Change management in the short-term is a substantive challenge of any organization. When change management extends far into the future, the challenges increase exponentially. To establish and field a mission-ready force, the Army must shape the force of the future. For the Army to be prepared for an inchoate future, change management theory and force management practice must coalesce into a sustainable, cost-effective plan. This force management plan must manifest a high degree of flexibility and agile responsiveness in order to be "prepared to combat uncooperative and adaptive enemies" (ARFORGEN, 2006). Overall, the Army must be able to "synchronize resources, [and] predict impact of future requirements on funding and optimize the use / reuse of forces" (ARFORGEN, 2006).
The use of computer modeling has enabled predictive processes that can synchronize global Army capital, interfacing with the program objective memorandum (POM) of the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). The key benefit of machine modeling is the capacity to integrate the "actual force requirements with projected force structure" (ARFORGEN, 2006). While the machine modeling capacity is laudable, computerized systems are only as good as the data input for processing. There is a strong need to ensure the ARFORGEN systems protect the integrity of data and use high-quality data -- such as that manifested in out-of-the-box disruptive military technology. Further, it is imperative that ARFORGEN processes include technology warning methodologies capable of heading off Black Swan events (Taleb, 2007).
This paper discusses and analyzes the processes employed to identify the projected force structure and critical skills needed by the force of the future, arguing that they are insufficient along two dimensions: (1) Champions of spending on military disruptive technology, and (2) intelligence related to military disruptive technology. A model is proposed and discussed for addressing these barriers to achieving the goals of ARFORGEN.
Identification of Future Critical Skills
The key challenges of a trained and ready force are training Service members in critical skills and determining projected force structure. The Army must be able to identify the skills that will be critical to the success of forces well into the future. Any lag time between the point when those skills are identified and developed in the force is time the enemy can productively use. Critical skills must be identified correctly and with as much speed as possible, in order to ensure that Service members are trained and ready, when those critical skills are needed. The Army must be able to assess its "capability to identify, recruit, train, retain, and sustain service members with these [critical] skills" (ARFORGEN, 2006).
Identification of critical skill sets must be followed by an action plan for achieving a match between Service members and the critical skill sets. The action plans must include components related to recruitment and retention, and describe pathways that articulate how each objective will be met. The goal of this critical skill criteria designation is to generate a "vision of military strategy and responsibilities for the next 25 years" (ARFORGEN, 2006). Critical skills identification and assessment must include methodology capable of discerning conditions that can lead to the military version of a Black Swan event (Taleb, 2007). A Black Swan event is fundamentally an improbable event that is characterized by three conditions: Unpredictability, massively impactful, and "after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and even more predictable, than it was (Mitchell, 2009, p. 76). The primary learning related to Black Swans is that people underestimate uncertainty and overestimate their knowledge. When this theory is applied to the development of the force of the future, it is more than disconcerting.
Disruptive Technology in War
The definitions of innovation commonly in use include: Sustaining, evolutionary, revolutionary, and disruptive. In business terminology, a sustaining innovation does not impact existing markets. Evolutionary innovation is ongoing and changes the landscape in expected ways. Revolutionary innovation -- also called discontinuous or radical innovation -- is unexpected change that does not impact the existing landscape. The term disruptive innovation was first used in 1995 by Joseph L. Bower and Clayton M. Christensen to describe how new technology could upset and usurp established commercial technology. Disruptive innovation is unexpected, generates radical change through a different values set, and overtakes a sustained or entrenched landscape in a matter of a few short years, essentially before the disruptive innovation is noticed in the marketplace on a broad scale.
Military disruptive technology -- "providing strategic, operational, or tactical advantage over an adversary" -- is the term that comes closest to the meaning of the term disruptive innovation (Mitchell, 2009, p. 6). The Committee on Defense Intelligence Agency Technology Forecasts and Reviews (CDIATFR) suggested in 2004 that "there must be a way to evaluate new disruptive technologies that can be converted to military disruptive technologies when applied in tactical situations" (Mitchell, 2009, p. 5).
As Mitchell points out, the capacity to identify military disruptive technology holds strategic importance to national security, but the flip side of the issue is what the Services are "doing to negate or reduce technological surprise on the battlefield" (2009, p. 5). Military planners tend to be entrenched in the tactics of the previous or current war, emphasizing potential unanticipated events, but fail to focus on unanticipated disruptive challenges that could have devastating effects (Pudas, 2006). While military procurement does not fit with the corporate profit model, spending is still an issue. The upfront development expenses of disruptive military technology are high, and Congress may be unwilling to invest in technologies with the capacity to change warfare (Dombrowski & Gholz, 2009).
The United States is able to maintain force superiority through its technological superiority -- which is obviously not a static condition -- and must continually identify, assess, and take action based on the emergence of disruptive technological advances. The Committee on Defense Intelligence Agency Technology Forecasts and Review (CDIATFR) concludes that commercial market pressures rather than military requirements will drive advances in potential disruptive technologies. Given that, the Committee recommends the establishment of collaborative relationships between military intelligence, scientific, and technical communities to focus on warnings about technology (Mitchell, 2009, p. 20).
Six stages of military disruptive technology have been identified (Mitchell, 2009):
"1. Cognitive ability to imagine the military disruptive technology or innovation."
"2. Intellectual, political, and financial effort to engineer the military disruptive technology into existence secretly or otherwise."
"3. Application of the military disruptive technology against an adversary."
"4. Development of counter-military disruptive technology by adversaries."
"5. Adoption of counter-disruptive technology or military disruptive technology itself."
"6. Stalemate of adversaries using military disruptive technology." (Mitchell, 2009, p. 54)
It is in Stage 1 that the importance of a Black Swan orientation becomes most salient. It is here, too, that the importance of the establishment of collaborative relationships between military intelligence, technology, and scientific communities is evident. Taleb (2007) wrote about his ability to discern the conditions leading up to the 2008-2009 fiscal crisis, and to make accurate predictions based on mathematic modeling of the financial melt-down. Taleb's insight was a rare example of how predictions can be made regarding Black Swan events. It also is an opportunity to consider the manner in which most people invest in securities -- well after the leading edge of market changes whether up or down. This is behavioral economics at its best -- people tend to underestimate risk (the unknown) and over estimate knowledge (an efficient frontier).
While the efforts of the United States military are generally moving in the direction of greater understanding of military disruptive technology, the stage that has the most potential to jeopardize progress in this area is that identified by Mitchell (2009, p. 20) as Stage 2. The reason Stage 2 has this potential is that it is the stage that lies…