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Chapter 2

Required Capabilities

US armed forces face an array of uncertain futures. They could be called on to perform missions in a variety of environments: deterrence, operations other than war, minor regional conflicts, major regional conflicts, or full-scale war. In addition, those missions will likely be accomplished with a smaller force than today. To accomplish these missions, US armed forces must take advantage of the most significant force multiplier: information.

The proliferation of sensors is creating a flood of information and the flood will likely grow stronger in the future. 1 Tools to handle that flood are insufficient today, and major changes are needed to manage the deluge in 2025.

In the future, information systems must generate products that are timely, current, reliable, relevant, and tailored to the user's needs. These products will come from systems that are secure, redundant, survivable, transportable, adaptable, deception resistant, capable of fusing a vast amount of data, and capable of forecasting.

The challenge in 2025 is to create an adaptive information architecture to provide decision makers and operators with superior battlespace awareness by consistently supplying the right information, in sufficient detail, in enough time, to make the best decisions at all levels of command. However, superior battlespace awareness is not enough. The decision makers must not only be aware of what is happening within their area of interest, they must also understand why it is taking place and what to do about it.

Required Knowledge Capabilities

Achieving superior knowledge over the adversary will require the right mix of multispectral sensors, advanced automated processors, analysis and correlation tools, and dynamic storage devices. These devices must be logically integrated to orient enormous quantities of information in a manner that will impart knowledge to a variety of decision makers.

Sensors must detect a wide variety of phenomena and be deployable around the globe. To achieve this, the conventional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance methods must be complemented with exotic types of information collectors. These techniques might include seismic, acoustic, magnetic resonance imaging, and atmospheric (aircraft and missile wake) detection. 2 The ability to obtain information directly from an adversary's databases (mapping and penetrating the military and commercial information systems of the enemy) remains a high priority. Also included in this mix of data collectors are weather sensors to provide timely and accurate environmental reports. Finally, a new family of low cost, "leave-behind" sensors must be developed to provide near-real-time poststrike effects assessments. 3

Needs of the emerging weapon systems will drive specific sensor requirements such as resolution or geolocational accuracy. Precision weapons require precision intelligence. Lasers and other directed energy weapons may require resolutions down to a few centimeters.

The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board recently published New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century. In it they stated "the power of the new information systems will lie in their ability to correlate data automatically and rapidly from many sources to form a complete picture of the operational area, whether it be a battlefield or the site of a mobility operation." 4 This represents the heart of any information operations engine. The ability to fuse vast amounts of data from the multitude of sensors, automatically sort it, identify the essential pieces of information, and provide the right information to the right node in near real time is the goal. This represents one of the greatest challenges. The best system will be able to identify the relevant databases across dissimilar networks, search through and filter vast amounts of stored information, and rapidly analyze and correlate data across distributed databases with thousands or millions of variables. 5 The architecture must automatically maintain current information on designated target sets at all times and assist in targeting by presenting vulnerability, aim points, and strike options. This process must remain effective even when incomplete or uncertain data are part of the underlying situation. 6

The system must also integrate knowledge of the operating environment, especially the terrain over which forces will operate. A world map using a common grid is needed, plus the ability to provide maps expressed in unique coordinates but derived from a common database or grid. 7 The goal of precision mapping is to provide the user with less than one meter accuracy. An onboard map coupled with navigation aids will permit aircraft and unmanned air vehicles to fly anytime, anywhere, on any route. 8

Well-trained personnel are crucial for the proper analysis and evaluation of information; without them the commander is presented with a "regurgitation of previously reported 'facts' that may or may not be relevant." 9 In 2025, the human element is still the key. However, in the face of the information explosion and high tempo military operations expected in 2025, the analytic tasks performed by those well-trained professionals must be complemented by automated processes wherever possible.

The evolving doctrine in the new information age mandates each commander be empowered to act quickly and decisively to changes taking place on the battlefield. For this empowerment to be successful, the information operations architecture must deliver the essential information relevant to that particular commander. The architecture must do this simultaneously for each command or weapon system node. 10 Once the required knowledge is gained, decision makers will need to use it to increase military effectiveness. In other words, they must use the knowledge wisely.

Required Wisdom Capabilities

The wisdom component helps decision makers reach good conclusions quickly. The architecture includes the models, simulations, forecasting aids, decision aids, planning and execution tools, and archival methods that enable information superiority over an adversary. 11 The models and simulations also need to incorporate response mechanisms so outcomes are included in future scenarios.

Campaign planning is a critical role for the wisdom component. Forecasting tools or intuitive knowledge and decision support systems are critical to the war fighter. 12 In campaign planning, the system can assist the commander by forecasting possible enemy courses of action (COA). Similarly, the campaign planner would pursue various alternatives for friendly COAs. Each of these friendly COAs could be pursued against each of the enemy COAs. Figure 2-1 illustrates this process for the most likely enemy COAs. An ability to permanently store or archive past forecasts and actual outcomes or decisions is required so they are available as input in new scenarios. Linking simulations to real-world exercises on live ranges verifies whether these simulations represent reality.

Figure 2-1. Course of Action Development

The wisdom component must aid training by allowing friendly forces to perform virtual missions. 13 It must support the modernization of existing systems and development of new systems. This will improve test and evaluation, reduce acquisition cycle times, and reduce costs. 14 It must also model future foreign systems, technologies, and scenarios so the military acquisition system can maintain technical superiority.

Required Human System Integration Capabilities

The human will remain the essential element of the information operation systems of the future. Humans will exercise command and control and apply their unique attributes to information processing and decision making-an integral part of the Wisdom Warfare concept. Humans can process large amounts of information through the five senses; chiefly visual (billions of bits per second) and audient (tens of thousands of bits per second). 15 However, the human as an information channel (usually transmitting information orally) is limited to about 50 bits per second. 16 Gaining and maintaining information superiority in 2025 will require effective integration and interfacing between humans and systems. This effective integration will rely on improved capabilities in three areas: the human, the system, and the way they interact.

The human area consists of improving and enhancing the way people deal with information. This includes human sensing capabilities and human cognitive functions like problem solving and decision making. The system area consists of developing and improving information transformation systems to include artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent software, information filters, and information access systems. The final area consists of improving and enhancing the integration between humans and systems. This integration focuses not only on improving the human-machine interfaces but also includes the larger idea of gaining synergy between humans and systems. This synergy incorporates capabilities like brain activated control of machines.

Obviously, in an environment of exponential growth in information available to humans, capabilities to improve and enhance the ways humans deal with information are required. The first step is to gain a better understanding of how humans work with information. This requires a significant improvement in the understanding of the immensely complex human brain. 17 The capability to understand how the human brain works in different situations will help improve human performance. A required capability for improvement is enhancement of memory since it has been shown excellent memory helps develop proficiency in situational awareness. 18

Achieving effective integration between humans and systems will require a long-term systems engineering process. The process will begin early in a person's career where evolved portable computers will be used to store information on the methods the decision maker uses in problem solving in all kinds of situations. This process will also require training to improve the human mental dexterity in using the system. 19 The human brain is a great processor, and it should be used to the maximum extent possible.

Another required capability is to design systems that can determine the status of the decision maker's cognitive processes and adjust the information available and the way it is being presented to avoid information overload. Improved information displays will be required to present information to the decision maker in a variety of forms. 20 Systems that take into account the nonverbal methods of communication like gesturing and facial expressions need to be developed. 21 As systems become more intelligent and autonomous, humans must understand what actions are being taken and the potential limitations these actions might create for the decision maker.

So what is really required in 2025? First, the leaders of tomorrow must have an architecture that acquires and transforms a vast amount of information from a wide variety of sources. Second, the architecture must forecast courses of action and provide advice to the war fighter. Finally, the architecture must present information in a form that is timely, reliable, relevant, and tailored to the war fighter's information needs.


Barry R. Schneider and Lawrence E. Grinter, eds., "Overview: Information Warfare Issues," Battlefield of the Future: 21st Century Warfare Issues, Air War College Studies in National Security No. 3 (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, September 1995), 150-151, 189.
Spacecast 2020, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Volume (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University, 1994), 3.
2025 Concept, No. 900518, "Electronic Grid-Throwaway Sensors," 2025 Concepts Database (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air War College/2025, 1996).
USAF Scientific Advisory Board, New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century, summary volume (Washington, D.C.: USAF Scientific Advisory Board, 15 December 1995), 11.
Ibid., 24.
New World Vistas, (unpublished draft, the technology application volume), 10.
Ibid., 19.
Ibid., 20.
Lt Col Norman B. Hutcherson, Command and Control Warfare (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 1994), 29.
New World Vistas, (unpublished draft, the technology application volume), 24.
2025 Concept, No. 900386, "Computer-Assisted Battle Decision System," 2025 Concepts Database (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air War College/2025, 1996).
Department of the Air Force, Air Force Executive Guidance, December 1995, 20.
Kelley, "Brilliant Warrior" 9.
Air Force Executive Guidance, 21.
Sarnoff Research Center, "Exploiting the Consumer Digital Systems (CDS) Revolution," briefing to Lieutenant General Kelley, Air University commander, Maxwell AFB, Ala., 24 March 1994.
J. R. Pierce and J. E. Karlin, "Reading Rates and the Information Rate of a Human Channel" (Convention Record Part 2, IEEE WESCON, 1957), 60.
Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia, 1994 ed., s.v. "human brain." Given that the human brain contains 100-200 billion neurons with each one connected to 1,000 or more other neurons and having more than 60 chemical messengers (neurotransmitters and neuropeptides) to communicate with in any combination, "the number of possible brain states is inconceivably large."
New World Vistas, (unpublished draft, the human systems and biotechnology volume), appendix M, 2-4.
Additional required capabilities can be found in 2025 white papers on General Education and Training; Training and Readiness; and Information Technology in Education and Training.
New World Vistas, (unpublished draft, the human systems and biotechnology volume), appendix F. Appendix F describes research for improving the design of displays. Though the discussion focuses on improvements for displaying information to pilots of aircraft these concepts can be used in a large variety of situations.
Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital (New York: Vintage Books, 1996), 91-92; Idem, "Affective Computing," Wired, April 1996, 184.

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Contact: Air Force 2025
Last updated: 5 December 1996