No matter the advancements in robotics, the importance of the ‘man behind the machine’ will remain relevant. This is equally applicable to Network Centric Warfare (NCW). The success of NCW rests on the idea that information is only useful if it enables more effective action. Significantly, the key to success of NCW is not technology but people who will use it – the human dimension, which is based on professional mastery and mission command requiring high standards of training, education, doctrine, organisation and leadership. It is about the way people collaborate to share their awareness of the situation in order to fight more effectively. The human dimension of NCW is complex, difficult to conceptualise and defence forces all over the globe are struggling with the issue, experimenting to achieve breakthroughs in varied measure.
Advancements in robotics notwithstanding, the role of the ‘man behind the machine’ will continue to remain critical and relevant. This is equally applicable to Network Centric Warfare (NCW). The success of NCW rests on the idea that information is only useful if it enables more effective action. Significantly, the key to success of NCW is not technology but personnel who will use it – the human dimension, which is based on professional mastery and mission command requiring high standards of training, education, doctrine, organisation and leadership. It is about the way people collaborate to share their awareness of the situation in order to fight more effectively. The human dimension of NCW is complex, difficult to conceptualise and defence forces all over the globe are struggling with the issue, experimenting to achieve breakthroughs in varied measure.
The role of information in NCW is clear but much needs to be understood how human beings share, absorb and make sense of available information and then make decisions based on that information. Simply increasing the amount of information available to commanders does not necessarily result in improved knowledge nor help them make better decisions. The premise, that more information is better, is not always true. Though gathering information enhances intelligence, it also must aid understanding and decision making. Coupled with the aspect of information are issues such as understanding the power of the applications itself, for example, knowing properties and limitations of the Decision Support System (DSS).
The purpose of an information management strategy is to improve human ability to find data and to understand it on receipt…
The purpose of an information management strategy is to improve human ability to find data and to understand it on receipt. In a network centric environment, team decision making and situation assessment are distributed in both time and space. Shared understanding among team members with regard to the impact, importance and quality of relevant information items is critical element in selection of an effective course of action. The focus required is the minimum information that needs to be exchanged, how to capture that information and how to best display it.
In the US, NATO and Coalition Forces, “Chat” has become a dominant communication vehicle. Based on a compilation across multiple stakeholders and inputs chat tools are developed to meet user needs in a dynamic environment. Implementation of these chat tools enables effectiveness and efficiency because they facilitate situational awareness. They allow users to gain timely access to chat information as well as provide optimal archiving and retrieval capabilities besides facilitating timely message composition, transmission and receipt user identification and the like.
In militaries of advanced countries, roadmaps for NCW are progressed in two dimensions simultaneously to enhance the overall war fighting capability. One is the network dimension, referring to the physical systems providing connectivity between sensors, commanders and those involved in engaging the adversary, and the second dimension is the human dimension roadmap. Between 2000 and 2002, Computer Network Assurance (CNA) Corporation, USA and ThoughtLink Inc. conducted “SCUDHunt” game-based experiments to explore shared situational awareness in a NCW environment. It proved that performance of individual teams had a greater impact on mission effectiveness than any technology factor. Major contributors to mission effectiveness were good team dynamics, professional mastery and ability to use the technology. Of these, team dynamics was still the most important. This underlined the importance of the human element in the networked force of the future and supported emphasis required on professional mastery.
The Indian Military
The Indian military perhaps has yet to fully realise the essential requirement of viewing information from the strategic viewpoint and recognise it as a mission critical resource. Had we realised this, we would have adopted a top-down NCW approach since we not only need a synthesis of communications and information, we would also have speedily addressed alterations in our concept of operations, doctrine, organisation, force structure, psyche, leadership and associated changes in logistics, education and training. All of these need to be concurrently addressed in order to acquire to build and enhance NCW capabilities within the constraints of development and implementation time; piece-meal solutions are not the panacea. While concerted efforts need to be made at all levels to conceptualise, define, induct, implement and operate the new systems in a defined period of time, human resources have to be built to handle and optimise those systems, the latter demanding professional mastery, awareness, training, education, doctrine, organisation and leadership.
In the Indian military, majority of the work in the NCW domain has been done in a disparate fashion on individual service basis. Efforts to progress in the human dimension have followed the same route and are somewhat embryonic. Required progress in the tri-service network domain including defining a NCW Doctrine has not happened. Even if a NCW Doctrine is defined, it may not be possible to fully implement it since HQ IDS does not wield sufficient power in the absence of a CDS with full operational powers. The stark fact is that in its present shape, the services do not care much about HQ IDS and installation of a Permanent Chairman of COSC with perfunctory powers would hardly alter this equation. The structure of HQ IDS is not administratively sound either. For example, in some cases, a two-star rank appointment is not even authorised a clerk or a runner, only a Personal Assistant.
The requirement for the Indian military to harness disparate efforts and to generate forward movement in terms of human resources development for NCW was debated at length at HQ IDS during 2005-2006. Consequently, a case was taken up with the MoD to outsource a study on the requirement of IT training for the military as a whole. This would have helped create a strong foundation of human dimensions of the networked force, develop detailed understanding of how to achieve the greatest synergy between different systems and human resources as also initiate changes to optimise education, training and development taking into account information sharing and collaboration amongst operators, managers, commanders, administrators, system analysts, programmer, the works.
The appointment of the Director General of Information Systems (DGIS) itself has been treated as a ‘transit’ posting…
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) accorded approval within a short span of time but inter-services differences scuttled the issue yet again highlighting the need for a CDS who is empowered to make a single decision for the military – the three services. By the time MoD approval arrived the Chief of the Air Staff took the stance that such a study was not required in the first place. Such was his vehemence that he would not even agree to let the study be outsourced (that would have gone to the private sector), analyse it when completed and then decide/discuss whether the Indian Air Force wanted its implementation or not. The end result was that despite the MoD sanction, the study was not outsourced. So much so for tri-service networking!
In due course, the Indian Navy went ahead and raised its own IT cadre. The Indian Army continues with its own IT training in-house and by outsourcing through private institutions. Axiomatically, information revolution and networked environment give rise to various entities. Hence, it is imperative that the services retain core competency and have the ability to integrate with other domain specialists. Therefore, there is an urgent requirement to establish Concept Development Centres which will require efficient Systems Analysts and Programmers.
Then is the archaic problem of the military not accepting the need for specialisation – much more in the Indian Army than in the other two services. Despite understanding and experiencing that operational information systems take a long time to develop, the Indian Army’s Military Secretary’s Branch is stuck on granting extension beyond three years tenure at Delhi only on ‘case-by-case basis’, which comes through only once in a while. So, we have a situation where an officer will land up in Delhi because he is to be given a Delhi posting after completion of a difficult field tenure. He lands up in information systems taking time to learn the ropes and moves out before his full potential can be utilised.
To top this, many officers are posted to mark time after having been approved for the next rank. There are numerous cases of officers of Lieutenant Colonel rank having been posted to information systems project management organisations, moving out even before completing one year. Statistics of the last few years collated would surprise many. These ‘post office’ postings are not confined to young officers alone. The appointment of the Director General of Information Systems (DGIS) itself has been treated as a ‘transit’ posting with many moved out in a short span of time to other appointments. If the military would look closely at the organisation and truly treat information as a strategic resource, the appointment of DGIS should actually be made tenable by an officer who has commanded a Corps, to provide the necessary vision. The absence of such an arrangement may lead to wrong decisions. For example, at the time of conceiving the Battlefield Surveillance System (BSS), it was only planned at levels of Divisional Headquarters and above, not recognising that that the cutting edge in the Tactical Battle Area operates under Brigade HQ and requires real-time/near real time information. Even the fact that many a Brigade HQ had already improvised and was operating ad hoc BSS was ignored. The BSS at Brigade level was added at much later date.
Similarly, the test-bed for the Air Defence Control and Reporting System (ADC&RS) was conceived in isolation by the Indian Army without integrating the Indian Air Force knowing full well that overall responsibility of Air Defence lay with the latter. It was only later that the Indian Air Force was integrated into the test-bed for ADC&RS. Similarly, the requirement to make the appointment of Additional Director General of Military Survey tenable by an All Arms officer who has commanded a Division is necessary. If that had been the case, we would have avoided existing criticality of Military Survey not even having begun to develop an Enterprise GIS, producing Google based maps 30 years behind meeting military’s routine mapping requirements and not addressing large scale mapping requirements.
It is not only the project management systems of DGIS that have been affected by this system of three-year postings, extendable on a ‘case-by-case basis’. Most surprisingly, niche areas such as the Army Software Development Centre (ASDC), under DGIS, Army Cyber Group (ACG) under the Signal Officer-in-Chief and Defence Information and Research Agency (DARA) under HQ IDS, are also meted the same treatment. How ridiculous the system can be! And what more justification is required for a separate IT Cadre or whatever designation one wants to give it? The least that the military could have done was to let such organisations be manned by women officers for their complete service tenure. The need for an IT cadre needs re-examination on priority.
The importance of the human dimension in developing NCW capability unfortunately remains the least understood and researched domain of NCW…
In the Army, every time a new operational system is tested in the field, the Signals projects demand increase in manpower by hundreds. NCW is supposed to decrease overall manpower but that happens only in the long run. The experience in militaries of developed countries has been that when new systems are introduced, the manpower requirement actually ‘goes up’, which is followed by a period of gestation, stabilisation and finally, decrease. Therefore, it would be prudent for the Military, particularly the Indian Army to examine the need for a separate IT Cadre.
Additionally, while the Military is yet to define a Policy for Modeling and Simulation, for developing, establishing, fielding such systems, as well as in the field of operational research, there can be no shortcut to specialisation. All this will require a group of professionals with experience in this field and specialising on these aspects in a sustained manner.
Next is the vital requirement for senior appointments at policy making levels to understand technology or make credible efforts to do so. In no case does this only imply an M.Tech or B.Tech degree. As part of the Chinese revolution in military affairs, only those PLA officers are posted in policy making appointment related to NCW who understand technology. In the case of the Indian military, it is not uncommon for senior officers posted at Vice Chief and Deputy Chief level admitting privately that they do not understand technology. It was for similar reasons, the development of Phase III of F-INSAS (Computer and Radio Sub Systems plus Software Integration) continues by the Infantry, simultaneous to the development of BMS by DGIS, despite the fact that BMS caters for complete army at unit and regiment level including the infantry and there is no reason for Infantry to re-invent the wheel.
The Operations Branch of the Indian Navy is headed by the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Operations and Information Warfare) but the Military Operations does not even have a Information Systems Cell, though there are two sections dealing with Signals and manned by officers from the Corps of Signals. The tussle between Applications and Networks is a global phenomenon observed in foreign militaries as well – the chicken and egg syndrome. Both are interdependent like the pillars and roof of a building. The synergy, therefore, has to come through the architect. It is for this reason that the appointment of Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Information Systems & Telecommunications) was created to ensure concomitant development between applications and networks. In the beginning, there was no staff authorised under him to advise him on Information Systems. A start was made in this direction many years later by creating a Cell under him to render advice but more needs to be done. In the absence of expertise on information systems in Military Operations, case files are stuck for months shuttling between Operations and Signals.
Interestingly, the case file to affix responsibility for ensuring security of Army Intranet shuttled within the Army HQ for full three years but post decisions last-mile security has still not been fully ensured because of which e-learning programs have not taken off. Military Operations has charged the Additional Director General (Electronic Warfare) to look after cases of information systems but that has not worked well. In one case, the ADG (EW) wanted the DSS module of CIDSS scrapped because as per him, the DSS should decisively give out the course of option to be adopted, an example of inadequacy of M.Tech/B.Tech degrees by themselves. Despite possessing the maximum degree holders, the Signals Directorate is still not automated. These are issues that need to be looked into by the Military and the Indian Army.
The importance of the human dimension in developing NCW capability is well known but unfortunately, it remains the least understood and researched domain. Our difficulties in conceptualising the human dimension and its complexity are arguably the reason it has fallen behind NCW related materiel enhancements. The fact that materiel enhancements alone will not generate the desired mission effects, is well understood, but coordinated work to link effectively doctrine, organisation, training, materiel, leadership and personnel enhancements has been exceptionally slow in case of the Indian Military. There is definite need for reviewing our focus on the human dimension of NCW.