Lifting the Fog of War

William A. Owens, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-18627-2
A former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Owens expresses a familiar complaint in asserting that the U.S. is an exhausted superpower whose armed forces are overextended, underfunded and inappropriately organized for the missions they are likely to face. Accepting that too many operations on too few funds are a given for the near future, Owens makes a case for a fundamental reconfiguration of the armed forces, a ""revolution in Military Affairs"" that he defines as applying information technology to warfare. He is optimistic about the prospects of eliminating ""fog and friction,"" the inability to know what is really happening on the battlefield (a position that might arguably owe something to Owens's current position as the CEO of an information systems corporation). Many of the supporting points, expressed in jargon such as ""systems of systems"" and ""dominant battlespace knowledge,"" are less convincing than his analyses of Desert Storm and Kosovo, which lead to the most important feature the book: its challenge to service parochialism. Such in-group loyalties, he argues, have ultimate consequences, including radio systems that are not interoperable and budget discussions that focus on turf battles rather than national interest. His specific suggestions for reorganization rely on a standing joint force that would train and operate together permanently. The concept, modeled to a degree on current Marine Corps practice, is open to debate. Owens's insistence that the success of his ""Revolution in Military Affairs"" depends on choosing synergy over specialization, however, could well serve as a focal point in future discussions of U.S. security policies. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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