The Army's Training and Doctrine commander challenged military,
industry and academic leaders attending the Mad Scientist
Conference, Monday, Aug. 8 and Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016 to think
differently about the future.
"There's a preoccupation with
trying to predict the future," said Gen. David G. Perkins, TRADOC
commander. He challenged the group assembled at Georgetown
University to describe the future --
not predict it.
February 24, 2016 - Here a Soldier, assigned to 4th Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment, fires a Javelin anti-tank missile at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William A. Tanner)
"That sounds like a nuance, but actually it's a
significant nuance," Perkins said. He explained that
describing the future requires having a well-rounded
understanding of the environment. It means understanding the
changing variables and not "hardwiring" a solution.
During the conference, these "mad scientists" are tasked
with describe the strategic security environment in 2050.
The Mad Scientist initiative is co-sponsored by the Chief of
Staff of the Army's Strategic Studies Group, TRADOC, and the
Georgetown University Center for Security Studies.
This is the second year a group has met in Georgetown for
this ongoing intelligence initiative. Speakers include Chief
of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley, along with the editor
of Popular Science Magazine, the president of FutureScout
LLC, the director of the Australian War Research Center and
representatives from universities across the country.
Perkins told the group that he's not looking for
innovative ideas. What he wants is innovation, which he
defined that as turning critical thinking "into valued
The Army has no lack of innovative
thinking, he said, but because of bureaucracy and an
all-or-nothing mentality, it's often difficult to follow
through on innovative ideas. In business, many companies
with innovative ideas have gone bankrupt, he said, because
they couldn't bring those ideas to market.
One of the
things that characterize innovative companies is a high rate
of collaboration, he said. That's what the conference is all
The military often has an
"obsessive-compulsive nature to get everything digital," he
said. "What happens is we miss opportunities to shape the
future. We get consumed with responding to the future."
A different way of approaching the future would be to
ask the question, "What puts the U.S. Army at an advantage?"
"We don't do as good a job thinking two moves ahead,
especially if we're successful," Perkins said about the
military. He said success tends to hardwire a tactic or
technique and make it permanent. But the enemy adapts.
For instance, he said the U.S. has the best targeting
capabilities in the world. So enemies decide not to be a
target. They don't wear uniforms; they don't assemble in
large formations; they blend in with the population; and
they go subterranean.
Any technical innovation is
only temporary, Perkins reminded his audience. The enemy
will soon adapt.
"Technology has become the most
transferrable of our capabilities," he said. Years ago,
stealing a trade secret required taking blueprints and reams
of documents. "Now all you need is a thumb drive."
an armor officer, Perkins said he has long appreciated the
protection afforded by the M1 tank and Bradley Fighting
Vehicle. "I'm used to getting my protection from tons and
tons of armor," he said.
Advanced protection for
combat vehicles is one of the capabilities that TRADOC
leaders believe will be critical in 2050.
problem we're seeing now is, with the proliferation of ATGMs
[anti-tank guided missiles], chemical-energy munitions,
shaped charges ... is that the cost curve as well as the
physics [are] working against us," Perkins said. "It's much
easier to develop new ways to penetrate the armor."
Changing penetrating charges is relatively inexpensive
compared to producing new armored vehicles, he said. The
adversary can update more quickly and at lesser expense. The
old paradigm of "more and more armor" may be outdated, he
"Better think of a different way to protect,"
he said. What's needed are capabilities, rather than things,
he said. He challenged the group to avoid some of the
"traps" that discussions of the future often fall into.
By U.S. Army Gary Sheftick
Army News Service
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