Kein Mensch auf der ganzen Welt
kann die Wahrheit verändern.
Man kann sie nur suchen
sie finden und ihr dienen.
Die Wahrheit ist an jedem Ort.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

NCW Symposium Europe 2005

Address of the Vice Chief of Staff German Army, Lieutenant General Juergen Ruwe, on 02 June 2005 in Bonn

Ladies and gentlemen,
I am really honoured to address such a distinguished audience. On the other hand I am looking to my presentation with some reservation because of a pretty demanding topic. Surprisingly enough you paid so much money for attending such a symposium. I myself have had the opportunity several times during the last years and - to be honest - I found myself usually somewhat lost at the end of the day. Very often the speakers tried to conceal their small findings and humble statements behind well styled presentations prepared by their staffs. Actually the essence was often very abstract, esoteric and not very helpful. Ladies and gentlemen, there isn’t much reason to believe that my presentation is different from those. You will see: We did it the same way.

"Admiral, with all due respect - could we have less network-centric and more rounds on the target?!"

To avoid at least one of the failures I‘ve just criticised I would like to make common cause with the guys in the mud who have to get over the last 100 meters. One of them is shown on this picture. To be honest, I am so happy that he said "Admiral", not "General". And if you look at this picture carefully, you see a human being, not a network in the centre of the battle.

It might be not too encouraging for an audience - and for the anchorman of such a seminar as well - starting with querying the wording of the topic. But I really do not agree with the terminology that future operations will be network centric. The focal point on the battle field is and will also be in the foreseeable future the human being, the individual, the soldier. The network is an instrument that facilitates to fulfil the mission - hopefully. In German we are talking about “Vernetzte Operationsführung”, the English term we use is Network Based Operations, although from my understanding Network Enabled Operations would express even better what we are talking about. That is why I‘ll use the term Network Based Operations or the acronym NBO.

What do we want to achieve with the NBO-concept? To keep it simple: we’d like to be more successful in all kinds of operations. And therefore we need a more realistic operational picture, a well functioning command and control system, and last but not least a better use of all weapon systems in the stock.
Some years ago, when the new terminology didn’t exist yet, we tried to develop a linkage of reconnaissance, command and control, and effects already. The development in technology, however, didn’t allow a comprehensive linkage of all elements in one system. We used networks already, but only with a very limited number of members and often difficult interfaces between the separate networks.

On the other hand the hierarchical structure of the system fits very well the well-tried military command structure. It’s mainly a push system in which every command level reports an aggregated situation picture to the superior level. Thus every command level is provided with the most important relevant information. On the other hand this system allows to transfer the political and military intentions down to the lowest level adapted to the particular situation and needs.
Nevertheless the inherent limitations and restrictions prevent the system from generating a complete and real time operational picture. Command and control takes a lot of time, and graphic information is difficult to transmit. And it’s difficult as well to make use of weapon systems of different units or even of a different service. Co-operation of Army and Air Force for example certainly has a long lasting tradition in German armed forces, but mutual support was complicated by different and often not compatible means of communications. But besides the requirements of jointness we have to realise that another factor will be even more significant for the success of operations. I.e. we are deeply integrated in multinational structures. There’s nearly no mission which will be conducted nationally. We used to co-operate in the cold war scenario with at least eight partner nations of the Alliance in Germany.

In the current peace support operations in the Balkans and in Afghanistan we co-operate with even more partner nations. The example of ISAF VI on the slide with 38 nations involved might characterise a quite typical situation. And many of them aren’t even members of NATO. There hardly ever will be a mission we’ve to accomplish outside the umbrella of the UN, NATO or EU. Under the prevailing circumstances it’s indispensable to be interoperable at every level with units from other nations. Thus combinedness is even more important than jointness for the German Army as for most other armies as well. The transformation towards a networked force can only become a success, if we will be able to achieve interoperability despite national armament interests. Unfortunately experience teaches: this will be a major challenge. Nevertheless we hope that the transformation towards NBO will help to foster this process.

Network Based Operations are proposed to provide situation pictures of a new quality. The information required should be made available more rapidly, more reliably and more exactly. The factors "time" and "information" will become more decisive elements of operational command and control. Thus the commander gains more freedom of action and the advantage of taking the initiative and increasing the operational tempo. I will elaborate on that later. Moreover new technologies will permit the translation of a situation picture into immediate and direct action. But I don’t want to conceal the challenges that we have to cope with before it will work.

Just to link all sensors and effectors with each other in a network doesn’t seem to be a major technical problem. But that doesn’t grant the information you really need in a specific situation, particularly in ground operations. Unfortunately ground operations are usually much more complex than air and naval operations. The latter are characterised by a manageable number of aircraft and vessels more or less centrally controlled. In contrast a very large number of elements determine the situation in ground operations. They are controlled by hundreds or even thousands of commanders on up to a dozen different levels of command. How can this work, if the command and control system is still based on hierarchy, but the communications system is network based with information exchange and information sharing across all levels?

Some experts believe that comprehensive information about own and enemy situation as well as the commander’s intent leads to a certain kind of self-synchronisation of the actions in a battle. To be honest, I doubt, whether these expectations are realistic. I think we have to cope with the classical problem of information management, i.e. information overload. The fact only that the information required might be completely in the net doesn’t allow necessarily the direct access to it. All of us have experienced this regrettably often enough when surfing in the internet looking for a specific piece of information. Quite a lot you do not find at all, something only after a time-consuming search, and most findings are absolutely useless for the defined purpose.

That means for our military environment: A division commander e.g. doesn’t need to know necessarily that just now an enemy aircraft is approaching from the South or that the 2nd Squadron of a certain Armour Battalion is heavily engaged with some enemy tanks. The commanders of the anti air unit and the armour battalion, however, should certainly know what’s going on in their respective fields. The slogans “Everybody knows everything” or “self-synchronisation” can’t replace either a level-conform information or a clearly defined mission. In this context I think we still have to do some fundamental work on the NBO-concept.

Moreover I don’t think that Command by Mission, “Auftragstaktik” as we call it, will ever become obsolete. On the contrary, the modern battle, as complex as it is, very often demands ad hoc decisions even at low levels of command. And despite all the technological potentialities of NBO and the stated transparency of the battlefield it must be kept in mind that Clausewitz’s statement that frictions are an inherent characteristic of war will continue to hold true. From this perspective the exclusive reliance on the technological progress within NBO alone would be wrong under operational aspects. Technology doesn’t substitute excellent training and leadership skills. But faster, adequate, and validated information at all levels enables decentralised decision making and responsive action. Not to be misunderstood: My somewhat sceptic remarks to the NBO-concept are not meant to query this approach. Quite the other way, I am convinced that NBO will be the road to success which we have to follow with verve. I just wanted to mention that the solution of some problems could be much more difficult than one or the other might expect.

Anyway, NBO capabilities will influence the way of conducting operations significantly. As we know from military history new technologies very often brought about major changes in war fighting. The fire of artillery and particularly of machineguns at the beginning of the previous century e.g. hindered movements of infantry and cavalry so that operations degenerated into position warfare. The fielding of tanks as part of motorised formations can be taken as another example. This new weapon together with the introduction of radio and close air support allowed manoeuvre operations making fortified defensive lines obsolete.
Without any question information technology will have similarly important effects. Detailed information in almost real time will probably accelerate the decision-cycle, thus minimising the time needed for decision making as a crucial prerequisite for increasing the operational tempo. Tempo in this context doesn’t mean sheer speed. It does mean to be ahead of the opponent in thinking all the time. The aim is, like in a chess game, to be always at least one move ahead.

NBO, as already mentioned before, will have significant effects to the traditional hierarchical C2 organisation. We don’t really know yet how it can work. But one conclusion seems to be evident: Within a networked environment we will have to accept a quite broader variety of relations - formal or informal - across hierarchical levels. It behoves the art of military leadership to develop rules and procedures in order to take maximum advantage of this new situation. Other factors that have to be taken into account are the miniaturisation of technical systems and the availability of means of communication with global range. This allows to integrate such systems in quite small and highly deployable command post elements, while the main command post can stay in a safe environment or even back home.

Last but not least, information dominance plus command and control dominance finally should lead to effects dominance. In this respect Joint Fires is one important project within the transformation process of the German Armed Forces. The idea is: it’s not relevant who fires but how the wanted effect can be attained. We adapt the respective tactics and procedures mainly together with the Air Force, in some cases with the Navy as well. The newly established Joint Fire Support Team is already integrated in our new Army structure.
By the way, jointness means co-operation with the other services, and we practise that very intensively with the Air Force, the Navy, and the Joint Support Service. To preclude misunderstandings: Jointness doesn’t mean centralisation of capabilities. Centralisation in most cases reflects old hierarchical thinking. NBO don’t need a centralised organisation. I must underline this issue, because there are some people – even in the Bundeswehr – who haven’t got it.

Another important project deals with improving the interoperability with our allies. As you might know the NATO Response Force (NRF) and the European Battle Groups are spearheading the transformation in this respect. We currently focus on the NATO Response Force 7, where the GE-FR Brigade will be the main element.
What are we currently doing exactly?
1. Until the certification phase of NRF 7 in January 2006 we try to make the German Army Command Control and Information System at Battalion level (i.e. “FAUST”) compatible with the French CCIS ( “SIC-F” and “MAESTRO”).
2. We intend to link the “Infantryman of the future” – you might have heard about project - with our CCIS “FAUST”. If we succeed, we will have achieved quite a lot. Notwithstanding we still have plenty to do in this regard.
3. We will change the focus to NRF 10 from 2006 onwards and will further improve the GE-NDL interoperability which has already been running very well indeed.
4. The Army also participates in the joint Concept Development & Experimentation project COMMON UMBRELLA. The aim is to achieve an initial capability of conducting NBO, mainly with the current equipment. We try to link different sensors and information systems of Army, Air Force, and Navy in particular to generate a Common Relevant Operational Picture of a Joint Force. The experiment will consist of a war gaming, a technical oriented experiment, and a field training exercise. The findings shall be used to develop equipment and procedures.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as already mentioned before, NBO will change the C2 organisation, procedures, tactics and techniques. Because we don’t know yet how in detail, we will start with an experimental series in our combat training centre near Magdeburg in September, where we focus on the impact of NBO capabilities on the tactical level. Key questions are:
- How much information can the commander deal with?
- Who needs which information on which level or function?
- How can we ensure that each command level gets the relevant information?
- Will the decision making be faster or will it be delayed, because the commanders are always keen to get additional information from somewhere in the information space in order to reduce the risks?

After all the theoretical considerations, we are now going to evaluate all these questions practically. I think it’s high time to introduce first elements of network enabled capabilities into our units. We are taking a very pragmatic approach to these problems notwithstanding that fundamental research still has to be done. Moreover we should keep in mind that one of the most important factors for a successful transition towards Network Based Operations capabilities are our soldiers, ranging from the individual soldier to the high-ranking Commander. They are the ones who transfer technical advantages into battle field superiority. In particular the Commanders have to be educated and trained to enable them to make best use of the new possibilities.

We need intelligent professional soldiers being war-fighters and peacekeepers at the same time. Furthermore they must be capable to cope with the new conditions of a networked environment. To find such soldiers will be one of the challenges for transformation. The demand for professionalism doesn’t speak out against our draft system by the way. Just the contrary is true. The draft system facilitates recruiting the right personnel. It brings a significant part of young people with all their talents and aspirations into the Armed Forces. We offer them interesting and challenging jobs thus convincing them to stay with us for some years. That is much easier than to recruit them in the high-streets. I mention it only, because foreign military experts from time to time don’t understand the German draft system sufficiently and the role the draftees play in our Armed Forces.

Ladies and Gentlemen, to conclude I would like to summarise:
Without any doubt NBO capabilities are a crucial step towards information and effects dominance.
They improve the conditions for rapid and global deployment of forces in multinational structures by facilitating combinedness and jointness.
They increase effectiveness and efficiency of weapon systems.
They help to restrict military power to an adequate level and to avoid unnecessary damage which often enough is an urgent requirement in operations.
And last but not least: They improve the conditions for force protection.

On the other hand we have to realise that still some fundamental problems have to be solved, before we will be able to achieve genuine NBO capabilities. This particularly applies to ground operation, because of their inherent complexity. Without any doubt as well, conditions and methods of C2 will change significantly. I am convinced, however, that the principles of leadership will remain valid. The role of Command by mission (“Auftragstaktik”) e.g. will not be reduced. Faster and adequate, validated information at all levels facilitates decentralised decision making and responsive action. Using the technical possibilities for a more centralised C2 would be a major mistake. Even under new conditions leadership culture is of utmost importance. Furthermore we shouldn’t forget: A network just supports. It’s an enabling factor. Even in NBO there is no substitute for leadership and for the capability, reliability and the readiness of the individual soldier.