October 1996

Root Page of Article: Coming Out of the Closedt World, by John Horberg

Traditional Military Procedure

Edwards makes the point that computerized, rule-based methods of operation are completely contrary to the traditional way military orders have been given and carried out throughout the history of modern armed forces:
[T]raditional military hierarchies are anything but mechanical. At every level, individuals bear responsibilities rather than perform functions. A field officer may be ordered to 'take that hill,' but the whole point of such an order is that how he carries it out is up to him. We may call this system the 'command tradition.' In the 1950s, within the space of a very few years, the Air Force command traditionalists who had opposed the computerized air defense system either became, or were replaced by, the most vigorous proponents of ^centralized, computerized warfare anywhere in the American armed services.
Edwards notes that, in contrast to the command tradition, "Nuclear forces... flatten their hierarchies as much as possible and retain authority at the upper levels. They do this because they require instantaneous and massive responses, which must be preprogrammed because their execution must be virtually automatic, and because the consequences of the release of nuclear weapons are too great to be devolved upon lower-level commanders." ^

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