Future Warfare Will Not Allow Meaningful Human Control

By Doug Wise

Douglas H. Wise served as Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from August 2014 until August 2016. Following 20 years of active duty in the Army where he served as an infantry and special operations officer, he spent the remainder of his career at CIA.

Bob Work, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, will tell you the Third Offset is the next generation of warfare. It may take at least ten years but it will showcase the rise of the machine, and the decline of the human in the business of operating weapons systems. The speed at which weapons systems will have to act when going from intelligence collection to kinetic action will no longer allow for determination by human beings, but by on-board software which will require massive amounts of data and make instantaneous decisions at speeds that will be impossible for the traditional command and control systems to match.

Today’s “Great Powers” have reemerged at near-peer capability where the U.S. will no longer enjoy technical superiority. Each will employ weapons platforms with the capability to see and decide, while operating in a time frame and scale impossible for human intervention. These are the machines which will fight our wars for our combatant commanders. To complicate it further, these will not be individual platforms commanded and controlled individually, but they will be platforms operating in tandem with other weapons systems—weapons systems burden-sharing on intelligence collection and weapons employment. Battle plans at that time are not going to mean the same they do today. During the Third Offset it’s going to be a combatant commander with hundreds—if not thousands—of platforms all needing intelligence updates and all providing intelligence updates. The traditional human battlefield commander will be incapable of keeping pace.

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