Harlan K. Ullman.

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Shock and Awe:
Achieving Rapid Dominance

Written By

Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade


L.A. "Bud" Edney, Fred M. Franks, Charles A. Horner, Jonathan T. Howe,
and Keith Brendley

NDU Press Book
December 1996


Introduction to Rapid Dominance

Chapter 1. Background and Basis
Chapter 2. Shock and Awe
Chapter 3. Strategic, Policy, and Operational Application
Chapter 4. An Outline for System Innovation and Technological
Chapter 5. Future Directions

Appendices - Reflections of Three Former Commanders
Appendix A. "Thoughts on Rapid Dominance" by Admiral Bud Edney
Appendix B. "Defense Alternatives: Forces Required" by General
Chuck Horner
Appendix C. "Enduring Realities and Rapid Dominance" by General
Fred Franks

Biographies of the Study Group Members


We are in the early stages of what promises to be an extended debate
about the future of conflict and the future of our defense
establishment. Few will deny that the winds of change are blowing as
never before, driven by a radically altered geopolitical situation, an
evolving information-oriented society, advancing technology, and
budgetary constraints. How our nation responds to the challenge of
change will determine our ability to shape the future and defend
ourselves against 21st century threats. The major issue, however it
may be manifested, involves the degree of change that is required.
Advocates, all along the spectrum from a military technical revolution
to a revolution in military affairs to a revolution in security
affairs, are making their cases. Military institutions are by their
very nature somewhat conservative. History has shown that success has
often sown the seeds of future failure. We as a nation can ill afford
to follow in the footsteps of those who have rested on their laurels
and failed to stretch their imaginations.

Often, those who are the most knowledgeable and experienced about a
subject are not in the most advantageous position to understand a new
world order. Yet these same individuals are often among the most
credible voices and therefore are essential to progress. The authors
of Shock and Awe are a highly accomplished and distinguished group
with the credibility that comes from years of front line experience.
Thus, this work is important not only because of the ideas contained
within, but because of the caliber and credibility of the authors.

ACTIS seeks to articulate and explore advanced concepts. In sponsoring
this work and in disseminating its initial results, we hope to
contribute to the ongoing dialogue about alternatives, their promises,
and their risks. As the authors note, this is a work in progress meant
not to provide definitive solutions but a proposed perspective for
considering future security needs and strategies. To the extent that
vigorous debate ensues we will be successful.

David S. Alberts
Washington, D.C.
October 1996


The purpose of this paper is to explore alternative concepts for
structuring mission capability packages (MCPs) around which future U.
S. military forces might be configured. From the very outset of this
study group's deliberations, we agreed that the most useful
contribution we could make would be to attempt to reach beyond what we
saw as the current and commendable efforts, largely but not entirely
within the Department of Defense, to define concepts for strategy,
doctrine, operations, and force structure to deal with a highly
uncertain future. In approaching this endeavor, we fully recognized
the inherent and actual limits and difficulties in attempting to reach
beyond what may prove to be the full extent of our grasp.

It is, of course, clear that U.S. military forces are currently the
most capable in the world and are likely to remain so for a long time
to come. Why then, many will ask, should we examine and even propose
major excursions and changes if the country occupies this position of
military superiority? For reasons noted in this study, we believe that
excursions are important if only to confirm the validity of current
defense approaches. There are several overrarching realities that have
led us to this conclusion. First, while everyone recognizes that the
Cold War has ended, there is not a consensus about what this means for
more precisely defining the nature of our future security needs.
Despite this absence of both clairvoyance and a galvanizing external
danger, the United States is actively examining new strategic options
and choices. The variety of conceptual efforts underway in the
Pentagon to deal with this uncertainty exemplifies this reality.

At the same time, the current dominance and superiority of American
military power, unencumbered by the danger of an external peer
competitor, have created a period of strategic advantage during which
we have the luxury of time, perhaps measured in many years, to
re-examine with a margin of safety our defense posture. On the other
hand, potential adversaries cannot be expected to ignore this
predominant military capability of the United States and fail to try
to exploit, bypass, or counter it. In other words, faced with American
military superiority in ships, tanks, aircraft, weapons and, most
importantly, in competent fighting personnel, potential adversaries
may try to change the terms of future conflict and make as irrelevant
as possible these current U.S. advantages. We proceed at our own risk
if we dismiss this possibility.

Second, it is relatively clear that current U.S. military capability
will shrink. Despite the pledges of the two major American political
parties to maintain or expand the current level of defense capability,
both the force structure and defense infrastructure are too large to
be maintained at even the present levels and within the defense
budgets that are likely to be approved. Unless a new menace
materializes, defense is headed for "less of the same." Such
reductions may have no strategic consequences. However, that is an
outcome that we believe should not be left to chance.

This shrinkage also means that the Pentagon's good faith strategic
reviews aimed at dealing with our future security needs may be caught
up in the defense budget debate over downsizing and could too easily
drift into becoming advocacy or marketing documents. As the services
are forced into more jealously guarding a declining force structure,
the tendency to "stove-pipe" and compartmentalize technology and
special programs is likely to increase, thereby complicating the
problem of making full use of our extraordinary technological
resources. This means that some external thinking, removed from the
bureaucratic pressures and demands, may be essential to stimulating
and sustaining innovation.

Third, the American commercial-industrial base is undergoing profound
change propelled largely by the entrepreneurial nature of the free
enterprise system and the American personality. Whether in information
or materials-related technology or for that matter in other areas too
numerous to count, the nature of competition is driving both product
breadth and improvement at rates perhaps unthinkable a decade ago. One
sign of these trends is the reality that virtually all new jobs in
this country are being created by small business. In the areas of
commercial information and related management information systems,
these changes are extraordinary and were probably unpredictable even a
few years ago.

On the so-called information highway, performance is increasing
dramatically and quickly while price, cost, and the time to bring to
market new generation technology are diminishing. These positive
trends are not matched yet in the defense-industrial base. One
consequence of this broad commercial transformation is that any future
set of defense choices may be inexorably linked to and dependent on
this profound, ongoing change in the commercial sector and in learning
to harness private sector advances in technology-related products. It
must also be understood that only the United States among all states
and nations has the vastness and breadth of resources and commercial
capability to undertake the full exploitation of this revolutionary

Finally, it is clear that U.S. forces are engaged and deployed
worldwide, often at operating tempos as high as or higher than during
the Cold War. These demands will continue and the diversity of
assigned tasks is unlikely to contract. These forces must be properly
manned, equipped, and trained and must carry out their missions to
standards that are both high and expected by the nation's leaders and
its public. The matter of maintaining this capability while attempting
to reshape the force for a changing future is a major and daunting
challenge not to be underestimated.

These structural realities are exciting and offer a major opportunity
for real revolution and change if we are able and daring enough to
exploit them. This, in turn, has led us to develop the concept of
Rapid Dominance and its attendant focus on Shock and Awe. Rapid
Dominance seeks to integrate these multifaceted realities and facts
and apply them to the common defense at a time when uncertainty about
the future is perhaps one of the few givens. We believe the principles
and ideas underlying this concept are sufficiently compelling and
different enough from current American defense doctrine encapsulated
by "overwhelming or decisive force," "dominant battlefield awareness,"
and "dominant maneuver" to warrant closer examination.

Since before Sun Tzu and the earliest chroniclers of war recorded
their observations, strategists and generals have been tantalized and
confounded by the elusive goal of destroying the adversary's will to
resist before, during, and after battle. Today, we believe that an
unusual opportunity exists to determine whether or not this
long-sought strategic goal of affecting the will, understanding, and
perception of an adversary can be brought closer to fruition. Even if
this task cannot be accomplished, we believe that, at the very
minimum, such an effort will enhance and improve the ability of our
military forces to carry out their missions more successfully through
identifying and reinforcing particular points of leverage in the
conflict and by identifying and creating additional options and
choices for employing our forces more effectively.

Perhaps for the first time in years, the confluence of strategy,
technology, and the genuine quest for innovation has the potential for
revolutionary change. We envisage Rapid Dominance as the possible
military expression, vanguard, and extension of this potential for
revolutionary change. The strategic centers of gravity on which Rapid
Dominance concentrates, modified by the uniquely American ability to
integrate all this, are these junctures of strategy, technology, and
innovation which are focused on the goal of affecting and shaping the
will of the adversary. The goal of Rapid Dominance will be to destroy
or so confound the will to resist that an adversary will have no
alternative except to accept our strategic aims and military
objectives. To achieve this outcome, Rapid Dominance must control the
operational environment and through that dominance, control what the
adversary perceives, understands, and knows, as well as control or
regulate what is not perceived, understood, or known.

In Rapid Dominance, it is an absolutely necessary and vital condition
to be able to defeat, disarm, or neutralize an adversary's military
power. We still must maintain the capacity for the physical and
forceful occupation of territory should there prove to be no
alternative to deploying sufficient numbers of personnel and equipment
on the ground to accomplish that objective. Should this goal of
applying our resources to controlling, affecting, and breaking the
will of an adversary to resist remain elusive, we believe that Rapid
Dominance can still provide a variety of options and choices for
dealing with the operational demands of war and conflict.

To affect the will of the adversary, Rapid Dominance will apply a
variety of approaches and techniques to achieve the necessary level of
Shock and Awe at the appropriate strategic and military leverage
points. This means that psychological and intangible, as well as
physical and concrete effects beyond the destruction of enemy forces
and supporting military infrastructure, will have to be achieved. It
is in this broader and deeper strategic application that Rapid
Dominance perhaps most fundamentally differentiates itself from
current doctrine and offers revolutionary application.

Flowing from the primary concentration on affecting the adversary's
will to resist through imposing a regime of Shock and Awe to achieve
strategic aims and military objectives, four characteristics emerge
that will define the Rapid Dominance military force. These are noted
and discussed in later chapters. The four characteristics are near
total or absolute knowledge and understanding of self, adversary, and
environment; rapidity and timeliness in application; operational
brilliance in execution; and (near) total control and signature
management of the entire operational environment.

Whereas decisive force is inherently capabilities driven-that is, it
focuses on defeating the military capability of an adversary and
therefore tends to be scenario sensitive-Rapid Dominance would seek to
be more universal in application through the overriding objective of
affecting the adversary's will beyond the boundaries traditionally
defined by military capability alone. In other words, where decisive
force is likely to be most relevant is against conventional military
capabilities that can be overwhelmed by American (and allied) military
superiority. In conflict or crisis conditions that depart from this
idealized scenario, the superior nature of our forces is assumed to be
sufficiently broad to prevail. Rapid Dominance would not make this
distinction in either theory or in practice.

We note for the record that should a Rapid Dominance force actually be
fielded with the requisite operational capabilities, this force would
be neither a silver bullet nor a panacea and certainly not an antidote
or preventative for a major policy blunder, miscalculation, or
mistake. It should also be fully appreciated that situations will
exist in which Rapid Dominance (or any other doctrine) may not work or
apply because of political, strategic, or other limiting factors.

We realize some will criticize our focus on affecting an adversary's
will, perception, and understanding through Shock and Awe on the
grounds that this idea is not new and that such an outcome may not be
physically achievable or politically desirable. On the first point, we
believe the use of basic principles of strategy can stand us in good
stead even and perhaps especially in the modern era when adversaries
may not elect to fight the United States along traditional or expected
lines. On whether this ability can and should be achieved, we believe
that question should be part of a broader examination.

Finally, we argue that what is also new in this approach is the way in
which we attempt to integrate far more broadly strategy, technology,
and innovation to achieve Shock and Awe. It is this interaction and
focus which we think will provide the most interesting results.

For these and other reasons, we have embarked on an ambitious
intellectual excursion in making a preliminary definition of Rapid
Dominance. For the moment, we view Rapid Dominance in the formation
stage and not as a final product. Over the next months, we believe
further steps should be taken to refine Rapid Dominance and to develop
"paper" systems and force designs that will add crucial specificity to
this concept. Then, this Rapid Dominance force can be assessed against
five sets of questions:

- First, assuming that a Rapid Dominance force can be fielded with
the appropriate capabilities of Shock and Awe to affect and shape
the adversary's will, how would this force compare with and
improve on our ability to fight, win, and deal with a major
regional contingency (MRC)?
- Second, what utility, if any, does Rapid Dominance and its
application of Shock and Awe imply for Operations Other Than War
(OOTW)? Where might Rapid Dominance apply in OOTW, where would it
not, and where might it offer mixed benefits?
- Third, what are the political implications of Rapid Dominance in
both broad and specific applications and could this lead to a form
of political deterrence to underwrite future U.S. policy? Would
this political deterrence prove acceptable to allies and to our
own public?
- Fourth, what might Rapid Dominance mean for alliances, coalitions,
and the conduct of allied and combined operations?
- Finally, what are the consequences of Rapid Dominance on defense
resource investment priorities and future budgets?

From this examination and experimentation, we believe useful results
will flow.

We also would like to acknowledge the support and role of the National
Defense University in sponsoring this first effort. In particular, we
owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dr. David Alberts of NDU whose
intelligence, enthusiasm, and wisdom, as well as his full support,
have been invaluable and without which this project would have been
far less productive.

Washington, D.C.

1 September 1996

L.A. Edney J.T. Howe
F.M. Franks H.K. Ullman
C. A. Horner J.P. Wade

Introduction to Rapid Dominance

The military posture and capability of the United States of America
are, today, dominant. Simply put, there is no external adversary in
the world that can successfully challenge the extraordinary power of
the American military in either regional conflict or in "conventional"
war as we know it once the United States makes the commitment to take
whatever action may be needed. To be sure, the first phase of a crisis
may be the most difficult-if an aggressor has attacked and U.S. forces
are not in place. However, it will still be years, if not decades,
before potential adversaries will be able to deploy systems with a
full panoply of capabilities that are equivalent to or better than the
aggregate strength of the ships, aircraft, armored vehicles, and
weapons systems in our inventory. Even if an adversary could deploy
similar systems, then matching and overcoming the superb training and
preparation of American service personnel would still be a daunting

Given this reality that our military dominance can and will extend for
some considerable time to come, provided we are prepared to use it,
why then is a re-examination of American defense posture and doctrine
important? The answers to this question involve (1) the changing
nature of the domestic and international environments; (2) the complex
nature of resolving inter and intra-state conflict that falls outside
conventional war, including peacekeeping, and countering terrorism,
crime, and the use of weapons of mass destruction; (3) resource
constraints; (4) defense infrastructure and technical industrial bases
raised on a large, continuous infusion of funding now facing a future
of austerity; and (5) the vast uncertainties of the so-called social,
economic, and information revolutions that could check or counter many
of the nation's assumptions as well as public support currently
underwriting defense.

It is clear that these so-called grey areas involving non-traditional
Operations Other Than War (OOTW) and law enforcement tasks are growing
and pose difficult problems and challenges to American military
forces, especially when and where the use of force may be
inappropriate or simply may not work. The expansion of the role of UN
forces to nation-building in Somalia and its subsequent failure comes
to mind as an example of this danger. It is also arguable that the
formidable nature and huge technological lead of American military
capability could induce an adversary to move to a strategy that
attempted to circumvent all this fighting power through other clever
or agile means. The Vietnam War is a grim reminder of the political
nature of conflict and how our power was once outflanked. Training,
morale, and readiness to fight are perishable commodities requiring
both a generous expenditure of resources and careful nurturing.

Thus, the greatest constraints today to retaining the most dominant
military force in the world, paradoxically, may be in overcoming the
inertia of this success. We may be our own worst enemy.

During the Cold War when the danger was clear, the defense debate was
often fought over how to balance the so-called "strategy-force
structure-budget" formula. Today, that formula has expanded to include
"threat, strategy, force structure, budget, and infrastructure."
Without a "clear and present danger" such as the Axis Powers in 1941
or, later, the Soviet Union to coalesce public agreement on the
threat, it is difficult to construct a supporting strategy that can be
effective either in setting priorities or objectives. Hence, today's
"two war" or two nearly simultaneous Major Regional Contingency (MRC)
strategy has been criticized as strategically and financially
excessive. As noted by administration officials, the current force
structure does not meet the demands of the "two war," MRC strategy
and, in any event, the budget will not support the planned force
structure. Finally, it is widely recognized that the United States
possesses far more infrastructure such as bases and facilities than it
needs to support the current force, thereby draining scarce resources
away from fighting power. As a result, there is a substantial defense
imbalance that will erode fighting power.

In designing its defense posture, the United States has adopted the
doctrine of employing "decisive or overwhelming force." This doctrine
reinforces American advantages in strategic mobility, prepositioning,
technology, training, and in fielding integrated military systems to
provide and retain superiority, and responds to the minimum casualty
and collateral damage criteria set first in the Reagan Administration.
The Revolution in Military Affairs or RMA is cited as the phenomenon
or process by which the United States continues to exploit technology
to maintain this decisive force advantage, particularly in terms of
achieving "dominant battlefield awareness." Through this awareness,
the United States should be able to obtain perfect or near perfect
information on virtually all technical aspects of the battlefield and
therefore be able to defeat or destroy an adversary more effectively,
with fewer losses to ourselves and with a range of capabilities from
long-range precision strike to more effective close-in weapons.

Before proceeding further, an example is useful to focus some of the
as yet unknowable consequences of these broader realities, changes,
and trends. The deployment of American forces to Bosnia is a reaction
to and representation of major shifts occurring in the post-Cold War
world. With these shifts, this deployment is suggestive of what may
lie ahead for the use, relevance, and design of military force. The
legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and then, the start of the Cold War,
caused the West to adopt policies for containing and deterring the
broad threat posed by the Soviet Union and its ideology. Thermonuclear
weapons, complemented over time by strong conventional forces,
threatened societal damage to Russia. Conventional forces backed by
tactical nuclear weapons were later required, in part, to halt a
massive Soviet ground attack in Europe and, in part, to provide an
alternative to (immediate) use of nuclear weapons.

Today, the First Armored Division, the principal American unit serving
in Bosnia is, in essence, the same force that fought so well in

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