As described here in an article by Wired (@Wired) magazine’s Danger Room (@dangerroom), General Stanley McChrystal, former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, transformed the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), into a network somewhat similar to the structure of Al Qaeda.
McChrystal worked with the CIA, the State Department, the NSA, and other intelligence officials to combine efforts, turning their intelligence into action. McChrystal worked to dramatically increase real-time communication among agencies using the Real-Time Regional Gateway. This effectively, “crowdsourced intelligence,” as the article puts it. McChrystal’s goal was to have nightly raids, using the most current intelligence to pursue high-value targets while also minimizing the impact on civilians and not losing the support of the Afghanistan government.
Of course, McChrystal’s tenure in Afghanistan wasn’t without error, as evidenced by the now infamous Rolling Stone article and McChrystal’s resignation. However, as the Wired article points out, McChrystal’s proteges are still in place, trying to continue his efforts. Interestingly, the Wired article points out that McChrystal’s network seems to be the biggest example of following the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
There were several reasons this article caught my attention. First, I was intrigued by the fact that Special Forces copied the structure of Al Qaeda. I am very interested in watching the back and forth evolution of tactics and strategy during the tenure of a conflict. Second, I was excited to see McChyrstal’s flattening of structure and rank, getting agencies to work together for a common goal. This is a terribly difficult thing to do in a bureaucracy (although there is some precedent for it within Special Forces itself), so I was curious to see how he did it. Lastly, I enjoyed reading about McChrystal’s efforts to adopt real time GPS tool, Blue Force Tracker, to keep allies informed about each other’s movements. Increased networking and increased communication–if you’ve been reading my posts, you know these are interests of mine, and very useful tools for science fiction writing (not new tools, mind you, but useful).
What if your units did not trust one another, as the various U.S. intelligence agencies traditionally do not? How do you get them to build trust? How do you make intelligence available to all? What if the enemy hacked into that intelligence warehouse? What if your units are used to inputting intelligence and using various streams of intelligence in real-time? What would that look like, without becoming some deus ex machina? What would their training look like? What if your fictional general had to resign? What if his proteges used their special network and operated in the shadow? How would a president react? What if the shadow network was effective? What if it was a disaster? Could a president sack a broad swathe of leaders in the midst of a conflict? How would you adapt a counter-insurgency strategy for an interplanetary conflict? Start incorporating a variety of sensors, drones, or droids (on both sides of the conflict), and your story starts looking very interesting indeed.
What do you think? What does your conflict look like? What about your network technology?