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Risks and Vulnerabilities of Network-Centric Forces: Insights from the Science of Complexity

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NCW relies heavily on complexity science concepts like complex adaptive systems self-organization and network effects to support its proponents claims of decisive operational utility to the war fighter. While many commentators have critiqued NCW from the historical, national-strategic, and human-centric perspectives, little work has been done to analyze the science behind the concept. This despite the fact that leading scientists in the field of complexity science admit that much more work needs to be done before the sciences relevance to organized human activities is definitively proven. With the U.S. staking so much on network-centric capabilities, it is vital that the purported benefits of NCW be balanced by a frank assessment of its risks and vulnerabilities in anticipation of adversary challenges. For a combatant commander, the effects of an adversary intent on neutralizing or denying NCWs advantage will be immediately felt in the operational battlespace. As part of the operational planning process, a combatant commanders planning staff must identify the critical vulnerabilities associated with network-centric forces and formulate courses of action that mitigate risk and ensure operational protection of vital NCW capabilities. The central thesis of this paper is that the use of network-centric forces introduces risks and vulnerabilities that affect a combatant commanders ability to conduct operational warfare. An analysis is presented that illustrates potential risks and vulnerabilities of NCW, and recommendations are made that might help a combatant commander and a joint planning staff cope with them.

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  • Computer Systems
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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