The military’s current fad is cloud computing – that nebulous, magic ‘thing’ that will seamlessly connect every sensor, every shooter, and every individual on the battlefield. What’s the vision?
- we’ll know everything and the enemy will know nothing
- we’ll make all the right decisions and the enemy will be paralyzed with indecision
- we’ll have every sensor and shooter connected and the enemy will have no coordination whatsoever
What’s the key to making all this work?
It’s cloud. It is having your data connected and in a place where I can run analytics on it in real time or near real time, and then render informed decisions to support war-fighting missions,” said Rob Carey, former Navy CIO and deputy DoD CIO, now president of Cloudera Government Solutions. (1)
What’s the key assumption - and flaw - in the preceding statement? It’s the ‘render informed decisions’.
The reality of any battlefield intel system, whether human or machine based, is that the raw data will be badly compromised. That being the case, we fall back to the well known axiom, GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). Wait a minute … with gazillabytes of data, light speed networks, and artificial intelligence assisted analysis, how can our raw data be garbage? It’ll be garbage for the same reasons it’s historically always been garbage:
Destroyed sensors resulting in only sporadic and partial sensor coverage
Enemy deception (decoys, misdirection, camouflage, obscurants) resulting in incorrect sensor data
Misinformation via spurious or incorrect data (false signals) injected into the networks
Miscommunication resulting from incomplete and interrupted data streams or verbal reports
So, with all that garbage entering the system, the output is guaranteed to be garbage. GIGO. This completely negates the ‘render informed decisions’ assumption. Whatever decisions are made will be highly suspect. GIGO.
Now, if we were talking about just one minor aspect of our collective warfighting effort, we’d just make a mental note to question our intel predictions and decisions and continue on with fighting the war directly in front of us - as we’ve always done – using whatever intel we could get but tempering it with the understanding that it is flawed and suspect. However, we’re not talking about one minor aspect. We’re talking about the entire basis of our collective US military warfighting effort. The military wants to base everything on this single, mammoth, all-seeing, all-encompassing, AI-assisted, decision making software program they refere to as Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2). This is the ‘be all’ and ‘end all’ of our military effort. This is to be our next offset. ……… and yet it’s obviously flawed from the start at its most fundamental level which is the raw data. GIGO.
You cannot ‘render informed decisions’ with garbage for raw data. GIGO.
Now, let’s be fair and objective. Some of the data will not be garbage. Some of it will be legitimate. This has been true throughout history. Some intel reports are valid. Some are not. Some of the raw data is good. Some is not.
A ship(s) was sighted at the reported position but the speed, course, number, and type are almost certainly incorrectly reported to an extent. Which bits are correct and which are not? We don’t know. That’s always been the problem. How do you ‘render informed decisions’ with flawed data? You don’t!
There are no ‘informed decisions’. Intel doesn’t give us ‘informed decisions’. It gives us indications and suggestions and possibilities and alternatives and leanings. In the end, we don’t make ‘informed decisions’, we make tentative assessments and the operational commanders who use those assessments layer on the understood degree of uncertainty. The commanders may or may not act on those assessments depending on the degree of uncertainty they have about it and the degree of risk they’re willing to assume if they do act on uncertain assessments. In the meantime, they continue to wage the war that is directly in front of them and whose outcome is decided by firepower, not intel alone. Unfortunately, we’re abandoning the firepower part and constructing a system that is wholly based on intel … intel that is going to be as suspect as ever, maybe more so because digital systems are even easier to fool than human systems.
We can see, then, that this system, this dependence on some almighty digital, cloud-based system is flawed due to the inevitable corruption of the raw data but is that the extent of the problem? No … there is another level of unreality baked into the concept and that is the end user access. Consider …
“When we want to do call for fires, when we want to do things [where] people’s lives are in jeopardy or they’re at risk, we want that information right there so that they can render their own decision ... at the level of the squad,” Carey said. “So that’s what cloud enables, that connectivity to that information.” (1)
So, there you have it. It’s simple, really. The squad, in the middle of battle, with explosives going off all around them, dug into the jungle mud and water, with enemy electronic warfare working full time to jam, disrupt, cyber attack any communications, and with enemy fires waiting to zero in on any communications transmissions, will, we assume, still be able to sit quietly and calmly, with full access to a cloud server somewhere and ‘render informed decisions’. Does that seem even slightly realistic to you?
Now, multiply this two-way, intensive computer network communications by a factor of many thousands for all the individual squads, ships, HQs, commanders, etc. who will, presumably, be accessing the system on a continuous basis and you’ll quickly see that the electromagnetic airwaves will be ‘humming’ with non-stop transmissions or, as the enemy calls it, a roadmap to all our locations. Anyone who thinks we can perform this kind of non-stop, grossly huge bandwidth type of communications undetected is a fool or an officer of flag rank.
This concept might have the tiniest, most miniscule chance of working against stone age, third world terrorists in a zero threat environment but it has no chance in any real world scenario against a peer enemy.
Just out of curiosity, given that the Chinese appear to have already penetrated every network we have, why do we think our cloud system is going to be immune from cyber attack?
I apologize for being crude but this is just mental masturbation on a military wide scale.
|Pot of Gold at the End of the Battle Rainbow - Cloud Computing !|
(1)crisrnet website, “How cloud computing makes Joint All-Domain Command and Control possible”, Andrew Eversden, 26-Apr-2021,