. Further, this will be particularly critical when we must operate with other nations. Examples include operations with our NATO allies, or combined operations with other partners or allies --- from conflicts such as the Gulf War, to other sorts of operations included in the broad scope of military operations other than war (MOOTW).

Such incompatibility, both in information and command and control systems, and in the linking and integration of combat direction systems across a theater-wide area, was evident in the Gulf War --- where the problem was solved by sub-division of the battle space. Remarkably, although more recognition has been made of the problem, overall, we are, in many ways, in the same situation today. This means that we are less ready than desirable to fight a theater-wide engagement. How did we get to where we are today?

There are several reasons we are where we are:

  • Differing Service cultures, and mindsets regarding ideal approaches to Joint warfighting.
  • Differing Service approaches to thinking about and managing information systems, weapons and combat direction systems development, command and control, and communications.
  • Demand for more and more data to support decision making, without meeting the warrior's requirement to present the data distilled into readily useful information.

Approaches to solutions include:

  • Recognition that failure to resolve these issues amounts to a continuation of "self-jamming behavior" --- virtually, a form of self-inflicted Information Warfare. Work toward a common warfighting culture.
  • Acceptance, explicitly, of the importance of improving the quality of data processing before pumping the data as information to the warfighter --- combining the warrior's demand pull with tailored supply push, based on application of artificial intelligence. The goal is to give the warrior what he needs, before or when he needs it. Get control of the information explosion.
  • Development of common approach to the systems engineering of information, command and control, decision support, and combat direction systems --- from a Joint perspective, at a theater level.

The goal: elimination of self-jamming behavior, and self-inflicted Information Warfare.