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Thread: Techcentricity and todays Armed Forces

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Question Techcentricity and todays Armed Forces

    Although it is often bantered about throughout other threads it does seem like the differing approaches as to what part and how heavily technology should or shouldn't be used in military contexts is a matter of much concern too many. So in order to start the ball rolling I submit the following.

    If it ain't broke don't fix it. If its broke then ANYthing which might help to fix it should be at a minimum considered. Technology is found in every facet of western existance today and as such cannot and will not be left out of most if not almost all newer processes and/or procedures. The fact that so often price is overly high would seem to be more a problem of competetive markets and presidence than necessarily the cost itself.

    As with any product anything produced will come with its own service requirements and as such costs go up. But i would ask if thats really the concern of most. Probably not. It seems like more often than not the concern is that things which need not be difficult would be made more so by the technological shifts. Or that overdependance on a given tool might all in all take away from abilities that otherwise would be considered mandatory. Training suffers because the puter does this, this, and this, so all I have to do is this.ETC

    How about we take it more in the context of automobiles.
    A-B in ???? min
    Horse and carriage
    Model T
    BMW

    They do the same thing, serve the same purposes but in a much more proficient, effective manner, and generally speaking for about the same relative prices.

    Do I think Technology is over depended on most definately.
    I do think it would be nice though if we could spend more time explaining exactly when, and in what areas, and why or why not.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post

    If it ain't broke don't fix it. If its broke then ANYthing which might help to fix it should be at a minimum considered. Technology is found in every facet of western existance today and as such cannot and will not be left out of most if not almost all newer processes and/or procedures.
    The problem is where do you start, and what counts as "broke". It is my personal experience that some of the folks doing the "fixing" are usually ignorant of the detail of the problem or the fact that they are attempting to fix problems that arose from fixing the other problem which was mis-identified in the first place. The UK Platoon from 1918 to 2008 being a very good example.

    The whole reasoning behind the Stryker Brigades is another more complex example of the same thing. The minimum would have provided a 90% solution, but misreading the problem lead to about a 400% waste of resources.

    Now hiding under my desk awaiting incoming.
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    So scootch over and give some room. Maybe we need a STANAG 4569 desk?
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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Default KISS to a degree.

    The whole reasoning behind the Stryker Brigades is another more complex example of the same thing. The minimum would have provided a 90% solution, but misreading the problem lead to about a 400% waste of resources.
    That is the best I have ever seen it put! Great job on that one
    Another example for me is the Co/Bat UAV. They are very complex - do not use the same fuel as other Co/Bat level vehicles and there basic role could be done by other equipment w/ a smaller logistical footprint. Put a magnification site on a grunts rifle and it may not improve his aim, but as a sensor it improves his awareness. Same with thermal sites. There is a low velocity 40mm round that floats on a parachute and feeds video back to the operator or can be redirected to another user. The Israeli video grenades work nearly as well as a "pack-bot UGV". These items cost less, require less training, less logistics and less support staff. I'll run for cover under the desk now.
    Reed
    Last edited by reed11b; 08-27-2008 at 11:19 PM. Reason: Operator head space and timing

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    Technology is part of everything we do in the military even though much of the technology is now old or sufficiently ubiquitous that it's not noticed anymore.

    It seems to me the challenge is recognizing when a game-changing technology comes along or recognizing how an existing or new technology can be utilized in a game-changing manner. It's often the case that when some new capability comes along there are early advocates who must fight the majority established order who either cannot see the utility of the new method or technology or are too invested in the status quo.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    Technology is part of everything we do in the military even though much of the technology is now old or sufficiently ubiquitous that it's not noticed anymore.

    It seems to me the challenge is recognizing when a game-changing technology comes along or recognizing how an existing or new technology can be utilized in a game-changing manner. It's often the case that when some new capability comes along there are early advocates who must fight the majority established order who either cannot see the utility of the new method or technology or are too invested in the status quo.
    I'd say there's another factor in play, too: those who look at technology as the solution for everything. In some cases these people can be the advocates for the new technology, or people who already have that particular mindset and latch on to whatever is the "newest and greatest." Both groups tend to oversell their technology. And in some cases it becomes a case of technology for technology's sake, and no one is really asking the hard questions about what can this technology REALLY do and what is the downside that comes with that advertised big upside.

    To me the biggest challenge is recognizing the limitations along with the capabilities of any new technology and then effectively integrating it into what needs to be done. Finding that balance is something we seem to have a great deal of trouble with. At the end of the day, technology is a tool just like any other tool. It may come in a fancier box, but it's still just a tool. And while tools can help find solutions, they are rarely solutions in and of themselves.
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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Default I'm part of the problem..

    shown by my suggestion of alternate technology centered alternatives to Co/Bat UAVs. Training and unit structure are the other two big alternatives to the UAV answer. Infantry spends a lot of time on "move into contact" drills, "react to ambush" drills and defensive positions (i.e. range cards and clear fire zones) and very little on how to gather and process information. The infantry is a great tool for intelligence gathering and the skill should not be limited to "scouts". Hopefully somebody else on this board understands what I am trying to say and can write it more coherently.
    Reed

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Tech is tech and people are people.

    Melding the two for productivity is the problem. Anecdote alert! The army was just getting to the point that a letter with typos could be sent with a couple of pen corrections to not waste time on retyping when the Word Processor hit. Immediatetly, pen corrections were no longer acceptable because "It's in the computer..." Two hundred years of progress destroyed by technology...

    The integration of technology is in part driven by who ever's in charge of the issue at the time; if he or she sees a piece of technology as a solution to a problem (real or perceived), then we buy and try to figure out how to make it work. Others may not see the problem in the same way...

    My beef is not with the technology or the integration of it into warfighting, I'm all for that, the more the better. Rather it is with the drive to pursue technological solutions to training shortfalls. Simple example; GPS meant that map use and land navigation no longer need be taught. Yes, that's a massive overstatement made to drill the point home but on a lesser level, it effectively occurred initially -- then it was realized that was not a good idea. My contention is that the cognitive skill of maps and navigation are not that easy to teach (unless you do it right, which we do not always do...), that the institutional teachers didn't get great pass rates and thus the system looked for a solution. Voila -- GPS. Fortunately, we figured out it wasn't the perfect answer but we continually strive to replace training time with an equipment fix.

    We buy a lot of stuff then try to figure out how to use it...

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Nah, you're part of the solution...

    Quote Originally Posted by reed11b View Post
    shown by my suggestion of alternate technology centered alternatives to Co/Bat UAVs. Training and unit structure are the other two big alternatives to the UAV answer. Infantry spends a lot of time on "move into contact" drills, "react to ambush" drills and defensive positions (i.e. range cards and clear fire zones) and very little on how to gather and process information. The infantry is a great tool for intelligence gathering and the skill should not be limited to "scouts". Hopefully somebody else on this board understands what I am trying to say and can write it more coherently.
    Reed
    Can't do it more coherently, that's more than coherent enough -- but I can add that the Grunt and front line Tanker and FO/FIST are the best combat intel tools around -- yet, people nowadays are almost universally ignored for a technological solution.

    Years ago, my son was in a LRS unit in Germany; on a Reforger exercise he and his team spotted a bunch of OpFor Leopards and reported them. The Corps G2 said "Nay, not so -- the satellite doesn't show them." Heated argument ensued. Fred Franks opted to go with the grunts (over many objections) and plopped a Lance in on the tracks. Umpires called it a major kill. So the Good guys won -- but it could just as easily have gone the other way. Tech is good. Absolute faith in it is bad.

    Grunts can provide more and better info than any satellite -- or UAV/UGV.

    You're correct in that we do not train that aspect nearly as well as we should (and that we waste a lot of time teaching esoteric BS...). Nor do we train the Officers and the Intel types on the value that 11B can offer...

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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Default Also

    ,as shown by your reforger example, the over reliance on centralized command limits the ability to look to soldiers for combat intel and initiative. A sad example of this gone wrong was the A-10 attack on the British armour column during OIF-I. If you listen to the pilot tapes you can hear them describing the VS-17 panels and hear the uncertainty in the pilot’s voice until given the "green light" from command. If those pilots had been trained to use there own judgment and act independently, I feel strongly they would not have fired on those soldiers.
    Reed

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Good point; excellent point in fact.

    Couldn't agree more. Thank god for switches on radios.

    'Nother LRS tale. They decided to issue digital cameras so that the guys could take pictures while on missions and uplink them to the CP. Amazing how many of those things got damaged on parachute jumps until they decided to not pursue the idea...

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    Council Member ODB's Avatar
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    Default If we let the tech guys run the Army

    A few years ago I was at Ft. Benning for a conference, during my stay I was introduced to the Land Warrior system. At that point in time the system ran off two 5590 batteries (the big radio batteries). I immediately started thinking the logistical nightmare. Three squads x nine men each = 27, add seven man weapons squad 27+7=34, plus PL, PSG, and RTO 34+3=37. 37 personnel times 2 batteries each 74 batteries for one platoon. How in the world would we support these things logistically? I told the proponent immediately it wasn't going to work, who thought of this thing? I got some seriously evil looks but my point was made. What truely saddens me about this is a couple of months ago watching a show about the latest and greatest with all the little robots and UAVs I wonder when are we going to learn our lesson. If I was still in the Infantry I would now be losing shooters to be robot operators, UAV operators and who knows what else.

    Instead of making soldiers physically stronger we look to technology for answers. Can anyone say exoskeleton?

    I have to wonder if those much higher up have become such arm chair quaterbacks that they no longer trust those on the ground. Treat someone a certain way long enough and they start to become that. If soldiers are taught from the beginning to make the right decisions, think through things, and give the ability to do so, they will be prepared to make decisions on the ground. Many of you who have read my posts before know I am a strong advocate of the basics. If I can do it with nothing then when I have technology to assist me I can do it that much better.

    Finally we have to come up with a way to recycle (for lack of a better word) our technology. As smaller, better equipment replace generation 1, 2 or whatever we have to have a system in place to turn in the older equipment. Prime example is the PVS-4, I tried for years to get them turned in and off the books, in order to do this we had to have every single component, but the components were no longer in the system for us to order, more red tape.
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    The biggest problem I've had personally with technology in the military is training and a general lack of standardization and intuitive design that makes training even tougher. When overtasked as it is, I can't afford the time to learn every new whiz-band system or piece of software that comes along and neither can anyone else. Here's a typical scenario:

    We hear about "system X" which sounds like a really cool capability to have. System X is paid for and the contractor arrives at the unit for the install and initial training. We find out that System X requires a unique hardware configuration and won't run on our laptops so we can't deploy with it - therefore System X is useless.

    Jump to next FY:

    After getting more development money, contractor is able to get the System X 2.0 to run on a ruggedized laptop. System X 1.0 is sent to DRMO having never been used. We get 8 hours of initial training from the contractor which is enough to only cover the bare essentials. System X 2.0 is clunky, slow and a bandwith hog, but works...for about a month. System X 2.0 crashes and the computer folks can't fix it because they only got 8 hours of training too. System X 2.0 is sent back to contractor for repair. We deploy without System X 2.0. Newly fixed System X 2.2 is waiting for us upon return from deployment. No one remembers much from the training some months ago so System X 2.2 collects dust. Unit briefing laptop dies - someone puts Powerpoint on System X 2.2 laptop and it becomes the new briefing laptop.

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    Council Member BayonetBrant's Avatar
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    The fact that there's a "unit briefing laptop" is just compounding the problem. eesh.
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    Council Member Jason Port's Avatar
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    Default Tech, Tools and the Fight

    Truth in Lending Alert - I am now a tech developer for the DoD. I was also an 11C who could use the plotting board faster than our best Mortar Ballistic Computer

    What we found in developing systems for the end users in Iraq and Afghanistan was the many systems developers built in a silo and a vacuum. We found that many folks were working to develop systems which met very specific needs and individually did a poor job of working with the other systems in the battlespace. C2 systems not communicating with Intel. Log systems not communicating in real time with other Log systems. Conversely, development in a vacuum delivers the battery scenario above, where the soldier has to take out ammo to carry batteries.

    This is made worse by the "drive-by" fielding. I was sitting in a TOC with a Brigade at JRTC talking with their S-6. He pointed to a box in the corner, and explained that some a--hole pulled up in a pick up truck and said "sign here". It was a "new system" and they would be trained "soon". And so it sat there three days later. I don't know if they ever packed it for war.

    However, in looking down the road, the systems developers and the program managers seem to have really turned a corner in the past two years. PM Battle Command who develop many of the C2 systems really seem to get it in general. They are focused on delivering quality which meets the needs of the targeted audiences (from the ground trooper to the commanding general.)

    I do see the challenge in the coming years being transition of mindsets. The tools that are forecasted, if they come to fruition, will create a shift in behavior. For example, if the platoon sergeant on the ground doesn't have to spend his time chasing down personnel status reports, and the company commander doesn't have to worry about his maintenance status because it is populated "automagically", then our warriors can spend more time on other "more important" things, like rehearsals, marksmanship, land nav, and family time.

    If our warfighters fail or refuse to use the tools provided, then the issue is inadequate information to be of value to anyone. Again, anecdote alert (x 2)
    - I was talking with someone about uparmored HMMWVs when this was a huge issue a few years ago (the fact that the front lines didn't have enough.) The word I got was that somewhere in the Pentagon G-4 there was parking lot of M1114's ready for deployment, but the reports from Iraq were so inconsistent with regard to property book accounting, that nobody knew where to ship them. A huge disconnect between company command and echelons above reality.

    - In speaking with an ORSA Major for a major division, she informed me that her experience on reporting data was two fold - British soldiers at the lowest level would simply make up answers to questions because they wanted to keep their command happy; US soldiers at the same level would simply ignore the request for information. My point is that because we ask our soldiers for so much info on the digital battlefield, our leadership needs to hone these interrogatives into bite-sized chunks, and then we need to show the ground force the value of their response. Because of these behaviors today however, no one can accurately account for how many small arms attacks we had last month, because so many will go unreported by soldiers at the bottom who are numb to threats taking pot shots.

    If we can change behavior and provide tools which really meet the warrior need, we can give them more time to worry about watching their sector, and less time worrying about the last oil change their HMMWV got.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Port
    .....This is made worse by the "drive-by" fielding. I was sitting in a TOC with a Brigade at JRTC talking with their S-6. He pointed to a box in the corner, and explained that some a--hole pulled up in a pick up truck and said "sign here". It was a "new system" and they would be trained "soon". And so it sat there three days later. I don't know if they ever packed it for war.....
    Reminds me of how CHATS was initially fielded. We received several at Bragg over a decade ago before it was even tested. I took one of our systems out to Gordon to participate in its first operational test (again, after it had already been fielded to the units). It failed miserably, even in the benign garrison environment at Gordon. Hell, even at that time we could have purchased more useful equipment off the shelf. But we were stuck with it, and had to deploy with it.

    Attached is a drawing from one of my soldiers at the time that reflects his perceptions of its usefulness while in the Balkans...
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 03-30-2015 at 02:38 AM.

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    This post from a blog I monitor has a good point -

    Technology succeeds in reducing workload when it solves a real and identified problem. It tends to fail when it tries to solve a problem that didn't need solving and requires new processes.

    I noticed that some people seemed to use the technology very well and it seemed to make a big difference in their productivity. On the other hand, there was another group of people who never seemed to get much of a benefit out of their tools. What was odd, is that the ineffective group usually had newer, faster, shinier, more feature rich gadgets than the effective group.

    Over time, I began to see that the difference between the two groups was fundamentally about how they approached technology. One group would spend time thinking about how they, personally, worked and what areas were slowing them down. When they came to talk to me, they usually had a very good definition of the problems that they were looking for technology to solve.
    The second group generally spent more time at Best Buy looking over the latest PDA’s and cell phones. They also tended to talk with friends to find out what they were using. They would find out about a new feature and imagine ways that they could use it in their work. They would usually approach me looking for a specific device so they could do something that they weren’t currently doing.
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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    This post from a blog I monitor has a good point -

    Technology succeeds in reducing workload when it solves a real and identified problem. It tends to fail when it tries to solve a problem that didn't need solving and requires new processes.
    There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don't.



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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don't.



    Couldn't resist... bad sammy ... ooooh bad sammy.
    You're too funny.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy
    Technology succeeds in reducing workload when it solves a real and identified problem. It tends to fail when it tries to solve a problem that didn't need solving and requires new processes.
    I also see technology attempting to solve a real and identified problem, but the new processes required are overly complex for the field. This complexity requires training to reach an acceptable level of operational effectiveness. Given the nature of the competing taskings and limited training time, this inevitably results in the reduction or elmination of other training.

    Unfortunately, from my perspective looking at the intelligence field, over the past several years I've seen technological solutions resulting in analysts and collectors with a greatly reduced ability in core skills and a worrying over-reliance on the equipment to perform basic tasks.

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    Default I'm with Entropy on this Issue

    I think Entropy is on target with respect to his comments concerning technology. I will only add a little to what he already expresses.

    When I was still in the Marine Corps, my Marines and I suffered through this painful process of serving technology, vice technology serving us on numerous occassions.

    This misfocus caused warfighting skills to atrophy. Misfocus kills. Misfocus kills because service members in harms way find they do not know how to quickly adapt to a combat environment because the baseline references to operate with an infantryman mindset are lost once people depart from basic training; sustainment training is set aside to follow gadgets and develop new systems when time should be focused on studying the nature of the fight, language training, anthropological and infrastructural studies of the threat environment via the use of sophisticated technologies.

    Once service members deploy in theater, they lose access to bandwidth, technologies do not hold up well in indigenous weather/environmental conditions, and I spend more time maintaining the system than reading the enemy. This is ludicrous. Machines should serve me, not the other way around.

    This frustration lead me to become an ardent follower of the late Colonel John Boyd when he stated the priority in preparing and execution of war lies in "people, ideas and hardware" in that order.

    Warfare is about people. Warfare is about weaponizing time and space; the weaponization of time and space is best prosecuted by those who make the most effective timely decisions utilizing a tool/model known as the "Boyd Cycle" or "OODA LOOP". We need people of all ranks to be able to make rapid/effective decisions in a time of crisis. This requires increased investment in the human mind in the form of language training, cultural training, free play exercises employing technologies and w/out technologies since our adversaries know the U.S. has the technological edge and evade/exploit their gaps. General Van Riper did this in Millenium Challenge 02 and this shut down the tech based exercise. One can read more about it here... http://www.globalsecurity.org/org/ne...0906-iraq1.htm . For those interested in learning how other countries see they can fight us best read "Unrestricted Warfare" via this link... http://www.terrorism.com/documents/T...restricted.pdf

    Thank you for making a post regarding this subject and allowing people, like myself, to respond.

    Cheers and Semper fi, Bob

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