The Best Defense

The Future of War essays (no. 7): Use the current generation’s knowledge of war to robotize a lot of what the military does

By Bill Gawne
Best Defense future of war entrant

Current trends are moving us toward increased automation of our battlefield assets and increased size of our combatant staffs. These two things mean that we've gotten very good at executing Plan A, even as it becomes harder for us to cut over to Plan B. I'd have thought that the various J-3 and J-4 officers would have learned by now to implement changes of plans quickly, but I've seen no evidence that it's happening.

It would be a good idea for DARPA to look into artificial intelligence solutions to staff officer duties. We've put a lot of money and effort into developing AI systems that replace the warfighter at the tip of the spear. Why not develop AI solutions that implement the broad knowledge and management skills of staff officers too? Industry has been moving toward the replacement of complicated service management functions by AIs in recent years.

Before the institutional knowledge of our best logisticians and operational planners is lost to attrition via retirement and downsizing, let's capture it in decision-capable automated processes that don't get tired, don't get hungry, and don't suffer from bad judgment brought on by accumulated stress. (And don't go out drinking and looking for ‘entertainment' when on liberty.)

Bill Gawne is a retired Marine master sergeant (1972-1995) whose last duty assignment was Marine Corps Studies and Analysis at Quantico, where he worked as an operations analyst. He is now employed by a contractor for the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, where he works on automating mission operations for NASA's science missions. This represents his own opinions, which are not necessarily those of anyone he ever worked for.

Tom note: Here's a critique of some of the Future of War stuff that has run here. There are now a total of 19 essays set to run. I may cut off the entries when we get to 25 acceptable entrants. What think you? Meantime, if you have one, here is how to send them.


The Best Defense

Mattis for Marine commandant (and one captain's account of Amos being booed)

Given the problems facing the Marine Corps, it seems to me that a smart move would be for President Obama to make James Mattis the Marine commandant. He has only been retired for a short while, and he has an impeccable reputation for integrity. The move would be both popular with Marines and the right thing. That's a solid combination. And it would be the right thing to do by Mattis, too.

Meanwhile, a recently resigned Marine captain writes something that I find stunning about a service that prides itself on its discipline and cohesion:

I've been watching my former Commandant's troubles with a combination of shame and grotesque humor. I have nothing groundbreaking to share, just an anecdote. At my last Marine Corps ball, this past November, after returning from one of the last full-battalion deployments to Helmand, I watched (again with half frown, half stupid grin) 900 Marines and some of their dates actually boo Gen. Amos when he appeared in his annual video.... this is just one story, but I'd have to guess he's the first commandant to be mocked and hated by his own Marines to such a degree. I resigned my commission because of my complete lack of faith in the Corps' administrative processes, and I definitely will not be disappointed when Gen. Amos departs, but at this point it's all just gotten embarrassing.

Official USMC photo by Sgt. Joseph R. Chenelly