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Resilience, efficiency, effectiveness: all are commonly used, and arguably well understood, terms. However, in the context of command and control (C2), the use of such terms becomes more abstract, because C2 is a socio-technical system, encompassing people, processes, structures and technology. The interpretation of resilience, efficiency and effectiveness, in the context of such a system is therefore less easily understood than a purely technical system.
This article aims to support a more explicit understanding of the relationship between resilience, efficiency and effectiveness, in the context of C2. It does so through introducing the concept of ‘Balanced C2’; the need to balance C2 resilience with C2 efficiency whilst striving for the most effective C2 in a given operational context. The key argument here, is that achieving some level of C2 resilience requires tough choices to be made… it does not come for free.
Context and Introduction
Resilience, efficiency, effectiveness: all are commonly used, and arguably well understood, terms. However, in the context of command1 and control2 (C23), the use of such terms becomes more abstract. This is because C2 is a socio-technical system encompassing people, processes, structures and technology.4 The interpretation of resilience, efficiency, and effectiveness in the context of such a system is therefore less easily understood than a purely technical system.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines resilience as ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness’, and ‘the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity’. Resilience has become increasingly relevant in the face of the current global health crisis, with nations hardest hit by COVID-19 seeking to recover quickly and remain agile in the face of continued uncertainty. Understanding C2 resilience can be thought of as the ability for C2 as a capability to prevail following a short, sharp shock, a more long-term stressor, or both. Such threats to C2 can include but are not limited to, adverse environmental, physical, cyberspace (i.e. virtual communication and computer networks), electromagnetic and / or psychological factors.
C2 resilience is not a new requirement. However, it has come to the forefront of military threat-based planning again with Russia’s extensive use of cyber and electronic warfare in the Ukraine and Syria.5 This has led to the realisation that Land C2 structures are increasingly susceptible to adversarial cyber and electromagnetic activities (CEMA), due to for example, their emission of an ever more recognisable electromagnetic signature. Long-range artillery and other fires assets linked with persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) threaten the survivability of C2 structures. Especially those that are large and static. Electronic C2 systems are likely to be targeted extensively and potentially denied to our forces for extensive periods if vulnerabilities are found. In current and future combat it must be assumed that everything we set up and run will be observed, not only from increased cyber and electromagnetic capabilities of peer and ‘high-level’ adversaries, but also by near-peer adversaries.
The resulting need to more purposefully address C2 resilience comes at a cost. The key question for military planners and capability developers is: “what trade-offs must be made in order to maximise C2 resilience in the context of the contemporary and future operating environment?”6
The content that follows articulates the challenge of trying to balance C2 resilience with C2 efficiency (the performance of C2 functions7 at tempo and with minimal resources), whilst striving for effective C2.8 Firstly, the article outlines the problems faced by military HQs as they strive for C2 resilience. Secondly, the article describes the challenge faced by today’s HQs as they try to balance C2 efficiency and resilience. In doing so, the concept of ‘Balanced C2’ is explored, highlighting the trade-offs to be made between C2 resilience and C2 efficiency. Thirdly, the article asks ‘so what’? What does ‘balancing C2’ efficiency and resilience mean for military HQs as they design and establish C2 for operations?
What are the Problems?
Resilience is not something that figures prominently when planning for a military operation.9 It often comes with the notion of systemic catastrophic failures, uncertainty, and increased personal burden. However, as technology continues to become an increasing part of the way the military operates and fights so too does our vulnerability to adversarial CEMA and from technological failure. Both pose potentially disastrous outcomes to mission success. The four problems that follow highlight different issues relating to C2 resilience. They attempt to make the case for why C2 resilience is not something that can be achieved whilst maintaining high levels of C2 efficiency.
Problem 1: Physical concentration leaves C2 vulnerable to attack
A core competence of land forces is the taking and holding of physical spaces and concentration of effects. Traditionally, the ability to do this has been the decisive factor influencing military success or failure. However, in the context of the contemporary and future operating environment, physical concentration, including traditional large and static C2 structures can be a high-risk option. This is because our adversaries are expected to weaponise technologies such as cloud computing, data analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML), Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS), and the Internet-of-Things (IOT) to degrade, disrupt and deny our ability to operate and fight, including C2. This threat to C2 drives the need to privilege C2 resilience, whilst maintaining the ability to command and control efficiently. One such way of increasing C2 resilience, is to minimise the physical concentration of C2 functions and enabling capabilities, but this leads us to a second problem.
Problem 2: Resilience through distribution and dispersion places a burden on C2 efficiency
The need to minimise the physical concentration of C2 capability (its function and enablers) has driven concepts such as distributed10 and dispersed11 command, so as not to provide the adversary with targets and therefore the opportunity to disrupt or deny our C2 capability. Thus, distribution and dispersion supports C2 resilience as the denial of one command post (a part) will not lead to the eradication of C2 capability (the whole). However, this comes at a cost to C2 efficiency. Resilience through redundancy may improve C2 survivability but it creates inefficiencies that impact on the speed at which a HQ, and / or the C2 enterprise as a whole can make decisions and take action. One way to mitigate the reduction in C2 efficiency is to exploit technology, but this leads us to a third problem.
Problem 3: An increasing reliance on technology and data can impede C2 resilience and C2 efficiency
The Army’s ability to operate (protect, engage, constrain) and, if required, fight across the spectrum of the tactical, through operational and to the strategic level has become increasingly reliant on technology and data.12 This is namely due to the availability and increasing sophistication of technology; Offering, for example, a means of conducting collaborative planning and maintaining shared situational understanding and awareness when operating dispersed, or on the move; and, the ability to identify and track adversarial activity with increasing levels of accuracy and timeliness. However, dispersing C2 functions (and maintaining collaborative practices) places a dependency on communication information systems (CIS). Dispersed staff, for example, will need to use CIS to communicate between command posts within their HQ and with flanking HQs in addition to the traditional flow of information up and down the C2 hierarchy. Exploiting CIS in this way drives an increased electro-magnetic signature (EMS) which unless managed poses a threat to C2 resilience. Furthermore, in the absence of reversionary modes (which can be costly to maintain), C2 may fail because of technical issues, regardless of adversarial action. This leads us to the fourth problem.
Problem 4 : Operational challenges are no longer constrained to the physical dimension
The contemporary and future operating environment is characterised by complexity. Challenges are no longer constrained to the physical dimension, they also include challenges in the virtual and cognitive dimensions in order to coerce, deceive, disrupt and influence an adversary’s will to respond. Key to operating across dimensions, including and beyond the physical, is the ability to better exploit information to enhance situational awareness and improve decision-making, as well as the ability to use information as an effector. Such use of information will contribute to the CIS burden and thus EMS (as per problem 3) which poses a challenge for balancing C2 resilience and C2 efficiency.
Furthermore, operating across dimensions can only be enabled by an appropriate and responsive approach to C2. The approach to C2 will need to change, either proactively in anticipation of a threat, or reactively in response to the operating environment. This overarching ability to change can support C2 resilience, but places a burden on C2 efficiency; akin to problem 3. Increased complexity (brought about by the existence and drive to exploit novel C2 related technologies) will need us to adopt new ways of thinking and organising our C2 structures. Adaptation in C2 function and form over the course of an operation will place new demands on C2 efficiency.
Given the problems described above, the challenge is to effectively balance C2 resilience with C2 efficiency. It can be thought of as a seesaw with C2 resilience on one end and C2 efficiency on the other. How much weight (effort) needs to be put into each side to balance the two is driven by the location of the pivot point which represents the character of the threat and, more broadly, the operating environment. If, for example, the physical threat to CPs is high, (represented by the pivot point being closer to C2 resilience), then more effort (weight) needs to be given to C2 resilience to balance it with C2 efficiency. The amount of effort put into achieving this balance, and thus reduce the extent of inefficiency so as not to render the C2 to an ineffective state is a factor that the commander needs to manage and be comfortable with.13
By contrast, if the pivot point of the seesaw is closer to C2 efficiency (representing a low physical-threat environment) then more effort should be put into maximising C2 efficiency to achieve a balance. How this balance is manifested, in terms of the example trade-offs to be made, is illustrated in Figure 1 below.
The concept of ‘Balanced C2’ encapsulates the challenge of appropriately managing the trade-offs between C2 resilience and C2 efficiency. At all times, a balance between the levels of resilience and efficiency needs to be met, in order to achieve the most effective C2 for the given operational context. The appropriate balance is not necessarily an even one: in order to be effective in high threat contexts, C2 resilience needs to be favoured. To be effective in low threat contexts, C2 efficiency can be privileged.
Implications; “So, what” for C2?
The aim of Balanced C2 is therefore to achieve the best balance of both resilience and efficiency driven by the nature of the threat and the need for C2 to be effective. Thus a third dimension, that of C2 effectiveness, needs to be considered. The relationship between these three dimensions is illustrated in Figure 2. The ‘volume’ where the commander wants the C2 organisation to operate effectively is represented by the ‘Desired Operating Volume’.14 However, parts of this space are not viable; either because it represents low levels of C2 resilience and C2 efficiency which one assumes no commander would want or because it represents high levels of both C2 resilience and C2 efficiency which, as argued so far, are not attainable. Thus the ‘viable operating volume’ refers to the space where there is sufficient resilience and efficiency to support a workable C2 organisation.
This ‘viable operating volume’, in which C2 is appropriately balanced against the threat, can represent a HQ at any one point in time, or over time. If we think about balancing C2 resilience and C2 effectiveness over time we need to think about how the circumstances might change.
This leads us to the much discussed and written notion of Agile C2/ C2 Agility, and how it relates to this balance. Agile C2 refers to the ability to change the function (i.e. situational awareness and understanding, leadership style, planning, decision-making and control) and form of C2 (e.g. number and extent of dispersed command posts), in response to, or in anticipation of, the demands of the operational environment.15 Similarly to the concept of Balanced C2, Agile C2 supports C2 resilience. However, though not mutually exclusive concepts, Balanced C2 is not the same as Agile C2… If Balanced C2 is like a seesaw, with C2 resilience on one end and C2 efficiency on the other and a pivot point dictated by the threat, Agile C2 is about the ability to maintain an appropriate balance despite a potentially uneven, constantly changing landscape or trajectory. Thus Agile C2 can be thought of as the ability to maintain Balanced C2 in anticipation of, or response to threat over time.16
What does this mean for HQs? It means that they need to continuously monitor their C2 effectiveness, in relation to the threat, to moderate the effort put into achieving C2 resilience, whilst understanding the consequential effect on C2 efficiency. Commanders and staff need to explicitly acknowledge, design, and operate their C2 according to the requirement to balance C2 efficiency and resilience, noting that the balance might need to change over the course of an operation.
The four example problems described in this article highlight that C2 resilience has become a critical factor to mission success. However, achieving high levels of C2 resilience comes at a cost to C2 efficiency.
The requirement for C2 resilience is threat and context-specific. It needs to be explicitly considered as part of designing C2, accounting for the trade-offs to be made between factors that support C2 resilience, and those that support C2 efficiency.
To achieve effective C2 during a mission, or operation as a whole, C2 resilience and C2 efficiency must be balanced both at the level of a single HQ and across the totality of military (and non- military) HQs that make up the C2 enterprise. In order to then maintain effective C2 during a mission this balance needs to be constantly monitored.
Given the current and expected future threat, can we assume that C2 resilience needs to be privileged over C2 efficiency? If so, then to what extent does this present a viable operating model in terms of the trade-offs to be made between C2 resilience and C2 efficiency? What does the ‘viable operating volume’ look like?
Finally, is the concept of ‘Balanced C2’ useful or even necessary for land forces to consider? Given the nature of the threat, we firmly consider that it is.
- Command is defined as ‘the authority vested in an individual of the armed forces for the direction, coordination and control of military forces.’ JCN 2/17 available from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643245/concepts_uk_future_c2_jcn_2_17.pdf
- Control is defined as ‘the authority exercised by a commander over part of the activities of subordinate organisations, or other organisations not normally under their command, that encompasses the responsibility for implementing orders or directives.’ JCN 2/17
- The purpose of C2 is to provide focus for individuals and organisations so that they may integrate and maximise their resources and activities to achieve desired outcomes.’ JCN 2/17
- JCN 2/17 Future of Command and Control
- “Russia’s Winning the Electronic War”, Paul McLeary, Foreign Policy, October 21, 2015; The Defence Post, May 1, 2018, https://www.thedefensepost.com/2018/05/01/russia-syria-electronic-warfare/
- “Future Operating Environment 2035”, DCDC, Strategic Trends Programme. Available from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/646821/20151203-FOE_35_final_v29_web.pdf
- Situational awareness, planning, decision-making, leadership and control.
- There is no generally accepted definition of C2 effectiveness. For the purpose of this article, it can be thought of as the ability for a given C2 approach to satisfy C2 requirements that leads to operational success. I.e. fulfilling a purpose and fulfilling it well.
- In the British Army Staff Officers Handbook, resilience is discussed in connection with the availability, permanence and training of Communication Information Systems (CIS). In the Planning and Execution Handbook (PEHB) there are two mentions of reliance; one of which is the mention of resilience being a principle for Battle Space Management (BMS).
- The ability to exercise effective C2 leveraging cross-governmental, defence-wide expertise, while deploying forward bespoke functionality as required. Army Field Manual Command.
- Where the staff and the application of selected tactical functions deployed forward, but not centrally located. For an agile, expeditionary force, the functions of command may best be applied from various locations and nodes and not necessarily collocated. In effect, it is massing the command capability without massing the staff support. Dispersed Command may also provide redundancy in degraded conditions and ensure some level of continuity. Army Field Manual Command 3-5.
- Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) (2019). The Integrated Operating Concept (IOpC)
- This opens the question of how to manage C2 effectiveness across the C2 enterprise as different commanders may be comfortable with different levels of effectiveness.
- This space is yet to be qualified. Future work should explore and establish the criteria that influences and characterises the desired operating volume in order that the viable operating volume within this space can then also be determined and characterised.
- Clerici, A. (2020). Land C2 to enable PROTECT, ENGAGE, and CONSTRAIN: An Analytical Concept Paper. QINETIQ/20/01207. HQ Army Command and Control Analysis and Experimentation Support FY19/20. QinetiQ, UK. NB: This concept was informed by (amongst other keystone documents) DCDC’s JCN 2/17 Future of Command and Control, Conceptual Forces (Land) 2035, and the British Army Land Operating Concept.
- This builds on the arguments set out in JCN 2/17 Future of Command and Control, which highlights the need for future C2 systems to be designed for a state of persistent competition, able to adapt to a broad range of crisis and conflict situations, operating with different actors in different configurations across a full spectrum approach.