Warnings for the U.S. military about innovation and the information age: The Pentagon looks like a minicomputer firm
- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at email@example.com.
- "The information age may portend a much greater level of risk for U.S. conventional military superiority than some previous authors have envisioned."
- Don’t get too comfortable just because you enjoy current dominance. Horowitz cites the example of Digital Equipment Corporation, which was a power in minicomputers, but failed to understand the emergence of the personal computer market. It had the resources, but lacked the imagination, and so failed to deal with changes in the environment — I would say a bit like our national security leaders in September 2001.
- A great danger, especially for mature organizations such as the U.S. military, is investing in "incremental improvements to the last great thing, rather than the next great thing." So don’t confuse innovations that enhance your current way of doing business with innovations that may require a new way of doing business — but may also produce much greater gains.
- The great changes of the information age have not yet really hit any military. "Information technology has generally been employed in a sustaining rather than a disruptive fashion. It has not yet led to large-scale organizational changes or major shifts in thinking about the situations in which force deployments are possible."
This is one of the books that not just teaches you, but makes you think on almost every page. My head hurt when I read this — and I mean that in a good way.
Warnings for the U.S. military about innovation and the information age: The Pentagon looks like a minicomputer firmThomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. | Best Defense |
John Arquilla earned his degrees in international relations from Rosary College (BA 1975) and Stanford University (MA 1989, PhD 1991). He has been teaching in the special operations program at the United States Naval Postgraduate School since 1993. He also serves as chairman of the Defense Analysis department.
Dr. Arquilla’s teaching interests revolve around the history of irregular warfare, terrorism, and the implications of the information age for society and security.
His books include: Dubious Battles: Aggression, Defeat and the International System (1992); From Troy to Entebbe: Special Operations in Ancient & Modern Times (1996), which was a featured alternate of the Military Book Club; In Athena’s Camp (1997); Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime and Militancy (2001), named a notable book of the year by the American Library Association; The Reagan Imprint: Ideas in American Foreign Policy from the Collapse of Communism to the War on Terror (2006); Worst Enemy: The Reluctant Transformation of the American Military (2008), which is about defense reform; Insurgents, Raiders, and Bandits: How Masters of Irregular Warfare Have Shaped Our World (2011); and Afghan Endgames: Strategy and Policy Choices for America’s Longest War (2012).
Dr. Arquilla is also the author of more than one hundred articles dealing with a wide range of topics in military and security affairs. His work has appeared in the leading academic journals and in general publications like The New York Times, Forbes, Foreign Policy Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Wired and The New Republic. He is best known for his concept of “netwar” (i.e., the distinct manner in which those organized into networks fight). His vision of “swarm tactics” was selected by The New York Times as one of the “big ideas” of 2001; and in recent years Foreign Policy Magazine has listed him among the world’s “top 100 thinkers.”
In terms of policy experience, Dr. Arquilla worked as a consultant to General Norman Schwarzkopf during Operation Desert Storm, as part of a group of RAND analysts assigned to him. During the Kosovo War, he assisted deputy secretary of defense John Hamre on a range of issues in international information strategy. Since the onset of the war on terror, Dr. Arquilla has focused on assisting special operations forces and other units on practical “field problems.” Most recently, he worked for the White House as a member of a small, nonpartisan team of outsiders asked to articulate new directions for American defense policy.| Rational Security |