Winning in Time: Enabling Naturalistic Decision

Making in Command and Control

Colonel William C. "Hook" Louisell, USAF

56th Operations Group Commander

14185 West Falcon Street

Luke AFB, AZ 85309-1629

Tel 623 856-5950 Fax 623 856-6382



Early thinkers within the Revolution of Military Affairs believed technology in networked operations would lead to near elimination of uncertainty in conflict due to dominant battlespace knowledge. Furthermore, they postulated execution would be centrally directed and controlled. In the distant future, well-developed expert systems, drawing on distributed sensory systems and human resources, may enable controllers to orchestrate the employment of a system of sensors and shooters across a boundaryless battlefield. In reality, however, conflict will likely continue to be subject to uncertainties, frictions, fogs, and the human reaction to physical and mental stresses associated with conflict.

Networks should be designed to increase performance within conditions of uncertainty. Under this construct, knowledge-based warfare is the exploitation of what we do know through the building and sharing of knowledge in a format leading to an understanding of the battlespace. Knowledge collected from various nodes within the network can be used in systems and methodologies supporting leaders in non-linear decision environments through systems and processes designed to incrementally raise understanding levels.

Making action decisions under conditions of uncertainty is the essence of command and control. Uncertainty can be resolved over time. Time, however, can become the principle enemy of the commander. Too much time spent collecting data and the competitor has an opportunity to change his tactics. Too much time to make a decision can also affect the relevancy of the data used in that decision -- data becomes stale before action can be taken. Uncertainty in modern conflict is exaggerated as the nature of conflict moves from the Clausawitzian model in which war is an extension of politics to one in which war and conflict are the product of endemic social pressures. The linear predictability of the situation and its elementary components dissolves. In effect, the elements of conflict become components of complex, interactive systems. The result is that the field of reasoning for the decision maker quickly expands beyond his capability to comprehend the interactions as a system.

The objective of Information Technology in support of command decision support systems is to facilitate collaborative knowledge building – building a better picture faster. Next, to sort knowledge elements into inputs for non-linear evaluation programs designed to mirror the commander’s mental model. The outputs then become pattern suggestions which enable a naturalistic decision – a faster decision. The work at hand is to develop the mind of the leader – the software and computing solutions should follow.

Developing the mental model requires change in professional military education programs. Education should retreat from deterministic models used to size force structure during the Cold War to fluid models such as Systems Dynamics which combines analytical as well as visual evaluation mechanisms. These, employed over and over again in wargames which span the range of conflict, will develop experiential-based patterns which will serve as the commander’s key to decision within uncertainty. The presentation will draw on the author’s command experience, evaluation of recent conflicts, and research as a member of the Secretary of Defense’s Strategic Studies Group.