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August 2006

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Stray Voltage: War in the Information Age
Review by A. J. Andreas Ringl

Stray Voltage: War in the Information Age. By Wayne Michael Hall. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2003, 248 pages, $36.95)

This book is mandatory reading for anyone with interests in the complex interdependency of international policy, global security, and strategic planning initiatives. As a U.S. Army retired brigadier general with thirty years of intelligence experience, Hall's pedigree of understanding challenges the reader to contemplate various necessary solutions to today's asymmetric battlespace. The author's thoughtful clarification of America's required reconfiguration in tactical, strategic, and intellectual domains leaves the reader with numerous unambiguous formulae for future preventive management of threat in relevant security matrices.

Restructuring of thought: According to Hall,

Information Operations of the future will rely on both a philosophy and a suite of tools. The philosophy of IO acknowledges the emergence and importance of knowledge war and its direct connection to knowledge-based strategies and knowledge-based operations. . . . The IO suite of tools will be used to attack the thinking, planning, decision-making processes, the mechanical turning of data into information and information into knowledge, and the machinery supporting the decision cycles of our adversaries. (98)

Indeed the battlespace is now dimensionalized. No longer is the sea-air-land model of battle sufficient. It is now imperative to consider cerebral, cyber, land, air, sea, and space together and integratively. Recognition of “truth” as a fluctuating dynamic or entity of multifaceted qualities will affect decision models. The familiar decision-making cycle OODA loop—observe, orient, decide, act—is not comprehensive enough anymore. With the addition of “anticipate” and “war-game” prior to “observe” and adding “measure” and “modify” after “act,” a considerably more robust loop, AWOODAM2, replaces the older OODA loop. America must and will learn to manage its knowledge.

Interoperability: Future national security vis-à-vis global strategic interests demands a collaborative environment where understanding of true power as the synthesis of several expert opinions and domains is essential and accepted. Functional collaborative networks of the future are metasystems connecting “businesses, local and state governments, law enforcement agencies, coalition partners, intelligence agencies, and military forces” (147). Collaboration, however, demands restructuring of human headspace. Leadership will require training and reconfiguration to thinking in “nonlinear, synthesis-inducing, and possibility-considering ways” (180). Training of subordinates must follow. Homeland security will become nationally coordinated, orchestrated, and practiced across the entire spectrum of society. According to Hall, the consciousness of operating from a paradigm of the Aristotelian whole as changing and fluctuating through time, yet functional as a unified entity, is key to surviving the onslaught of increasingly sophisticated adversaries.

Centers of knowledge: Perhaps the most prolific concept in Stray Voltage is the creation of knowledge advantage centers, or KACs, throughout the U.S. to address knowledge war assaults from enemies and to synthesize advantages for the country. KACs in concert with “a joint opposing force (OP-FOR), a joint information operations proving ground (JIOPG), and developing and using an Internet replicator” (158), are necessary tools for waging war against terrorists and future enemies. Each KAC is fractal or representative of its larger knowledge whole. Just as U.S. security forces presently stand prepared for kinetic battle, preparation for knowledge war is today equally essential. Intended not only as repositories of knowledge, KACs will create conduits and linkages for “seeking, finding, gathering, analyzing, synthesizing, visualizing, and transferring knowledge” (164). The KAC-type of network described by Hall is similar to and may facilitate the capabilities of an intelligent system such as a decision support system to search for second— and third—order effects, produce predictive analysis, and create anticipatory decision models.

Concepts articulated in Stray Voltage are at once profoundly visionary while starkly realistic; Hall presents his ideas with utter urgency, yet they remain innately doable. The implied decision output expressed throughout Stray Voltage is simple for America: adapt not only to survive but also to evolve in order to ensure our future security. Hall presents compelling answers to currently pressing questions. Stray Voltage gives the reader an insight into understanding what tools currently are available and which ones need development to combat more effectively asymmetric warfare. Disappointment remains entirely absent in the reading of this thought provoking book.

A.J. Andreas Ringl is retired from the military, having served in both the U.S.M.C. and U.S. Army Special Forces. He holds two masters degrees, one in international relations and the other in business and organizational management, and currently pursues a PhD in knowledge management.

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