Army’s New Aim Is ‘Decision Dominance’
“Decision dominance … is the ability for a commander to sense, understand, decide, act, and assess faster and more effectively than any adversary,” said Army Futures Command chief Gen. John “Mike” Murray.
By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR. on March 17, 2021 BreakingDefense
Gen. James McConville
WASHINGTON: The Army aims to outmaneuver and outthink its adversaries so thoroughly it achieves “decision dominance,” its generals said in unison this week. Will the new term became the latest bureaucratic buzzword or shed real light on how the future force should fight?
I first noticed “decision dominance” pop up during a morning panel on the first day of AUSA’s virtual Global Force Next conference, but the term really thundered forth that day during midday remarks by the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. James McConville.
The Army must move faster, McConville, declared, both as an institution developing new weapons – not in decades, but in a few years – and as a battlefield force destroying enemies – firing artillery, not minutes after spotting a target, but seconds.
“Today, we’re getting from [a list of desired] characteristics to fielded capabilities in as short a time as three years,” McConville said. “This allows us to think and innovate faster. And as a result we operate faster: For example, at last year’s Project Convergence exercise, we engaged targets in tens of seconds instead of tens of minutes.”
“Speed, range, and convergence give us the decision dominance, and decision dominance gives us the overmatch we need,” he said.
But the chief of staff didn’t explain further. Instead, he left it to the service’s modernization czar, Army Futures Command chief Gen. John “Mike” Murray, the following day.
“Yesterday, you heard the chief mention five key [terms],” Murray said: “speed, range, convergence decision dominance, and overmatch.” Each has multiple meanings:
- Speedrefers to the physical speed of weapons like futuristic helicopters and hypersonics streaking across the battlefield, the general said, but also to the cognitive speed of an AI offering a commander options and that commander making a faster and better-informed decision as result – leaving the enemy commander a fatal step behind.
- Rangerefers to physically outreaching the enemy with longer-range weapons, he said, but also to prepositioning the right forces, gear, and supplies on friendly territory — building relationships with allies, deterring adversaries, and responding immediately to local crises. “The quickest way to get from Point A to Point B is to already be at point B,” he said.
- Convergencerefers to connecting different Army and even non-Army systems on a common data-sharing network, as at the Project Convergence wargames last fall, Murray said. But it also refers to bringing together different institutions, whether across the Army or between the Army and private industry.
- And then we come to decision dominance. “This is a developing definition,” Murray cautioned. “But right now, [decision dominance] is the ability for a commander to sense, understand, decide, act, and assess faster and more effectively than any adversary.”
That’s a variant of Air Force Col. John Boyd’s famous OODA loop, developed first to describe jet fighter duels but later expanded to all kinds of time-sensitive decision making: Observe the situation, Orient yourself to it, Decide, and Act. The theory is that mental quickness can be decisive, with the side that cycles through the OODA loop faster getting a compounding advantage over time, with the quicker party changing the situation faster than the slower can keep up with, causing them to be increasingly disconnected from reality.