How Information Technology Is Used In The Military

The military’s information technology systems enable better performance in communications, intelligence gathering, and distribution; precision weapons; sensor data processing; and human performance. However, such technologies do not alone determine battlefield outcomes.

What matters is what this book calls information practice. It is the way that internal organizational solutions interact with strategic context to produce effective or counterproductive results in war.

1) Technical Careers

A wide range of technical careers are available for both officers and enlisted members of the military. These include positions like Signals Collection Analyst, who intercepts non-voice communication, and Signals Intelligence Analyst, who interprets this information for military leaders to use in strategic and tactical combative decisions. These and other information technology positions are among the most advanced jobs in the Military today.

These professionals are responsible for assessing and maintaining the computer systems used in the military. They also troubleshoot these systems to resolve issues that occur when they are being used. These individuals may also assist in the conceptual design of software programs and may edit and test computer systems that are used by the armed forces.

Although Landau hedges on the book’s practical relevance, Schneider sees direct applications to contemporary debates about information technology and military power. He writes, “Lindsay’s takeaways suggest that no matter how powerful our information technologies may be, understanding how they are employed requires a human-centric approach that accounts for the ways that technology mediates organizational knowledge in wartime.”

Lindsay uses historical cases and ethnographic studies to explore how different patterns of information practice emerge in military organizations. These patterns are based on the dynamic interaction between organizational problems and warfighting solutions. He describes four types of regimes—managed, insulated, adaptive, and problematic—that military organizations experience through these interactions.

A common example of an insulated regime occurs when a technological solution to a warfighting problem is imposed on a system without adequate consideration for its social and cultural context. An ethnographic study of a special operations unit in Iraq’s Anbar province illustrates this phenomenon. In this case, the Navy SEALs’ insistence on hunting the “bad guys” ignored local political dynamics and resulted in counterproductive behavior.

For many, the military offers an opportunity to serve their country and become part of something larger than themselves. The armed forces are a place where people can find fulfillment and develop important skills that will prepare them for life after the military. These skills are transferable to a variety of career fields.

2) Recruiting

While military technology isn’t the only thing that distinguishes modern militaries, it plays a crucial role in recruitment and retention. In a recent RAND study, researchers looked at enlistment and attrition rates for IT-trained personnel versus non-IT personnel. They found that IT recruits were of higher quality, signed on for somewhat longer terms, and had lower attrition than those without IT training. They also had a similar reenlistment rate, except for the Army, where IT reenlistments were slightly lower than those in other occupations.

As warfare moves more and more into the realm of cyberspace, military command staff must be able to communicate and relay orders across distances as great as thousands of miles. 5G technology, wi-fi, encrypted codes, and instant messaging capabilities all provide the means to do that, giving militaries a huge advantage over enemies with rudimentary communications infrastructures.

With the resumption of recruiting as pandemic restrictions lift, attracting qualified personnel is once again a major focus for the services. Recruiters are using online advertising, including on sites where potential recruits spend much of their time, such as TikTok. But as they try to find ways to attract the best and brightest, they’re running into hurdles. Some are even being disqualified for having health conditions like ADHD, depression, or a years-old broken bone that they might have concealed or forgotten about in the past. The reenlistment numbers might suffer as a result.

But the services are generally good about adjusting to these changes. They have processes in place for defining manpower requirements and planning cycles that are typically long enough to allow for adjustment. They’re also able to take advantage of huge increases in IT productivity, enabling them to do more with less or outsource some work.

That’s one reason why the services are working hard to attract the best and brightest to IT careers. They must be able to convey to the workforce how much of an impact IT specialists have on the security of their country and the world.

3) Education

In today’s fast-changing world of technology, leaders of armed forces need to adjust learning and teaching to match new innovations. However, those who educate service members struggle to get the headquarters to adopt a more comprehensive way of thinking about education. All too frequently, military schooling is seen as only a means for moving into civilian jobs after one’s time in the armed forces ends. This outlook hampers the ability of the army to make the most of its personnel and makes furthering one’s education while still in uniform challenging for some.

The Pentagon has been investing heavily in research and development of breakthrough technologies that can overcome information friction on the tactical level while addressing strategic challenges such as cyber security. In addition, the Defense Department has established many user innovation and information organizations like Air Force Kessel Run, the Defense Digital Services, and its Adaptive Aerospace program, which is working to optimize information practice in combat systems such as avionics and datalinks.

However, despite these positive signs of progress, the military must take another look at its educational programs. The GoArmyEd portal, which is used by Soldiers at all levels to request tuition assistance and track degree progress, must be upgraded to provide a more seamless user experience. Its current cumbersome and arduous process makes it difficult for users to enroll in courses that could help them advance in their careers.

More generally, the military needs to commit to improving its understanding of the social dynamics of technology use. Lindsay’s book is an excellent start in that effort, demonstrating that no matter how powerful information technology may be, its effectiveness depends on how well organizations and people operate with it. This lesson is something that should be well understood by those who design IT, but it appears to have been forgotten in the military.

Until the military changes its mentality on how it views education, it will be difficult for it to fully capitalize on the power of Service Members as educated employees and a force multiplier. It is time to commit to improving its educational system and making it more accessible for its Service Members.

4) Training

An IT professional ensures the seamless operation of systems by constructing communication frameworks for organizations, securing information and records, or aiding clients in resolving malfunctions with their portable gadgets. This vocation necessitates an in-depth grasp of the workings of each digital application. It also calls for the capacity to analyze intricate technical data and furnish instructions to users in utilizing it.

The military needs the ability to collect, integrate, analyze, and deliver battlefield information. This information can be in the form of intelligence gathering and distribution; precision strike capability; platform control; sensor data processing; or human performance.

Military personnel must be able to process this information promptly to enable effective decision-making on the battlefield. Training for this purpose is a major component of the armed forces, including cadets at universities, midshipmen on their initial tours of duty, and personnel in operational units. Regardless of rank, these trainees must be trained to use new technologies that are rapidly changing the nature of warfare.

This book explores the micro-foundations of military power in the information age through a series of detailed historical cases and ethnographic studies. It shows that no matter how powerful a piece of equipment is, its effectiveness depends on how well people and organizations operate with it.

Lindsay’s case study on an Air Force software package called FalconView demonstrates how the emergence of user innovation can improve military information systems. However, these systems can also become insulated from warfighting requirements and prone to failure. The interplay between organic organizational solutions and unconstrained warfighting problems produces four distinct regimes of information practice: managed, insulated, adaptive, and problematic.

In each of these regimes, the value of information technology cyclically increases and decreases in war. Adaptive practices, which can improve warfighting systems, require collaboration between a range of users, including civilians. To be successful, these collaborative regimes need to overcome ingrained bureaucratic prerogatives. The failure of a Navy SEAL unit in Iraq’s Anbar province exemplifies how ingrained cultural preferences can mask information practice and lead to counterproductive behavior.

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