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Introduction to Rapid Dominance

The military posture and capability of the United States of America are, today, dominant. Simply put, there is no external adversary in the world that can successfully challenge the extraordinary power of the American military in either regional conflict or in "conventional" war as we know it once the United States makes the commitment to take whatever action may be needed. To be sure, the first phase of a crisis may be the most difficult—if an aggressor has attacked and U.S. forces are not in place. However, it will still be years, if not decades, before potential adversaries will be able to deploy systems with a full panoply of capabilities that are equivalent to or better than the aggregate strength of the ships, aircraft, armored vehicles, and weapons systems in our inventory. Even if an adversary could deploy similar systems, then matching and overcoming the superb training and preparation of American service personnel would still be a daunting task.

Given this reality that our military dominance can and will extend for some considerable time to come, provided we are prepared to use it, why then is a re-examination of American defense posture and doctrine important? The answers to this question involve (1) the changing nature of the domestic and international environments; (2) the complex nature of resolving inter and intra-state conflict that falls outside conventional war, including peacekeeping, and countering terrorism, crime, and the use of weapons of mass destruction; (3) resource constraints; (4) defense infrastructure and technical industrial bases raised on a large, continuous infusion of funding now facing a future of austerity; and (5) the vast uncertainties of the so-called social, economic, and information revolutions that could check or counter many of the nation's assumptions as well as public support currently underwriting defense.

It is clear that these so-called grey areas involving non-traditional Operations Other Than War (OOTW) and law enforcement tasks are growing and pose difficult problems and challenges to American military forces, especially when and where the use of force may be inappropriate or simply may not work. The expansion of the role of UN forces to nation-building in Somalia and its subsequent failure comes to mind as an example of this danger. It is also arguable that the formidable nature and huge technological lead of American military capability could induce an adversary to move to a strategy that attempted to circumvent all this fighting power through other clever or agile means. The Vietnam War is a grim reminder of the political nature of conflict and how our power was once outflanked. Training, morale, and readiness to fight are perishable commodities requiring both a generous expenditure of resources and careful nurturing.

Thus, the greatest constraints today to retaining the most dominant military force in the world, paradoxically, may be in overcoming the inertia of this success. We may be our own worst enemy.

During the Cold War when the danger was clear, the defense debate was often fought over how to balance the so-called "strategy-force structure-budget" formula. Today, that formula has expanded to include "threat, strategy, force structure, budget, and infrastructure." Without a "clear and present danger" such as the Axis Powers in 1941 or, later, the Soviet Union to coalesce public agreement on the threat, it is difficult to construct a supporting strategy that can be effective either in setting priorities or objectives. Hence, today's "two war" or two nearly simultaneous Major Regional Contingency (MRC) strategy has been criticized as strategically and financially excessive. As noted by administration officials, the current force structure does not meet the demands of the "two war," MRC strategy and, in any event, the budget will not support the planned force structure. Finally, it is widely recognized that the United States possesses far more infrastructure such as bases and facilities than it needs to support the current force, thereby draining scarce resources away from fighting power. As a result, there is a substantial defense imbalance that will erode fighting power.

In designing its defense posture, the United States has adopted the doctrine of employing "decisive or overwhelming force." This doctrine reinforces American advantages in strategic mobility, prepositioning, technology, training, and in fielding integrated military systems to provide and retain superiority, and responds to the minimum casualty and collateral damage criteria set first in the Reagan Administration. The Revolution in Military Affairs or RMA is cited as the phenomenon or process by which the United States continues to exploit technology to maintain this decisive force advantage, particularly in terms of achieving "dominant battlefield awareness." Through this awareness, the United States should be able to obtain perfect or near perfect information on virtually all technical aspects of the battlefield and therefore be able to defeat or destroy an adversary more effectively, with fewer losses to ourselves and with a range of capabilities from long-range precision strike to more effective close-in weapons.

Before proceeding further, an example is useful to focus some of the as yet unknowable consequences of these broader realities, changes, and trends. The deployment of American forces to Bosnia is a reaction to and representation of major shifts occurring in the post-Cold War world. With these shifts, this deployment is suggestive of what may lie ahead for the use, relevance, and design of military force. The legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and then, the start of the Cold War, caused the West to adopt policies for containing and deterring the broad threat posed by the Soviet Union and its ideology. Thermonuclear weapons, complemented over time by strong conventional forces, threatened societal damage to Russia. Conventional forces backed by tactical nuclear weapons were later required, in part, to halt a massive Soviet ground attack in Europe and, in part, to provide an alternative to (immediate) use of nuclear weapons.

Today, the First Armored Division, the principal American unit serving in Bosnia is, in essence, the same force that fought so well in Desert Storm and, for the bulk of the Cold War along with our other units, had been designed to defend NATO against and then defeat a numerically superior, armored and mechanized Soviet adversary advancing across the plains of Germany. Now these troops, as well as others from both sides of the former Iron Curtain, are engaged in OOTW for which special training, rules of engagement, command arrangements, and other support structures have been put in place at short notice, few of which were even envisaged a few years ago. These are also operations that, because of intense, instantaneous media coverage, can have huge domestic political impact especially if events go wrong.

Whether or not this armored division is the most optimally configured force for such an operation is not relevant for the moment even though this unit probably was the most appropriate for this task. However, it is prudent to examine the consequences of changing tasks presaged by Bosnia, in which the enemy is instability rather than an ideological or regional adversary we are trying to contain or defeat and neutrality on our part may be vital to the success of the mission. Do these changes mean that we should alter our traditional approach to the doctrine for and design of forces? If so, how? Are there alternative or more effective ways and means to conduct these peacekeeping-related operations? And, in this evaluation, are there alternative doctrines we should consider to fight wars more effectively as we envisage scenarios under the construct of the MRC?

With the end of the USSR and absent a hostile Russian superpower, there is no external threat to the existence or survival of the United States as a nation and there will not be such an immediate threat for some time to come. This means that there is a finite window of opportunity when there is no external adversary threatening the total existence of American society; that our forces are far superior to any possible military adversary choosing to confront us directly; and that, with innovative thought, we may be able to create a more relevant, effective, and efficient means to ensure for the common defense at the likely levels of future spending.

At the same time that the Bosnia operation is underway, the fundamental changes occurring at home and abroad must be addressed. The industrial and technical base of the United States is changing profoundly. The entrepreneurial and technical advantages of the American economy were never greater and it is small business that is creating virtually all new jobs and employment opportunities. Commercial technology and products are turning over on ever shortening cycles. Performance, especially in high-technology products, is improving and costs are being driven downwards.

Sadly, the opposite trends are still found in the defense sector, where cost is high and will create even tougher choices among competing programs, especially as the budget shrinks. Cycle time to field new generation capabilities is lengthening and performance, especially in computer and information systems, is often obsolete on delivery. The defense industrial base will continue to compress and it is not clear that the necessary level of efficiencies or increases in effectiveness in using this base can be identified and implemented, suggesting further pressures on a defense budget that is only likely to be cut.

Indeed, the question must be carefully examined of whether the military platforms that served us so well in both cold and hot wars such as tanks, fixed wing aircraft, and large surface ships and submarines represent the most effective mix of numbers, technology, strategic mobility, and fighting capability. Our national preference for "attrition" and "force on forces" warfare continues to shape the way we design and rationalize our military capability. Therefore, it is no surprise that in dealing with the MRC, American doctrine, in some ways, remains an extension of Cold War force planning. While the magnitude and number of dangerous threats to the nation have been remarkably reduced by the demise of the USSR, we continue to use technology to fill traditional missions better rather than to identify or produce new and more effective solutions for achieving military and strategic/political objectives.

While there is much talk about "military revolutions" and winning the "information war," what is generally meant in this lexicon and discussion is translated into defense programs that relate to accessing and "fusing" information across command, control, intelligence, surveillance, target identification, and precision strike technologies. What is most exciting among these revolutions is the potential to achieve "dominant battlefield awareness," that is, achieving the capability to have near-perfect knowledge and information of the battlefield while depriving the adversary of that capacity and producing "systems of systems" for this purpose.

The near and mid-term aims of these "revolutions" largely remain directed at exploiting our advantages in firepower and on fielding more effective ways of defeating an adversary's weapons systems and infrastructure for using those systems. The doctrine of "decisive or overwhelming force" is the conceptual and operational underpinning for winning the next war based largely on this force-on-force and attrition model, and winning the information war is vital to this end. Few have asked whether the pattern of employing more modern technology for traditional firepower solutions is the best one and if there are alternative ways to achieve military objectives more effectively and efficiently. In other words, can the idea of dominant battlefield awareness be expanded doctrinally, operationally, and in terms of fixing on alternative military, political, or strategic objectives?

Rapid Dominance, if realized as defined in this paper, would advance the military revolution to new levels and possibly new dimensions. Rapid Dominance extends across the entire "threat, strategy, force structure, budget, infrastructure" formula with broad implications for how we provide for the future common defense. Organization and management of defense and defense resources should not be excluded from this examination although, in this paper, they are not discussed in detail.

The aim of Rapid Dominance is to affect the will, perception, and understanding of the adversary to fit or respond to our strategic policy ends through imposing a regime of Shock and Awe. Clearly, the traditional military aim of destroying, defeating, or neutralizing the adversary's military capability is a fundamental and necessary component of Rapid Dominance. Our intent, however, is to field a range of capabilities to induce sufficient Shock and Awe to render the adversary impotent. This means that physical and psychological effects must be obtained.

Rapid Dominance would therefore provide the ability to control, on an immediate basis, the entire region of operational interest and the environment, broadly defined, in and around that area of interest. Beyond achieving decisive force and dominant battlefield awareness, we envisage Rapid Dominance producing a capability that can more effectively and efficiently achieve the stated political or military objectives underwriting the use of force by rendering the adversary completely impotent.

In Rapid Dominance, "rapid" means the ability to move quickly before an adversary can react. This notion of rapidity applies throughout the spectrum of combat from pre-conflict deployment to all stages of battle and conflict resolution.

"Dominance" means the ability to affect and dominate an adversary's will both physically and psychologically. Physical dominance includes the ability to destroy, disarm, disrupt, neutralize, and to render impotent. Psychological dominance means the ability to destroy, defeat, and neuter the will of an adversary to resist; or convince the adversary to accept our terms and aims short of using force. The target is the adversary's will, perception, and understanding. The principal mechanism for achieving this dominance is through imposing sufficient conditions of "Shock and Awe" on the adversary to convince or compel it to accept our strategic aims and military objectives. Clearly, deception, confusion, misinformation, and disinformation, perhaps in massive amounts, must be employed.

The key objective of Rapid Dominance is to impose this overwhelming level of Shock and Awe against an adversary on an immediate or sufficiently timely basis to paralyze its will to carry on. In crude terms, Rapid Dominance would seize control of the environment and paralyze or so overload an adversary's perceptions and understanding of events that the enemy would be incapable of resistance at tactical and strategic levels. An adversary would be rendered totally impotent and vulnerable to our actions. To the degree that non-lethal weaponry is useful, it would be incorporated in the ability to Shock and Awe and achieve Rapid Dominance.

Theoretically, the magnitude of Shock and Awe Rapid Dominance seeks to impose (in extreme cases) is the non-nuclear equivalent of the impact that the atomic weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had on the Japanese. The Japanese were prepared for suicidal resistance until both nuclear bombs were used. The impact of those weapons was sufficient to transform both the mindset of the average Japanese citizen and the outlook of the leadership through this condition of Shock and Awe. The Japanese simply could not comprehend the destructive power carried by a single airplane. This incomprehension produced a state of awe.

We believe that, in a parallel manner, revolutionary potential in combining new doctrine and existing technology can produce systems capable of yielding this level of Shock and Awe. In most or many cases, this Shock and Awe may not necessitate imposing the full destruction of either nuclear weapons or advanced conventional technologies but must be underwritten by the ability to do so.

Achieving Rapid Dominance by virtue of applying Shock and Awe at the appropriate level or levels is the next step in the evolution of a doctrine for replacing or complementing overwhelming force. By way of comparison, we have summarized how we view the differences between the doctrines of Rapid Dominance and Decisive Force in terms of basic elements that apply to the objectives, uses of force, force size, scope, speed, casualties, and technique. We recognize that there will be debate over the relative utility and applicability of these doctrines and readers are encouraged to participate.

In considering the differences between the concepts of Rapid Dominance and Decisive Force, it is important to define the terms as precisely as possible.

The goals of achieving Rapid Dominance using Shock and Awe must be compared with overwhelming force. "Rapid" implies the ability to "own" the dimension of time—moving more quickly than an opponent, operating within his decision cycle, and resolving conflict favorably in a short period of time. "Dominance" means the ability to control a situation totally.

Rapid Dominance must be all-encompassing. It will require the means to anticipate and to counter all opposing moves. It will involve the capability to deny an opponent things of critical value, and to convey the unmistakable message that unconditional compliance is the only available recourse. It will imply more than the direct application of force. It will mean the ability to control the environment and to master all levels of an opponent's activities to affect will, perception, and understanding. This could include means of communication, transportation, food production, water supply, and other aspects of infrastructure as well as the denial of military responses. Deception, misinformation, and disinformation are key components in this assault on the will and understanding of the opponent.

Total mastery achieved at extraordinary speed and across tactical, strategic, and political levels will destroy the will to resist. With Rapid Dominance, the goal is to use our power with such compellance that even the strongest of wills will be awed. Rapid Dominance will strive to achieve a dominance that is so complete and victory is so swift, that an adversary's losses in both manpower and material could be relatively light, and yet the message is so unmistakable that resistance would be seen as futile.

"Decisive Force," on the other hand, implies delivering massive enough force to prevail. Decisive means using force with plenty of margin for error. Force implies a traditional "force-on-force" and attrition approach. This concept does not exclude psychological and other complementary damage imposition techniques to enhance the application of force; they have been used throughout the history of warfare. But such non-destructive means would have an ancillary role. Military force would be applied in a purer form and targeted primarily against the military capabilities of an opponent. Time is not always an essential component. As in Desert Shield/Storm, enough time would have to be allowed to assemble an overwhelming force. Such a luxury is not always feasible.

The differences become clearer if broken down into their essential elements:


Elements Rapid Dominance Decisive Force
Objective Control the adversary's will, perceptions, and understanding Prevail militarily and decisively against a set of opposing capabilities defined by the MRC
Use of Force Control the adversary's will, perceptions, and understanding and literally make an adversary impotent to act or react Unquestioned ability to prevail militarily over an opponent's forces and based against the adversary's capabilities
Force Size Could be smaller than opposition, but with decisive edge in technology, training, and technique Large, highly trained, and well-equipped. Materially overwhelming
Scope All encompassing Force against force (and supporting capability)
Speed Essential Desirable
Casualties Could be relatively few in number on both sides Potentially higher on both sides
Technique Paralyze, shock, unnerve, deny, destroy Systematic destruction of military capability. Attrition applicable in some situations

Four general categories of core characteristics and capabilities have been identified that Rapid Dominance-configured mission capability packages must embrace. These are identified briefly and discussed in later chapters.

First, Rapid Dominance seeks to maximize knowledge of the environment, of the adversary, and of our own forces on political, strategic, economic, and military/operational levels. On one hand, we want to get into the minds of the adversary far more deeply than we have in the past. Beyond operational intelligence required for battlefield awareness, Rapid Dominance means cultural understanding of the adversary in ways that will affect both ours and their planning and the outcome of the operation at all appropriate tactical and strategic levels.

Second, Rapid Dominance must achieve rapidity in the sense of timeliness. Rapid Dominance must have capabilities that can be applied swiftly and relatively faster than an adversary's.

Third, Rapid Dominance seeks to achieve total control of the environment from complete "signature management" of both our and the adversary's information and intelligence to more discrete means to deceive, disguise, and misinform.

Fourth, Rapid Dominance aims to achieve new levels of operational competence that can virtually institutionalize "brilliance." In some cases, this may mean changing the longstanding principle of military centralization and empowering individual soldiers, sailors, and airmen to be crucial components in applying and directing the application of force.

As we move to turn this concept into specific doctrine and capabilities for future evaluation, there is another emerging reality to consider. If the commercial-economic sector is transforming at the current rate and breadth, it could be that, over the course of many years, the defense industrial base would follow suit, or face irrelevance and extinction. Clearly, there are certain areas in defense which will never or may never be eliminated or replaced. Nuclear systems are a current example.

Should this trend of commercial dominance play out, it may mean that military force design and procurement will become dependent on the private sector and commercial technology. Rapid Dominance is a first conceptual step to deal with this possibility.

The purpose of this paper is to outline the beginnings of the concept of Rapid Dominance, its concentration on strategy, technology and innovation, and its focus on Shock and Awe. Based on this, subsequent steps will involve expanding mission capability packages concepts consisting of operations harmonized with doctrine, organization, and systems and then move on to field prototype systems for further test and evaluation as advanced concept technology demonstrations.

Chapter 1. Background and Basis

Table of Contents