News | Sept. 1, 2003

Technology, Transformation, and New Operational Concepts

By Elihu Zimet, with Robert E. Armstrong, Donald C. Daniel, and Joseph N. Mait Defense Horizons 31


New Operational ConceptsOverview

Throughout history, technology has been central to warfare, often giving qualitative advantages to numerically inferior forces. Typically, the rate of technology development has been relatively slow and the introduction of new weapons systems even slower, which has allowed evolutionary development of operational concepts. Today’s accelerated pace of technology development no longer allows sequential development of operational concepts. In addition, the current global political environment has placed demands upon the military that range from engaging in major regional conflicts to stabilization, reconstruction and peacekeeping, all creating a continuous need for flexible, adaptive systems and new concepts of operation. 

The first purpose of this paper is to describe principal new developments in technology in the framework of how they can improve operational effectiveness in the uncertain world of the 21st century. The technologies are presented generically rather than by system, because a broader and more generic technology base is required to meet evolving opportunities. A second purpose is to examine the related issue of technology development and acquisition. Expectations for the rapid introduction of technologies that promote transformation must be tempered by the military requirement for continuous capability, even as new systems and operational concepts are introduced. Finally, although the United States leads the world in the development of military systems, the foundational military science and technology base shows signs of erosion. This erosion must be arrested if American military superiority is to be maintained.