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Wotan's Workshop: Military Experiments Before WW II

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Final rept.

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Over the last few years, military experimentation has attained unprecedented salience. The Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Congress have all called for increased efforts in military experimentation.1 Because this support is relatively new, military experimentation is in the anomalous position of being popular, yet unfamiliar. The resulting lack of understanding of the nature of military experimentation has acted to the detriment of the various efforts now ongoing at the Service and Joint levels. The outward resemblance of military experiments to the more familiar exercises and field tests, and the outward resemblance of the experiments technology surrogates to prototypes, have only served to deepen the misunderstanding. An attempt to better understand military experimentation by detailed examination of some of today s efforts would be hampered by the need for a considerable background in the technologies that the experiments address. There is also room for concern that discussion of present-day efforts would be seen primarily as praise or criticism of the particular efforts, and thereby rendered useless as a vehicle for discussion of experimentation itself. An alternative way to strive for a better understanding of military experiments is via a set of historical examples. Today s impetus for military experimentation has arisen largely because we have experienced a large amount of technological change during a protracted period of peace. Even the period from the end of the Gulf War and the demise of the Soviet Union to the present is longer than a decade, and it has been a decade of dramatic technological progress in sensors, materials, and communications all areas of undoubted military potential and above all in computation, whose potential applicability to warfare remains a topic of heated discussion.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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