Armed Forces Journal: “Small Unit Dominance” (October 2010 issue)

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The following is an excerpt from an article published in October 2010, written by ALFI Board Chair, Major General (Ret) Robert H. Scales.

Americans seek to solve battlefield problems with technology. Technology is a vital ingredient in achieving success at the tactical level. But dominance on the tactical battlefield is achieved more by leveraging the human, social, cultural, behavioral and cognitive sciences as well as the physical sciences. The weapons acquisition community is still optimized to develop technologically sophisticated big-ticket systems using a process that often takes decades. The innovation cycle is much shorter at the tactical level, where our enemies intend to win and, all too often, are able to adapt to changes on the tactical battlefield faster than our centrally controlled acquisition system can respond.

Defense Department scientific communities have never made small combat units a priority for research and development at the national level. There has never been an attempt to achieve a “leap-ahead” advantage on the ground such as we achieved with stealth or precision in the air. Part of this neglect is due to the fact that small combat units do not employ capital-intensive material. For the most part, their effectiveness is amplified using small-scale devices, systems and weapons that are “hung” on soldiers and their leaders. This “Christmas tree” effect too often results in a one-off, incremental approach to developing leap-ahead technologies for equipping small units.

We still view the preparation of small units for combat as an industrial age process of mass production, even though we live in an era of boutique approaches to the training, selection, bonding and acculturation of very specialized fighting forces. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars on instrumented training devices and simulators for aerial systems, yet too often small-unit leaders still must gain proficiency the old-fashioned way — in combat by shedding the blood of their soldiers.

For the complete article, please visit the Armed Forces Journal website.

 

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