Machines don't fight wars. Terrain doesn't fight wars. Humans fight wars. You must get into the mind of humans. That's where the battles are won.
-Col John Boyd
As a new millennium approaches, information dominance should become a "blue print" for continued success as a superpower and contribute to peace particularly by adding new dimensions to deterrence.22 Currently, information operations focuses too narrowly on the acquisition, transmission, and storage of information. Today's Cornerstones of Information Warfare defines military information functions (operations) as surveillance, reconnaissance, command and control, intelligence, communications, combat identification, precision navigation, and weather.23 In 2025 the definition will likely include tools that allow military leaders to integrate seamlessly the functions of the OODA Loop and the ability to control momentum.
Every individual operates a OODA Loop that is unique in speed and accuracy (fig. 1-1). Speed is based on the individual's mental capacity and capability to deal with information and changing environments. John Boyd asserts that one can paralyze an enemy by operating inside his OODA Loop, meaning that the individual is operating a faster cycle speed than the enemy's.24 Accuracy is determined during the orient part of the cycle by what information is filtered and how it is organized. Boyd considers the orientation as the most important part of the cycle because "it shapes the way we interact with the environment-hence orientation shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act."25
Increasingly, the OODA cycle time is affected by a growing deluge of information, with much of it insignificant or not applicable to the task at hand.26 The difficulty lies in filtering out exactly the nuggets of information that are useful. Unfortunately, during combat operations, most commanders possess limited time to perform specific tasks and issue orders. Further, as increased volumes of information are input into the OODA Loop or as the rate of input increases, natural defense mechanisms tend to try to protect people.27 A key mechanism is a "bounded rationality"28 that allows individuals to screen out inputs prior to being overloaded or inundated so they can continue to focus on a particular task. One danger lies in the commanders screening out "golden nuggets" because they are focused elsewhere. A second danger lies in failing to recognize when new data should dictate a refocus or reorientation.
Technology, however, can integrate functions within the OODA Loop and speed up the cycle. It does this by creating decision support tools to alleviate the precarious situation that exists when crucial nuggets of information are omitted from the individual's OODA Loop. The tools, designed especially for commanders, would aid in managing military information to fit how commanders actually assess situations and issue orders.29 The decision support tools would assist commanders to deal with inputs from different, sometimes contradictory or incremental, sources. Unfortunately, the integration tools do not currently exist. This paper proposes the development of this capability in subsequent chapters.
Thus far, we have assumed that technology will assist the commander by increasing the speed and improving the accuracy of his OODA Loop. However, it is also possible successful military operations will require a "loosening" of the loop.30 Specifically, technology should also allow the commander to "control momentum" of the OODA Loop. In other words, the commander must be able to control the cycle speed to allow the "modulation of both time and space" so the "impulse of strategic power is imparted at the proper moment to the objective at a critical position."31 The final stage of employing or impulsing the strategic power must be "kept short so as to minimize the enemy's ability to avoid the onslaught or effect countermeasures."32
"Momentum control" is an unorthodox concept because the information age compels users to believe that faster and shorter OODA Loop cycles are the goal. However, there may be opportunities where slowing the cycle benefits the commander's operations and induces friction in the enemy's cycle. Momentum control includes the ability to operate within the desired time cycles, both by controlling friendly movement and by affecting an enemy's movement.33 For example, a special operations soldier camouflaged to match the terrain will move relatively fast toward an enemy camp. Yet, once he is within viewing distance of the enemy, his movement slows to a minuscule rate to prevent enemy detection. The soldier has slowed his OODA Loop cycle by controlling momentum in both time and space. Another example is the strategic football coach whose team has a lead late in the fourth quarter and who employs the running game when his team is on offense. Like the soldier, the savvy coach wants to control the momentum of the battle, to slow the OODA Cycle by using time (the clock continues to tick between running plays) and space (achieving enough yards every three or four plays to get a first down) to defeat the opposition. The opposition, in turn, tries to regain momentum control by calling time outs to break the cycle of the team on the offense.
The following tables (tables 1 to 4) list tasks and attributes of each OODA Loop function to demonstrate what should be integrated to enable commanders to control momentum. The objective is to use the tasks and attributes as measures for how effectively both individual functions and the integrated OODA Loop operates when 2025 technology is applied. Further, the tasks and how attributes serve as measures of merit to determine which technologies discussed in the next chapter meet the requirements to achieve OODA Loop integration. Ultimately, the evolving technologies that rate best seem most appropriate to pursue for system development.
Contact: Air Force 2025
Last updated: 11 December 1996